Editor’s Note: Thom Ruhe is the president and CEO of NC IDEA, which recently selected nine startups to receive NC IDEA SEED Grants totaling $450,000 in May. The below note was sent via email to an email newsletter list and has been republished with permission from NC IDEA.  


DURHAM – Last week was special.

In addition to our usual activity, we hosted our Partners meeting – in person!

We hold meetings with our ECOSYSTEM and Black Entrepreneurship Council grantee partners every 3-6 months.

The purpose of these meetings is to check in with one another, discuss challenges and share opportunities. And whereas we managed during COVID to host these meetings via Zoom, it is so much nicer to be together again in person.

The meeting started as one would expect, reacquainting one another and playing a game of Who looks the least like their Zoom profile picture? … which was more entertaining than I would have expected. As we worked our way through the agenda, one thing became obvious; our partners are rockstars.

Story after story highlighted how we have all been adapting and persevering, in the same way we encourage the entrepreneurs we collectively serve.

Thom Ruhe: ‘North Carolina is made for this moment’

Statewide ecosystem summit upcoming

Following the advice we give others, we took advantage of having so many bright minds in one room to discuss the theme and main agenda topics for our upcoming statewide ecosystem Summit.

Along with our open public call for topics, that discussion will ensure that we will be addressing pressing matters of great interest and concern. Our next email newsletter will reflect what is top of mind for entrepreneurs, ECOSYSTEM partners, funders, and policy makers; but I can already share one topic of strong interest.

People want to learn better ways to spur economic activity other than throwing millions of dollars at large companies, in hopes they pick our state for tax subsidized business expansion.

With a half million startups taking flight over the last five years, consensus is that we need to do much more to ensure the success of our citizens that are organically growing the companies that are the backbone of our local communities.

I would expect some lively discussion on this, and many other topics, at the Summit.

We wrapped up the day with a reception that included many of our funded companies and the generous friends of the Foundation (reviewers, facilitators, and mentors) that help us in our efforts to make North Carolina the best state in the nation to start and grow high impact companies. We can’t do this work without them and are incredibly grateful for their support.

And speaking of great people doing important work – we are hiring! Specifically, we will be adding two members to our team to support our Grants and Programs. This is a fantastic opportunity for early/mid-career professionals to join an organization doing work with purpose.