Meet The Team

Providing Venture Capital and Mentorship to Build Great Companies

We are a team of investors who help underserved entrepreneurs reach their highest potential. Our team is exceptionally positioned to execute on Elevate Capital’s investment strategy.

At Elevate Capital, we provide the venture capital and mentorship needed to build a successful company. Because we believe in the great possibilities of the next entrepreneur.

Credibility

Strong credibility and deep trust within underserved communities

Network

A robust network in region’s business and underserved communities

Experience

Deep experience in early stage investing in technology and access to capital

Results

An outstanding track record as entrepreneurs, fund managers, and executives

Investment Team

Nitin Rai

Founder & Managing Partner

Nitin is the Founder and Managing Partner of Elevate Capital, a venture Capital Fund that includes the Elevate Inclusive Fund, a seed-stage fund that invests in diverse and underserved entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 60% of Elevate investments are in women-led companies and 40% in African American and LatinX founder/CEO-led startups.

Since 2016, Elevate Capital has invested more than $10 million in 38 startups. These companies have raised follow-on funding of more than $80 million, with a market cap of $213.3 million and created more than 500 jobs. These companies also report 50% of their employees as diverse. Elevate Capital has already had two strong exits, with two of its portfolio companies: Portland-based RFPIO and Garden Bar by Evergreens.

Nitin also served as the Chairman of the TiE Global of Board Trustees in 2019. In this role, Nitin led the Board of Trustees’ mission to help its 60 plus global chapters ensure entrepreneurs become successful through global programs and initiatives. Nitin also serves as Chair of TiE Global Angels to help entrepreneurs across the globe get funding from TiE Charter Members.

Since 2007, Nitin has been an active angel investor, mentor and is a founding charter member and President of the Board of TiE Oregon. In this role, TiE Oregon has grown to a full-fledged angel investment group with a successful mentoring program. It has launched several education and accelerator programs including TYE and TIE XL. TiE Oregon Angels has invested more than $12 million in 52 startups with 11 exits that returned over 3X in cash to the angels. TiE Oregon ranks in the top three chapters globally, and routinely receives recognition for its angel investment, women, and youth programs. Nitin has invested in more than 100 startups since 2011, personally and through his fund.

Nitin is also a successful entrepreneur. He started his career in Silicon Valley as an engineer at two startups. In 1994, he founded First Insight Corporation, a highly successful optometry and ophthalmology electronic health records and practice management software, and revenue cycle management company based in Hillsboro, Oregon, and Pune, India. First Insight is a leader in the eye care industry with its flagship product MaximEyes.

Jill Nelson

General Partner

Jill founded Ruby Receptionists (Ruby.com), and grew it to 630 employees and 10,000 customers before handing over the reigns. Under Jill’s leadership, Ruby holds the record-breaking position as one of Oregon’s fastest growing companies for 12 consecutive years and was repeatedly named a top 5 places to work in the U.S. by Fortune Magazine.

Jill was a Pacific NW 2017 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and was named the 2017 Oregon Technology Executive of the Year—the first woman to receive this recognition. Jill sits on the board of Ruby.com and is an Operating Advisor for Updata. Partners. She is also a board member of TiE Oregon.

Raghu Raghavan

General Partner

Raghu is Founder and CEO of Act-On Software. He scaled the company from the proverbial garage to one of the fastest growing private companies in America, with offices in Portland, California, London and India. He was named the 2015 Tech CEO of the Year by the Portland Business Journal.

Previously, Raghu was the co-founder of Responsys, a pioneering marketing technology company which went public (NASDAQ: MKTG) in 2011 and was acquired by Oracle in 2013 for $1.5 billion. Raghu is an LP and Executive Partner in the Elevate Capital Fund, and serves on the boards of Act-On Software, RFPIO and TiE Oregon.

Kumar Sripadam

General Partner

Kumar Sripadam is a technology entrepreneur, business consultant, investor, and a mentor with 30+ years experience. Kumar was a founding member of Redback Networks, a hugely successful IPO company. He has held several senior and executive positions in various startups.

Kumar is an executive board member of Arc Angels, NY. He is involved with several venture and angel Funds. He served on the boards of Incentive Logic and MetaCert. He is an advisor at Moesif and Truelark. As an active investor he has invested in 70+ companies with many successful exits. He is also a mentor and an advisor at many Silicon Valley accelerators and incubators. He is the Chair for TiE Angels Silicon Valley and a board member of TIE-Silicon Valley.

Sharon Richardson Howell

Senior Investment Partner, Innovation Gap Fund

In addition to serving as Senior Investment Partner for Elevate’s Innovation Gap Fund, Sharon Richardson Howell is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Huntington Hill Ventures; a Limited Partner in the Elevate Capital Fund; a TiE Charter Member since 2012; and an engaged Board member. She was recently elected to the TiE Global Board of Trustees.

