To foster inclusive communities of entrepreneurs who create lasting economic and social impact.
Brooks Bell is an established leader in the emerging industry of conversion optimization. She started her firm, Brooks Bell, in the early 2000s to help bring a data-driven mindset to digital marketing departments, and quickly became the leading organization in the industry. Today, her goal is still the same: to help companies discover the people behind the data using advanced analytics, optimization and personalization strategies. The Brooks Bell team has generated more than $500 million dollars in value for industry leaders in retail, financial services, media, and technology.
A recognized thought leader in analytics and entrepreneurship, Brooks has been featured in publications including Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Washington Post, and Techonomy. Most recently, Brooks spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and has moderated events for Bill Clinton, venture capitalist Chris Sacca, and Chelsea Clinton.
Brooks co-founded Raleigh Founded and ThinkHouse Raleigh—two communities that help empower, foster, and cultivate companies that produce long-term job growth and positive social impact. She is dedicated to social issues and serves on the board of WalkFree.org, the largest movement in the world dedicated to ending modern slavery. She has also served as the president of the Entrepreneurs Organization, and as a board member of the Digital Analytics Association and the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.
A native of Alaska, Brooks earned her B.A. from Duke University in 2001.
Jesse Lipson is a self-taught software developer and became a full-time entrepreneur at age 23. Shortly after the dotcom crash, he took over a small pharmaceutical market research company called Rapidata.net and also co-founded a web development firm called novelProjects. After a successful acquisition of Rapidata by Greenfield Online in early 2004, he decided to focus on the SaaS (software-as-a-service) space and built ShareFile in late 2005.
ShareFile is a file-transfer service built for business users who need secure, reliable and easy tools for sharing data. He launched ShareFile in late 2005 and bootstrapped the company from zero to four million users in six years. ShareFile was acquired by Citrix in 2011 and today has over $200M in revenue and several hundred employees. He served in a variety of roles at Citrix for the next 5 years, including serving on the executive leadership team as Corporate VP of Cloud Services.
Jesse co-founded Raleigh Founded, a co-working community primarily based in Raleigh with over 400 member companies and 100,000 sq ft under management. Most recently, Jesse started a software company called Real Magic. Real Magic recently launched Levitate, which helps small businesses grow and manage their professional relationships to help drive more referral and word of mouth business. He holds a degree in philosophy from Duke University and serves on the Board of Directors of Yext (NYSE: YEXT).
Christopher Gergen is the CEO and co-founder of Forward Cities – a national learning collaborative of over two dozen cities focused on building more inclusive entrepreneurial economies that also helped launch InnovateNC – a similar multi-city learning collaborative in North Carolina. He is also a founding partner of Raleigh Founded, the largest entrepreneurial co-working community in North Carolina. Additionally, Christopher is a fellow and faculty member with Duke University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative, co-author of the nationally acclaimed book Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, an alum of Leadership North Carolina (class 24) and a 2013 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Other entrepreneurial endeavors for Christopher include co-founding SMARTHINKING, a venture-backed on-line tutoring company that grew to over 1,000 universities before being acquired by Pearson in 2011, launching the Entrepreneurs Corps that placed 400 AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers into 96 non-profits for a year of capacity building support, and starting Café Nunoa – a bar, restaurant, live music venue in Santiago, Chile that Christopher started when he was 24. He lives with his wife and two children in Durham, NC.
Jason Widen is Co-Founder of Forward Impact whose mission is to unleash the impact potential of next generation entrepreneurial leaders. This work includes supporting community-based strategies to develop and scale high-impact entrepreneurs including Raleigh Founded, REVGEN, and Leadership exCHANGE. Jason brings an extensive background as an investor, developer, and entrepreneur to his current role as Founding Partner and CEO of Raleigh Founded, an award-winning entrepreneurial co-working space located in Downtown Raleigh. Raleigh Founded boasts 400 member companies and 800 members including key partnerships with NC State, Campbell Law, and Meredith College to name a few. Moreover Raleigh Founded Member companies raised over 58 million in funding in 2018. Seeking to develop sales talent for start ups and established companies, Jason Founded REVGEN in 2013. REVGEN boasts having hired and trained over 600 employees with a number of notable clients- Citrix, Redhat, Dude Solutions, and Filter Easy. Jason has raised millions of dollars as an entrepreneur and real estate developer including over 103 projects, most recently having raising capital for the purchase and development of expansion space for Raleigh Founded. In addition, Jason was instrumental in the creation of Leadership exCHANGE, an award-winning organization dedicated to training the next generation of leaders and global citizens to change the world. Moreover, Jason is an ardent supporter of Raleigh’s community and currently sits on a number of noteworthy Boards to include: Innovate Raleigh, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown Raleigh Alliance. He lives with his wife and daughter in Raleigh.
Jess Porta is the Executive Director at Raleigh Founded. She loves working with members to help solve problems and connect them with unique opportunities. Jess has been an instrumental part in Raleigh Founded’s success during her five years with the organization.
Lauren has been a part of the Raleigh Founded team since 2018 and now serves as Raleigh Founded’s Community Manager. She is most known for her sense of humor and love for cheetah print. Lauren is passionate about customer service and strives to make Raleigh Founded a fun, inclusive place to work. She would love to hear from you on how to improve your experience as a Raleigh Founded member!
Programming + Events Manager
Sarah joined the Raleigh Founded team in December of 2019 as the Events Manager and has since grown into planning new programming for our community. Her favorite location is Capital Club because of its history, natural light, and panoramic views of downtown from the Cannon Room. You’ll recognize Sarah by her laugh, northern accent, and warm personality. Interested in getting involved? Sarah would love to chat about the best way to plug you into our community!
George uses his 10+ years of hospitality experience to keep our buildings and community running smoothly. He is an avid hobbyist, loves the outdoors, and spending time with his son, Easton. George has been a part of the Raleigh Founded team since 2018 and we cannot imagine our team without him!
Danielle has attended many Raleigh Founded events over the years and couldn’t help but join the team at the end of 2019. In addition to running our Centennial location, Danielle handles leasing for all our properties. She’ll happily chat with you about yoga, personality assessments, dogs, or Raleigh Founded office suites.
Rachel has been part of the Raleigh Founded team since the beginning. In addition to taking care of Raleigh Founded’s accounting, Rachel also runs her own tax and accounting company, Sevrina. Rachel is a seasoned entrepreneur who inspires the young women on our team everyday!
Community Coordinator + Graphic Designer
Devon has been a part of the Raleigh Founded team since 2019 and is our on staff graphic designer. Since starting at Raleigh Founded, Devon has worked at all our properties, but now you can find him running the show at our Gateway space. Devon is best known for his glowing smile and charming personality. Book a tour at Gateway and see what we are raving about!
Caroline has been at Raleigh Founded since March 2020, and primarily works out of the Warehouse location. Warehouse is her favorite location, because of the sense of community, the lively atmosphere, and historic charm. She loves reading books, hanging out with friends, and baking in her free time.