Thom Ruhe

President & CEO, NC IDEA

Thom Ruhe is President and Chief Executive Officer of NC IDEA, a private foundation committed to supporting entrepreneurial business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina and has significant work experience in entrepreneurially led economic development activities. In his most recent past position (CEO of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative) Thom worked with governments, universities, and NGOs around the world to deliver the entrepreneurial mindset education needed to grow vibrant economies.

During his seven-year tenure at the Kauffman Foundation, he directed the Foundation’s programs addressing entrepreneurial education, mentoring, access to capital and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems. Specific programs included: The Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, 1Million Cups, Founders School, Investor IQ and Innovation Fund America. Thom also lead Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing community deployed experiential-based entrepreneurial education.

Thom was recruited to Kauffman based upon his work as founding chief marketing officer (CMO) for JumpStart Inc., an economic development organization and seed stage investment fund created to invest in and accelerate the growth of high-potential, early stage companies in northeast Ohio. Before JumpStart, Ruhe served as president of Optiem LLC, where he led the growth of a nascent marketing practice to a nationally recognized interactive marketing, communications and public relations agency.

Ruhe has/is serving in a variety of board and advisory capacities including: the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for fostering Entrepreneurship, Board of Advisers for The Kenan Institute of Free Enterprise at UNC and founding trustee for Innovation Fund America.

Thom has been quoted and published in: NYTimes, WSJ, Forbes, Inc., and more. Thom has spoken and participated in a variety of functions all over the world including the United Nations, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of the Vatican, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship, Workforce Development Institute, U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Global Entrepreneurship Congress and Global Entrepreneurship Week.