Interview with Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA

NC IDEA is a private foundation with a mission to maximize the economic potential of the people of North Carolina by supporting the formation and fruition of high-growth entrepreneurial endeavors in the state.


Thom Ruhe


Thom is President and CEO of NC IDEA. He is an entrepreneur, investor, mentor and works with entrepreneurs, governments, universities, and NGOs around the world to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset needed to grow vibrant economies.


In this episode, William asks Thom about his first impression of Charlotte after taking the job and what it takes to move the startup needle further in Charlotte.  Thom talks about the KeyBank giving $24 million to JumpStart – a similar organization to NC IDEA in Cleveland – but there is still a lack of support among the corporations in Charlotte.

They talk about human capital – how the big corporations are allowing employee’s volunteer time to support efforts like QC Fintech – and how that is different from financial capital.  Finally, Thom touches on the intellectual capital as well.

Thom also talks about how banks can be the first customer to many of these Fintech companies and how the ‘first customer’ issue many startups face could be lowered if the banks opened up a little more.  As he talks about it though, he mentions how this process could be messy and ‘chunky’ and not a panacea.  However, it could be just as important for startups to have the banks serve as first customers as it would be to have them be early-stage investors.

Thom and William further discuss how early-stage capital is developing in Charlotte.  We now have the Charlotte Angel Fund, VentureSouth, IDEA Fund, Wolfpack Investment Network (WIN), Duke Angel Network (DAN), and Carolina Angel Network (CAN).  The North Carolina Venture Capital Multiplier Fund run by Hatteras Venture Partners also has a sidecar fund that will co-invest along with WIN, DAN, and CAN.  Ideally, Thom would like to see this network of university led investor networks expand into Charlotte through Davidson and UNCC.

Thom continues to go back to the three different types of capital in Charlotte.  How do we further develop the talent in Charlotte as we don’t have a ton of serial entrepreneurs?

This podcast episode has been kindly provided by William Bissett (