NC Idea, a not-for-profit that provides grants to North Carolina technology startups, is seeking a new leader to replace founder and CEO David Rizzo, who has retired.
Sean O’Leary, the former president and CEO of StrikeIron, has been named interim executive director to lead the organization while the board of directors searches for a permanent executive director. Research Triangle Park-based StrikeIron was acquired by publicly traded Informatica last year.
O’Leary has served on NC Idea’s board for the past six months.
With Rizzo at the helm, NC Idea has awarded nearly $4 million in grants of up to $50,000 each to 98 North Carolina companies since 2006.
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“The board is extremely grateful to David for the remarkable contributions he has made to NC Idea and for his passion and dedication to North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Randy Myer, the organization’s chairman, said in a prepared statement issued in conjunction with last week’s announcement. “David recently suggested a desire for a leadership change and the board has agreed that this is the right time for new leadership.”
Myer added that he looked forward to Rizzo continuing to be “involved in a meaningful way” in NC Idea.
The change in leadership also spurred the board to review NC Idea’s organizational structure, leading to the decision to convert to a private foundation.
O’Leary said in an email message that “the board felt that moving to a private foundation provides the most operational freedom and will allow the organization to more effectively expand its philanthropic goals while continuing to foster economic development in North Carolina.”
O’Leary said he’s not a candidate for the permanent executive director’s job.
“My task is to assist in the transition and to support a comprehensive strategic review to position the foundation for future growth,” he wrote. “I will also assist in the search and hiring of the future executive director and will remain on the board after the new executive director is on board, continuing to assist with strategy where needed.”
NC Idea said it plans to continue offering grants, on a twice-yearly basis, to the state’s technology startups.