Grants to Strengthen Infrastructure for North Carolina’s Under-Represented Entrepreneurs

 DURHAM, NC – December 10, 2020 – NC IDEA, a private foundation committed to supporting entrepreneurial ambition and economic empowerment in North Carolina, announced today that the organization has awarded nearly $1.5 million in NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grants to seventeen partners throughout the state. To date, the NC IDEA IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant program has awarded over $5 million to 47 strategic partners across the state.

“There hasn’t been a more vital time in recent history to support the organizations that are helping people start high growth companies,” said Thom Ruhe, CEO and President of NC IDEA. “Adding these 17 organizations’ efforts to our ECOSYSTEM partner network will improve our ability to support new firm formation and the jobs they create; which will be vital to our economic recovery,” Ruhe concluded.

The seventeen new NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant recipients are:


These newest grant recipients were chosen from the 65 competitive applications received from organizations from the mountains to the coast. Specifically, for this Fall 2020 NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM solicitation, NC IDEA required that proposals focus on supporting “under-represented” entrepreneurs building scalable businesses; defined as: (1) entrepreneurs that identify as Female, and/or (2) entrepreneurs that identify as Minority (or Persons of Color), and/or (3) entrepreneurs that are located in counties designated as “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” by the N.C. Department of Commerce. Proposals had to focus on at least one of these three populations of under-represented entrepreneurs, but could aim to support more than one of the described populations.

Concurrent to this ECOSYSTEM effort, and under the leadership of the newly formed North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council, NC IDEA issued a call for applications specifically from organizations throughout the state executing on innovative and transformational ideas that will elevate Black Entrepreneurship. An announcement for these new partners is planned for early next week.

NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM is designed to identify and support partner organizations across the state doing inspired things to help entrepreneurs. Working in partnership with others provides the opportunity to foster relationships and create dialog between partners, while allowing a better understanding of how we may (collectively) support more people in their ambition to start and grow companies that will strengthen the economy of North Carolina.

Earlier this year, NC IDEA awarded ECOSYSTEM grants to several additional partners including: First Flight Venture Center (RTP); Prospera (Charlotte); Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke (Pembroke); and UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Wilmington).

NC IDEA is an independent private foundation committed to empowering North Carolinians to achieve their entrepreneurial potential. Through our powerful combination of competitive grants and programs, and a network of strategic partners, we help entrepreneurs when they need it most. NC IDEA’s resources are highly competitive, enabling the foundation to support North Carolina’s most ambitious entrepreneurs. We believe entrepreneurs transform communities and view our work as a catalyst for positive change. Learn more at