RALEIGH – The interim executive director of Innovate Raleigh, Clark Rinehart, announced last week in a LinkedIn post that he had stepped down, and was in the process of completing his last day at the organization.

What’s next for the ten-year old organization?  An opportunity to align the organization with a changing ecosystem, ensuring that the region’s entrepreneurial economy is inclusive and provides opportunities for anyone to start a business and receive the connections, support, and resources the community can offer, Rinehart summarized in a conversation with WRAL TechWire this week about the decision to step down and what’s next for Innovate Raleigh.

A lightly edited transcript of the interview with Rinehart appears below.

What’s next at Innovate Raleigh? Interim leader steps down, search is on for replacement

Decision to step down

WRAL TechWire (TW): How did you come to make the decision to step down as the interim executive director? 

Clark Rinehart (Rinehart): It has been an absolute privilege to serve as Interim Executive Director at Innovate Raleigh since August 2021.

When my predecessor —Bridget Harrington — asked me to jump into the role prior to the 10th Anniversary Summit in October 2021, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off alongside of my startup life.

But, Innovate Raleigh has a great group of champions and supporters that rallied to bring together a showcase of our entrepreneurial ecosystem’s emerging voices.

It was tempting to consider the chance to assume the role more permanently, but my primary goal as Interim Executive Director was always to be a steady hand at the helm during this growth stage for the organization.

Innovate Raleigh has accomplished so many goals on behalf of our community over its first 10 years, but this region and ecosystem have changed dramatically year-over-year, and IR is working hard to adapt along with it.

With that goal in mind, the organization needs someone who can fully focus on the organization.

So while I may be wrapping up my tenure to return to my startup life, I still plan to be heavily involved with Innovate Raleigh, like I was before taking on the Interim role, and supporting the organization as it moves into its next stage.

Innovate Raleigh’s executive director Bridget Harrington steps down

What’s next for Innovate Raleigh

TW: So, now that you’ve stepped down, what’s next for the organization’s leadership?

Rinehart: Innovate Raleigh has not made an appointment for a new Executive Director. The Board will be the best people to comment on how that process will unfold in the near future.

TW: What challenges lay ahead?

Rinehart: There are significant challenges ahead though. Housing affordability. Efficient public transit systems. Robust representation and inclusion in our leadership roles, publicly and privately. Growth, development, and greater density without displacement across our region.

These are just a few things that we have to be hyper-focused as we “grow.”

Put differently, we have to ensure that our entire community is participating in the economic growth of the region.

People are being left out! Strategically. Systemically.

In my opinion, Innovate Raleigh and its cohort of entrepreneurs and champions will help to solve these difficult civic and social issues in its next 10 years by building strong relationships, telling the full truth about our growth, and creating companies that reflect the true spirit of the Triangle.

As Innovate Raleigh turns 10, interim director Clark Rinehart talks the future

Lessons learned

TW: What did you learn while serving as interim executive director? 

Rinehart: In my role as Interim Executive Director, I learned that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is poised to compete with Amsterdam, not just Austin.

We don’t just lead in “talent” nationally; we truly lead in the quality of people who are growing businesses here.

Our leaders have grit, heart, and passion for what we are doing in the Triangle.

We are learning from cities and regions that have come before us, but we are not looking to become “them 2.0”.

I also found that there is more regional connectivity and collaboration than people imagine.

The more we work together across the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and move away from territorial squabbles, the more we will start to position ourselves as the leading innovation economy in the country… perhaps, the world.

Innovate Raleigh Summit celebrates successes of past 10 years with an eye to the future