Sharon specializes in growth, operational transformation, partnerships, and strategic storytelling. She has held executive positions in tech (mobile and gaming), hospitality and service, as well as in healthcare companies such as PeaceHealth, ZoomCare, Regence, and Cambia.

Having lived in six different countries with a multi-industry career, Sharon has a PhD in Business Strategy from Cass Business School in London, an MBA from UC Berkeley, and USC is her undergraduate alma mater. Serving as adjunct faculty in Prague, London, and Portland, she rarely turns down an opportunity to mentor and teach.

Sharon is a prolific angel investor across a broad range of industries, an active mentor, and a strong supporter of entrepreneurship. She gives back to the community via her connection to a number of 501(c)(3) organizations, including as a Board Trustee with Janus Youth In Portland, Oregon.

Ben Nahir

Senior Associate and Venture Principal

Ben is a neuroscientist-turned-investor who uses a data-driven approach to identify, research, and recommend investment opportunities. Ben joined the Oregon investment community in 2016 following a 12-year career in academic research. In four years as Program Manager for TiE Oregon Angels and TiE Global Angels, Ben has helped deploy over $7.5 million in global angel capital to 45 startups.

At Elevate Capital, Ben participates in all aspect of investing, from deal sourcing through diligence, negotiation, execution, portfolio management, and fundraising. Ben received his BS in Mathematical Biology from Harvey Mudd, his MBA from PSU, and a Doctorate in Philosophy and neuroscience from University of Florida.

Brandon Ross

Senior Associate-Analyst

Brandon joined the Elevate Capital investment team in October 2019. Prior to Elevate Capital, Brandon worked as a Senior Associate with the Meketa Investment Group in 2019 as part of the merger with Pension Consulting Alliance (PCA).

At Elevate Capital, Brandon will be responsible for portfolio and investment level performance measurement and analytics, investment manager due diligence, working with clients to establish their investment beliefs and investment policies, and assisting with various client and internal projects.

Brandon received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a focus on Race and Politics from Reed College.

Netia McCray

Associate, Innovation Gap Fund

Netia is a “Dreamer and Doer of Impossible Things.” Her passion is to foster world-changing ideas and assist those who create them through my work fostering youth-driven innovation and entrepreneurship.

Through non-profit organization Mbadika, Netia focuses on assisting over 2,700 high school and university students across 11 countries to understand the process of turning ideas to tackle global challenges into reality.

Whether that’s through traditional product design and development or through learning rapid-prototyping techniques by developing over 450 alpha prototypes for project-based learning initiates, SRCs, university accelerators and pitch competitions. Netia is a graduate of MIT.

Robin Jones

Venture Partner

Robin is CEO of Monsoon, Inc. and Principal Consultant and Founder at Bizmaven.me. Robin is a high-tech and software leader who served as the Chief Operating Officer at Public Market (Portland, OR). Prior to this role, Robin served as the Vice President for Strategic Growth at Socrata (Seattle, WA), a cloud-based data-as-a-service platform for government domains. Robin has also built and led the technology and development sector at Esri (Redlands, CA), the world leader in analytical mapping technology. At Esri, Robin grew a product line from $0 to $2.9m in revenue in less than three years. Robin also served as COO at Geoloqi (Portland, OR) prior to being acquired by Esri.

Robin has extensive experience in telecom, mobile, and wireless semiconductor industries. Robin served as RM of Avnera’s (Beaverton, OR) audio segment, an $8M business unit at Avnera. Prior to this role, Robin headed west-coast venture investments for Motorola Ventures with early to mid-stage equity investments in the $1M-5M range.

Robin holds an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley) and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Stanford University. She also serves on the board of directors for TiE Oregon.

Soumitra Sengupta

Venture Partner

Soumitra is an entrepreneur, mentor, and investor focused on technology and life sciences. He is the Co-Founder of a stealth startup based in Seattle, WA, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at a New Orleans, LA-based The Idea Village.

Soumitra has over 25 years of experience leading product and engineering teams at both large companies as well as multiple startups and smaller companies. He has helped build and bring to market products in cloud computing, mobile phones, enterprise software, robotics, and machine earning. Before starting his current company, Soumitra was Director of Engineering for a globally distributed team at Microsoft Corporation, where he and his teams helped launch several startup platforms and products, including Azure, SQL Server, Windows Phone, Power BI, and Hololens.

Soumitra received his Ph.D. from Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, a Master’s from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, and an undergraduate degree from Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India.

