Raleigh entrepreneur Brooks Bell stepping down from CEO role after cancer diagnosis

Raleigh tech entrepreneur Brooks Bell is stepping away from leading her company, Brooks Bell Inc., following a cancer diagnosis, the company said this week.

Bell, who has become one of the more visible entrepreneurs in the Triangle, was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in January, the company said.

Brooks Bell Inc. is a technology firm that assists consumer brands with getting their messages out, working with companies such as Marriott and Dell.

Bell is also married to Jesse Lipson, another prominent entrepreneur in the area who started ShareFile, a company that was later bought by Citrix. The couple appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 to give a speech about the impact that House Bill 2, also known as the bathroom bill, had on North Carolina.

Bell will step into the role of executive chairman, where she will lead the company’s board and focus on the strategic direction of the company. Naoshi Yamauchi will serve as interim CEO, handling the day-to-day running of the company, while the search for a permanent CEO is started.

“Though the cancer is treatable with surgery and chemotherapy, the best course of action for me moving forward is to delegate the day-to-day operations of the company so that I can focus on my health and the areas of the business I most enjoy — thought leadership and strategy,” Bell said in a statement. “Naoshi has been with Brooks Bell for 10 years, and has my full trust in his ability to successfully lead the company. Our clients are in good hands.”

In response to Bell’s cancer diagnosis, the company is launching a campaign called 50 Colonoscopies Under 50. The campaign hopes to convince more young people to get screened and reduce stigmas around the procedure.

“Colon cancer doesn’t get the same level of attention as other cancers because of the associated stigmas,” Bell said in a statement. “And yet the American Cancer Society recently announced that since 1994, colon cancer diagnoses in young adults is up over 50 percent. Now, one in 10 are diagnosed before the age of 50, per the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. When people hear about my cancer diagnosis, I don’t want pity; I want action. I want them to question whether they should get a colonoscopy and be proactive about it.”

The company said Bell will appear at the Get Your Rear in Gear Raleigh 5K on Saturday and will give a speech to raise awareness about colon and rectal cancer.

Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.