NC IDEA Announces New President and CEO

DURHAM, NC -- The Board of Directors of NC IDEA, an organization committed to supporting entrepreneurial business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina, has announced the selection of its president and chief executive officer (CEO) Thom Ruhe, a nationally recognized leader in the field of entrepreneurship. The appointment follows the organization’s recent conversion to a private foundation.

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“We are pleased to have someone with Thom’s background and knowledge lead the organization,” said Randy Myer, chairman of the board of NC IDEA. “In addition to his own entrepreneurial experiences, Thom has directed programs addressing entrepreneurship education, mentoring, access to capital and entrepreneurial ecosystems,” Myer added. “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Board Member Sean O’Leary for his exemplary leadership and contributions while serving as Interim Executive Director during our transition and search,” Myer concluded.

Ruhe will be working closely with NC IDEA’s board of directors to develop strategies for investment in the entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout North Carolina and will operationalize these strategies to achieve maximum impact for entrepreneurs in the state.

He comes to the organization having most recently served with the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI); a company dedicated to creating entrepreneurship education programs and training services for academic institutions, government and non-government organizations and corporate clients worldwide. Prior to ELI, Thom was Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, where he directed the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programs and grant portfolio.

“I am excited to work with the board and staff to build upon our efforts to make North Carolina one of the most entrepreneurial states in the nation,” said Thom Ruhe. “Encouraging an entrepreneurial culture and climate will strengthen our communities and the economy more broadly. I appreciate the opportunity to serve,” Ruhe concluded.

Ruhe will begin his new role in March.

More About Thom Ruhe
For the last decade, Thom has been working in the fields of entrepreneurship education, economic development and building entrepreneurial ecosystems. Combining that with nearly two decades of experience in a variety of entrepreneurial endeavors, he will lead NC IDEA’s efforts to make North Carolina a great state to start and grow new ventures.

Prior to his seven-year tenure at Kauffman, he was the founding chief marketing officer (CMO) for JumpStart Inc., an economic development organization and seed stage investment fund created to invest in and accelerate the growth of high-potential, early stage companies in northeast Ohio. Before JumpStart, Ruhe served as president of Optiem LLC, where he led the growth of a nascent marketing practice to a nationally recognized interactive marketing, communications and public relations agency.

Ruhe has/is serving in a variety of board and advisory capacities including: the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for fostering Entrepreneurship, Board of Advisers for The Kenan Institute of Free Enterprise at UNC and is a founding trustee for Innovation Fund America.

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. Since its inception in 2006, NC IDEA’s grant program has awarded over $4.2M to 104 companies across the state. Learn more at