Michael Choi

Executive Partner

Mike guides the overall direction for Axiom EPM, including company strategy, business development and international expansion efforts. With over 20 years of experience in the enterprise performance management software industry, he has been instrumental to the company’s rapid growth. He was President & CEO at CPM Systems, Inc before joining Axiom.

  • 2x bootstrapped acquisitions
  • CEO and Co-founder of both startups
  • Deal sourcing and portfolio value-add
  • TiE Oregon Board Member

Chris Bright

Executive Partner

Chris has dedicated his career to working with emerging growth companies and high-tech startups for more than 20 years. Prior to helping start Zapproved as co-founder and VP of Marketing (2008-2019), he managed worldwide corporate communications for Pixelworks, a publicly-traded semiconductor company. He was part of Pixelworks’ IPO team in 2000.

In December 2019, Chris stepped down as Vice President of Marketing at Zapproved to focus on his passion: addressing the homeless crisis through homeless advocacy. He is currently Interim Board Chair for Business for a Better Portland. 

Chris previously worked at two high-tech public relations firms, one of which he founded grew from six to 26 employees in the first year. He has additional experience working for a major law firm and with the World Bank. In the mid-90s, he helped found the Oregon Venture Investment Conference, the first to connect the Silicon Valley VC community with the state’s entrepreneurs.

Randy Lund

Executive Partner

Randy is a retired KPMG audit partner with experience in assisting a business from inception to initial public offering or sale. He has a diverse background in manufacturing, transportation, technology, SAAS software and consumer markets.

Randy has broad experience in accounting, information system controls and processes, international operations, and mergers and acquisitions. He possesses significant board and corporate governance experience and expertise.

Ana Chaud

Executive Partner

Ana started her career as a financial and business manager in the San Francisco Bay Area where she built a thriving consulting practice with a client base of over 80 companies, for over 10 years.

In 2014, Ana co-founded Garden Bar, the first fast casual, salad concept restaurant in the NW. Garden Bar was quickly recognized as the “place to go” for fast, healthy casual meals. The chain grew to nine stores across the Portland metro and grew 600% in revenue in five years. Ana handled all aspects of company finance and operations, including the funding strategy which featured a blend of equity funding, convertible notes and traditional financing.

Garden Bar was recognized as 22nd Fastest Growing Company in Oregon in 2017, and 4th largest minority owned business in Oregon. In 2018, it received the Hot Concepts Award, from the Nation’s Restaurant News.

In 2019, Garden Bar was acquired by Evergreens, a fast casual salad chain based in Seattle, WA. The acquisition provided Ana with the full circle experience of the life cycle of her company—from concept to exit. Ana was a finalist for the OEN Tom Hulce Entrepreneurship Award, which recognizes the most influential entrepreneurs in Oregon.

Ketan Sampat

Executive Partner, Innovation Gap Fund

He is Co-Founder and Chief Technology & Product Officer of The Provenance Chain™ Network, a company bringing transparency to commerce. Ketan is adjunct Professor at the School of Business Administration, Portland State University.

Ketan was the founding President of TiE-Oregon and continues to be active in the entrepreneurial eco-system in Portland as a mentor and angel investor. He co-founded CafeGive Social in 2008, a leading provider of a cause marketing SaaS platform for businesses and non-profits.

Ketan held several technology development and executive roles at Intel including the responsibility for market expansion in S. Asia as President, Intel India. He has been granted six US patents related to streaming media and e-commerce.

Nat Parker

Executive Partner and Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR)

Nat serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Elevate Capital, mentoring portfolio CEOs while working to incubate his next startup. He is a nationally recognized leader in technology transformation for transportation and smart cities.

Prior to joining Elevate Capital, Nat was the CEO of moovel North America, the leading provider of mobility solutions to public transit agencies. He grew the business from startup (GlobeSherpa) to a US market leader in the mobile payment space within three years, resulting in the acquisition by Daimler AG.

Nat has extensive experience in product development, fundraising, sales to government agencies and municipalities and contract negotiation. He is passionate about mobility, renewable energy, sustainability, international development, and startups. Nat and his wife and daughter live in Berlin, Germany.

Support Team

Donna Lehmann, Director of Marketing

Donna’s passion is to inspire and motivate entrepreneurs to succeed, grow, and always improve. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communications from Marylhurst University and an Associate of Arts in Business from Cosumnes River College.

Donna is Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for First Insight Corporation and has worked for the company since 2002. First Insight helps optometry and ophthalmology professionals run a successful business with EHR software, image management, practice management solutions, and end-to-end revenue cycle management services.

Prior to Elevate Capital and First Insight, Donna worked for American Medical Response, Banfield Pet Hospital (a private pet insurance start-up), Health Net, and the American Cancer Society.

Pam Gates, Controller

Pam earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Accounting and Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration Finance Law from Portland State University. She has worked with a wide variety of privately held businesses and has helped them navigate through the complexities of accounting systems, procedures, and compliance.

