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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues


Kenan Institute 2022 Annual Theme: Stakeholder Capitalism
Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues

Thom Ruhe

President & CEO, NC IDEA

Thom Ruhe is president and CEO of NC IDEA, a private foundation committed to supporting entrepreneurial business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina. Ruhe has significant work experience in entrepreneurial-led economic development activities. As CEO of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, he worked with governments, universities and NGOs around the world to deliver the entrepreneurial mindset education that is needed to grow vibrant economies.

During his seven-year tenure at the Kauffman Foundation, Ruhe 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. He also lead Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing community deployed experiential-based entrepreneurial education.

Ruhe 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 northeastern 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.

He has/is serving in a variety of board and advisory capacities including the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for Fostering Entrepreneurship and is a founding trustee for the Innovation Fund America.

Ruhe has been quoted and published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc. and more. He 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, the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship, the Workforce Development Institute, the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress and Global Entrepreneurship Week.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University.