NC IDEA Announces Private Foundation Status and Executive Leadership Changes

DURHAM, N.C. -- NC IDEA, an organization committed to supporting entrepreneurial business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina, announced today the retirement of its founder, David Rizzo, and its conversion to a private foundation. In light of the leadership changes, NC IDEA’s board considered various organizational structures to ensure the fulfillment of NC IDEA’s mission moving forward. The board concluded that operating as a private foundation will provide the most operational freedom and will allow the organization to more effectively expand its philanthropic goals while continuing to foster economic development in North Carolina.



As part of the organization’s forward-looking strategy, the board has appointed Sean O’Leary as interim executive director to ensure a smooth transition and to lead the foundation while the board conducts a search for a permanent executive director.

“The board sees enormous opportunities for NC IDEA and the role it can play in our state’s entrepreneurial community for years to come,” said Randy Myer, chairman of the board of NC IDEA. “The current grant program will still be the cornerstone of our organization; the conversion to a foundation provides a chance to strengthen the state's entrepreneurial support network, informed by a strategic plan that will be developed under new leadership, in partnership with the community, and we are excited to have Sean stepping in to lead this charge.”

As interim executive director, O’Leary will lead and support a comprehensive strategic review to position the foundation for future growth. O’Leary has served on NC IDEA’s board of directors for the past six months. Most recently, O’Leary was CEO and president of RTP-based StrikeIron, which sold to Informatica in June 2014. O’Leary has over twenty years of technology sales and operations related experience with a proven track record in building and leading global organizations for both Fortune 500 companies and venture-backed enterprises.

NC IDEA Founder David Rizzo said, “I welcome the opportunity to transition to a less active role to allow me more time to pursue personal interests.”

Under Rizzo’s leadership, NC IDEA’s grant program, a twice- yearly competitive award of up to $50,000 for North Carolina-based early stage technology companies with the potential to grow quickly and create jobs, will remain the centerpiece of NC IDEA. Since 2006, 98 companies have been awarded nearly $4 million in NC IDEA grants.

Myer continued, “The board is extremely grateful to David for the remarkable contributions he has made to NC IDEA and for his passion and dedication to North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We will honor his legacy through our continued work and look forward to having him involved in a meaningful way. David recently suggested a desire for a leadership change and the board has agreed that this is the right time for new leadership.”

About NC IDEA
NC IDEA is a private foundation committed to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina. The organization serves as a catalyst for young, high-growth technology companies by promoting initiatives that foster growth and guides these companies to become major contributors to the state’s business community. Currently, NC IDEA works closely with these innovative startups mainly by providing early financing in the form of grants. Learn more at www.ncidea.org.

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