NC IDEA Newsletter – October 18, 2018

Over the last dozen years, I have worked for and with organizations that were building entrepreneurial ecosystems and generally helping individuals pursuing their ambition to launch and grow companies. From my work within the United States, I noticed two institutions that were significantly underappreciated for the work they do to strengthen the U.S. economy; Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and our nation’s Community Colleges.

CDFIs work in low-income communities, urban and rural, by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. They enable activity of economic potential for people that would otherwise not be served by banks and other commercial lending sources. Especially in rural communities, they are at times the only entity serving the financial product needs of individuals. Their under-the-radar role in economic development is undeniable.

Similarly not top-of-mind is the community college. Unlike our great universities that can be selective in admissions (academically and financially), the community college serves most that apply; with significantly lower academic requirements and financial burden. In addition to being a cost effective hedge for students obtaining transferrable pre-requisite credit hours in furtherance of undergraduate degrees from 4-year institutions, community colleges serve a very practical service of workforce development. They are a community garden version of training, continuing education, and professional development; in contrast to the gated arboretum that are many of our universities.

“If you want to understand the economic landscape in any given community, just ask the president of the local CDFI or community college.”

I have seen these two organizations do remarkable things in service to their communities. For that reason, I am excited to announce a partnership opportunity with the Foundation, to launch an ambitious effort to provide entrepreneurial mindset education to as many North Carolinians as possible.

Working with some of our state’s great CDFIs and Community Colleges, we will be broadly supporting a statewide roll out of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program (IHEP); an experiential, problem-based program designed to inspire and engage learners in the fundamental aspects of an entrepreneurial mindset while immersing them in entrepreneurial experiences that will enable them to develop creativity and critical thinking, effective problem solving, teamwork, and other entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to succeed regardless of their chosen path.

IHEP is a program I launched whilst at the Kauffman Foundation. It was the product of a two-year analysis and effort to address the gap in MINDSET education; namely, the underlying beliefs and assumptions that drive the behavior of successful entrepreneurs. Within a broad universe of available entrepreneurship education programs, the IHEP could be considered a pre-requisite for most training programs; like, the REAL Entrepreneurship program available throughout NC Community Colleges or Kauffman FastTrac.

As you can imagine, there are many logistics that still need to be worked out. We are currently talking to partners (community colleges and CDFIs) across the state to figure out HOW we will make this program available as broadly as possible. But we also want to hear from YOU, other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystems of North Carolina, to help us empower as many people as possible with an entrepreneurial mindset.

So, if you are interested in supporting this statewide effort, please let us know.

Entrepreneurially yours,

Thom Ruhe
President & CEO

Upcoming NC IDEA Events

Join NC IDEA and RevUp Capital Managing Director Melissa Withers on October 30th for a conversation about funding options less discussed (despite being the most commonly used), ways to think dynamically about capitalizing your growth, and how to dispel fundraising myths that can kill your company.RevUp Capital will also be offering office hours on October 29th and 30th for companies that may be a good fit for investment. More on the fund and eligibility hereSchedule office hours with Melissa here.

General inquiries can be sent to


Through our community-focused grant program, NC IDEA ENGAGE, we support individuals and organizations by helping them offer programs, organize events, and generally facilitate activity that brings like-minded folks together to support entrepreneurship activity. Learn more about NC IDEA ENGAGE here and see some of our great partners and their upcoming events below.

Gig East is Wilson’s home for technology and innovation networking. Events focus around gigs—whether its conversation around the gigabit network, Greenlight, or creative conversations inspired by the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. Gig East brings eastern North Carolina together to explore next generation technology. Join 2018 Gig East: The Future of Work Outside the Metro on October 30th in Wilson, NC. Learn more and RSVP here.

A mash-up of an accelerator, a hackathon, and a weekend-long party, Hatch Asheville’s Hatch This on November 2-4 matches attendees in teams with expert mentorship to craft a startup and compete for prizes including seed funding and office space at Hatch Asheville. Learn more and RSVP here.

Now in its seventh year, the Innovate Raleigh Summit will convene a diverse group of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and engaged citizens from across the region on November 9th. This year’s Summit will highlight inspiring stories while exploring the vision for the future of the community and creative, innovative ways to meet challenges through a series of panel discussions, keynote lectures, presentations and workshops. Learn more and RSVP here.

The 2018 DHIT Summit will convene internationally recognized thought leaders and key stakeholders from the healthcare ecosystem in Durham, NC on November 14th to dig deep into how Digital Health can pervasively be used to transform health. Learn more and RSVP here.
The Southeast Fintech Venture Conference is an all-day event showcasing the top fintech companies in the Southeast. From startups to fintech success stories, the day is a demonstration of the latest and greatest in fintech innovation. Join prominent VC and growth firms, fintech entrepreneurs and financial services executives in Charlotte, NC on November 14th. Learn more and RSVP here.
The Black Business Expo serves a statewide community using business as a force for change. Held in downtown Durham on December 1st, The Black Business Expo is designed for all vocations who are recruiting or have cutting-edge products or services to provide or sell that can make a positive impact in the lives of the urban community. Learn more and RSVP here.

Other Events & Opportunities