Pam is a past treasurer of TiE Oregon and has been the controller at First Insight Corporation since 2002. Pam has been the treasurer for various philanthropic organizations in her community and enjoys the challenges of the various accounting systems used by and issues faced by different organizations.

Bobbie Stewart, Community Liaison

Bobbie Stewart is a serial entrepreneur whose passion is engaging with and building start-ups. As a former business advisor with the SBDC and TIE XL Bootcamp instructor her equanimity has helped guide entrepreneurs through their most difficult start-up moments. Bobbie believes that entrepreneurs possess strength and tenacity that are the building blocks of leaders.

Bobbie graduated Concordia University with a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and minors in Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations, Finance.

Barbara Johnson, Executive Assistant

Barbara is the glue that holds everyone together. She is often recognized as the “sunshine queen, best mom ever, and all things events.” As Executive Assistant for Elevate Capital since 2016, she keeps our team on track and puts her heart and soul into every project she undertakes.

Since 1997, Barbara has held many roles at First Insight Corporation and is known as the “Jane of all Trades.” Barbara is a talented and seasoned exhibits and events coordinator for optometry and ophthalmology industry trade shows. She also manages First Insight’s human resources and plans employee events, and she has a unique ability to create a positive and fun work environment.

Anika Rai, Intern

Anika is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at Babson College in Finance and Economics. She’s passionate about problem solving and hopes to pursue venture capital in the future.

Past experience includes participating in TiE Young Entrepreneurs Oregon and serving as the TiE Young Entrepreneurs student director and student mentor for three years. At TiE, she organized events and led a team of ten to create a platform that uses geofencing technology to automatically check patients in to their doctors appointment.

Anika co-founded Melaknow, a computer vision screening app for primary care physicians. She built the business model from the ground up by validating business hypotheses with doctors, dermatologists, and consumers.

Advisors

Stephen Marsh,, Founder, Chairman, & CEO of Smarsh

Stephen Marsh founded the hosted email archiving and compliance provider Smarsh, Inc. in 2001, and he now oversees a global operation with more than 20,000 clients worldwide and 225 employees. Under Marsh’s leadership, Smarsh has grown to become the financial services industry’s premier electronic communications archiving provider, helping enterprises around the world meet their recordkeeping, supervision and e-discovery obligations.

Marsh was named the 2014 FTF News Fintech Person of the Year, and also serves as a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Independent Brokers/Dealers (NAIBD).

Kanth Gopalpur, Chair at Business Oregon Commission

Kanth Gopalpur, is a Portland-based entrepreneur and angel investor. He is a Board Member at James Beard Public Market, Poached Jobs, and TIE Oregon. Kanth co-founded Monsoon Commerce, Inc. in 2002 and served as its President and CEO.

He also founded and led the online operations of Powells.com from 1994 to 2000. He holds a Master’s Degree in Government and International Studies from the University of South Carolina. He has a patent in an online marketplace management system with an automated pricing tool.

Partners

TiE Oregon

Founded in 1992, TiE’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship globally through mentoring, networking, and education. Dedicated to the virtuous cycle of wealth creation and giving back to the community, TiE’s focus is on generating and nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. Today TiE Global has 11,000 members, including over 2,500 charter members in 60 chapters across 17 countries.

The TiE Oregon chapter launched in 2007 to further the success of innovation-driven enterprise in Oregon. TiE Oregon brings the benefits of its national and international connections to local entrepreneurs by inviting distinguished speakers, hosting delegations, and connecting members to other chapters in the TiE network.

TiE Oregon offers a range of programs. Formed by Charter Members of TiE Oregon, TiE Angels is an angel investment group which helps top-tier emerging companies with early-stage investment, mentorship, and support. The TiE XL Entrepreneur Bootcamp covers key-aspects of what an entrepreneur needs to know to be successful and provides opportunities for participants to connect with key influencers in the startup community.

Tonkon Torp LLP

Tonkon Torp is dedicated to thinking like a business, so you don’t have to think like a lawyer. No matter the size or complexity of your business, they will bring the right people, the right questions and the right counsel to every client relationship. Tonkon Torp supports clients with uncommonly responsive service, pragmatic thinking, straight talk, humor, and expert support — and has since 1974.

JLL

JLL creates rewarding opportunities and amazing spaces around the globe where people can achieve their ambitions. They are building a better tomorrow for clients, people and communities.

As a world leader in real estate services, JLL buys, builds, occupies and invests in a variety of assets including industrial, commercial, retail, residential, and hotel real estate. From tech startups to global firms, their clients span industries including banking, energy, healthcare, law, life sciences, manufacturing, and technology.