Learn to Fly

Our Founders

NESsT was founded by social entrepreneurs Lee Davis and Nicole Etchart in 1997.

From our Founders

Lee & Nicole In 2012, NESsT celebrates 15 years since our founding in 1997 following the release of our seminal study The NGO-Business Hybrid exploring pioneering cases of social enterprises in 13 countries.

NESsT has since evolved into an international movement with a widening global reach and reputation. NESsT is now a sum of incredible parts: an outstanding international team of nearly 50 determined and talented business and nonprofit professionals; a dedicated and visonary international board; committed and generous donors; and an impressive volunteer advisory network of business leaders.

NESsT can now point to a solid track record as an enabler, innovator, and thought leader in the social enterprise field and can show significant results in furthering the financial and mission goals of organizations in our portfolio.

By far, however, the most exciting leg of our journey has been coming to know the creative, entrepreneurial and idealistic portfolio of social enterprise leaders with whom we work. Every day they illustrate to us the great power and potential of social enterprise as a means of solving critical social problems in emerging markets.

We took a tremendous risk in 1997 by entering the largely uncharted territory of supporting the planning, start-up, and development of social enterprises in emerging markets. But both the growing demand for and impact of our work thus far reaffirm our commitment to respond to this unmet need in the nonprofit sector. And we are now well positioned to continue and grow our efforts.

As we reflect on our accomplishments and challenges of the last decade and a half, and look toward new ambitious goals for the future, our priority has shifted from proving our strategy to scaling it. By leveraging what we’ve achieved and created thus far, we’re on a trajectory to create a truly global social capital marketplace, to support a wider number of social enterprises, and to affect positive change in marginalized communities around the world.

Thank you for your continuing support of our work and for the critical role you’ve played in supporting our first 15 years at NESsT!

Warm wishes,
Lee Davis & Nicole Etchart
NESsT Co-Founders

Lee Davis


Lee Davis

Co-Director, Center for Social Design, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
San Francisco, California

Nicole Etchart
Nicole Etchart

Co-Founder & Co-CEO
San Francisco, USA