NC IDEA FOUNDATION Elects New Board Chair and Directors; Approves Historic Budget

Peyton Anderson Succeeds Patti Gillenwater as Chairperson; Three New Directors Join Board

 DURHAM, NC – June 10, 2021 – NC IDEA, a private foundation committed to supporting entrepreneurial ambition and economic empowerment in North Carolina, announced today the election of Peyton Anderson as Board Chair; along with the election of three new directors; Spencer Disher of Charlotte, Sonja Ebron of Durham and Jerry Edmonds, Ed.D. of Henderson.

Alongside the appointment of new directors, the Board approved a historic budget, nearly double what is required by the IRS, to expand North Carolina’s economic development efforts via entrepreneurship, with a continued emphasis on specific populations that have been historically under-served. Signature grant programs MICRO, SEED, ENGAGE and ECOSYSTEM, will all have increased funding for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. Additionally, NC IDEA has granted a second tranche of $500,000 to be managed under the leadership of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council; bringing the total to $1M since launching the NC BEC last August.

“NC IDEA is fortunate to have a visionary board comprised of accomplished business leaders with the bold ambition to empower North Carolinians to achieve their entrepreneurial potential,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA. “Our newest directors are distinguished members of the State’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and join the Board with direct experience of NC IDEA programs; Sonja as a SEED grant recipient and Spencer and Jerry as members of the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council,” Ruhe added.

We are excited to have the talent and expertise of each of these individuals in furthering the mission of the Foundation:


Peyton Anderson has served on NC IDEA’s board for four years prior to being elected Chair. He is CEO of Affinergy, a Duke spinout commercializing peptide linkers as coatings for medical devices. Previously, Peyton was founding CEO of SciQuest, Inc. and raised over $175 million in capital prior to the company’s IPO in 1999. Peyton currently serves on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the NC Biosciences Organization. Previously, he served on the executive committee of the Board of Directors for the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.



Spencer Disher most recently served as Senior Vice President at Natixis SA, an international French banking institution. He was one of the founders and co-managers of Natixis ABM Corp, a subsidiary of Natixis SA which grew into a highly profitable entity with approximately $6 billion of fixed income assets under management. Spencer is an adjunct instructor for entrepreneurship in the business college at Johnson & Wales University. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte and as a director for the Charlotte Angel Fund. In addition, he serves as an advisor and investor to several startups and has worked as a mentor with RevTech, City Startup Labs and Innovate Charlotte.



Sonja Ebron is a Durham native and founding CEO of Courtroom5, a 2018 NC IDEA SEED grant recipient that makes an automated legal toolbox for people in court without a lawyer. She serves on the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council and has represented herself in court for many years. Sonja is a PhD electrical engineer and former college professor with a background in utilities and artificial intelligence. As Courtroom5 CEO, Sonja has made it her personal mission to empower people to represent themselves effectively in court.



Jerry Edmonds III, Ed.D. serves as Vice President of Workforce and Community Engagement at Vance Granville Community College in Henderson, NC. Previously he served in varying roles as Dean of Workforce and Economic Development and Small Business Center Director at Halifax Community College in Weldon, NC. In his earlier career, Jerry held a variety of executive leadership positions within Johnson & Johnson and IBM where he was the recipient of numerous training, recruitment, marketing and leadership awards. Jerry is currently a member of the Henderson, North Carolina Chapter of Rotary International and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He also serves on the Mariah Parham Duke Lifepoint’s Board of Trustees, the Lakeland Cultural Arts Center and Working Landscapes’ Board of Directors, and the Kerr Tar Council of Governments. He recently launched Willow Creek Tennis Retreat, LLC and the Edmonds Tennis and Education Foundation.


The newest board members join current directors; Board Chair Peyton Anderson, Greg Brown, Patti Gillenwater, Linda Hall, Garret Hinshaw, Ed.D., Luke Walling and Stelfanie Williams, Ed.D.

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



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