As we close the books on 2016 at the NC IDEA Foundation, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a review of the year, and look ahead for 2017.

With a mandate to build upon our work to serve the entrepreneurs of North Carolina, we launched a new grant program affectionately called the Ecosystem Partner Program. Working with other organizations that share our mission in supporting entrepreneurs, we hope to expand the statewide capacity to help people start and grow great companies. With the first cohort busily working on their respective activities, 2017 will see the fruits of this labor in the form of new programs and services. This will also serve as a great test case for how community-based ecosystem building, coordinated statewide, can make NC a national exemplar for entrepreneurship led economic prosperity.

Our Seed Grant Program saw promising growth and diversity in both the types of companies and the locations from where they applied. Below you will see summaries of the Fall 2016 Seed Grant recipients, which was described by several involved in the judging process as one of the strongest groups in the 10-year history of the program. As our Ecosystem Partners execute on their grants, we anticipate a rising tide of entrepreneurial activity thereby making the Seed Grant Program stronger – even if it makes our job of selecting grant recipients more difficult.

Keeping our own entrepreneurial skills sharp and strong, we continued to offer Groundwork Labs; an accelerator program designed to help North Carolinians realize their entrepreneurial dreams of starting a company. In 2017, several of our Ecosystem Partners will be collaborating to offer this successful program within the communities they serve. Complimenting this program, in 2016 we brought into the Foundation SoarTriangle, a mentoring program for female-led startups attempting to raise funds. Helping women navigate the complexities of fundraising is another initiative we can sustain with our programmatic investments and addressing a need in the market.

By all accounts, 2016 was a busy year. In addition to all the above, the Board of Directors recruited a new leader for the Foundation and it has been my great pleasure (and privilege) to join a dedicated and growing team of colleagues doing the hard work of helping great ideas take flight. We will continue to challenge ourselves to serve the mission of the organization and the citizens of North Carolina. So, 2017 should be just as busy, but with many more partners joining us in this vital activity.

December 21, 2016
Written by NC IDEA President & CEO, Thom Ruhe