Charlie De Poortere ’24 launches lifestyle program for young adults with ADHD

The history major and native of Greensboro, North Carolina, found an unexpected path at Elon, which led to the creation of his start-up, Found Focus.

While Charlie De Poortere might be a Greensboro native, the Elon senior’s journey to this moment – the forthcoming launch of his start-up, Found Focus – has been anything but a straight path.

Charlie De Poortere ’24 sits in front of a fountain at Elon University.
With the support of faculty and staff members at Elon University, Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Charlie De Poortere ’24 is set to launch his start-up, Found Focus, in mid-June.

The history major admits that he didn’t fully begin to understand his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) until he transferred to Elon during his junior year. Previously, he found that medication didn’t work for him. Few, if any, of the books he read helped. And there were numerous doctor’s visits without any concrete results.

A full scholarship offer led him to a college in the North, but he struggled mightily to cope with his transition to higher education. He was overwhelmed and isolated. He came to a crossroads and sought a change.

With the help of family, friends and doctors, De Poortere identified his learning profile – essentially learning how he learned. Thanks to a life coaching program, he also identified his purpose. And, on a second look, found what he needed at Elon.

“Basically, I’ve struggled with ADHD my entire life,” De Poortere said. “It took me a really long time to figure out what I needed. And it was a really complicated process in that.”

Unraveling that process for others is the objective of his new start-up, Found Focus, a comprehensive lifestyle program for young adults with ADHD that addresses the specific challenges of shifting to independence while managing the disorder. With the upcoming launch of Found Focus’ pilot program in mid-June, De Poortere is taking the next step in a journey he never expected.

The soon-to-be Elon graduate didn’t envision himself as an entrepreneur. He has an interest in history and analytics, and pursued ways to delve into data. In fact, this past year he served as Elon News Network’s director of analytics.

In the weeks leading up to De Poortere’s Incubator/Creativity/Innovation/ Entrepreneurship class last fall, Associate Professor Sean McMahon emailed him and his fellow classmates with a charge: they should start thinking of projects and arrive ready to work.

Found Focus LogoImmediately, De Poortere said he was hit with doubt. He had no business experience. He didn’t know exactly where to start. But he realized the assignment was an opportunity.

“Eventually, I told my parents, ‘You know, this could be an opportunity where I can just try something and if it doesn’t work, that’s OK.’ But I at least want to try this out,” he recalled. “And, lo and behold, I now have the prototype of the app on my phone.”

So, what is Found Focus? It is an evidence-based program that provides an expert-reviewed curriculum partnered with individual weekly coaching sessions. In addition, the app includes group forums, habit tracking, lesson library, daily planner, organization and planning tools, and a pomodoro method timer.

Ultimately, the program is designed to help college students understand how ADHD impacts them and what behavior changes can support a healthier, happier life.

During the development and implementation process, De Poortere partnered with several faculty and staff members at Elon, Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This pool of advisers included Kelly Furnas, senior lecturer in journalism, who assisted with the mobile application’s usability and technology barriers, James Holsinger, executive director of the Koenigsberger Learning Center, who provided research support and general guidance, and Alexa Darby, professor of psychology, who helped brainstorm the program’s coaching curriculum.

Darby, who has nearly three decades of experience working with college students with ADHD, met with De Poortere weekly, sharing research and recommendations. She implored him to make Found Focus’ offerings based in research, and the Elon undergraduate followed her advice.

To Charlie’s credit, he really educated himself. He read a ton of ADHD, and he brought what he learned into the app’s different units on mindfulness, nutrition and other topics.

Alexa Darby, professor of psychology

Darby noted that the coaching aspect of Found Focus fulfills an obvious need.

“The coaching the app offers is really new ground,” she said. “Yes, the daily aspects of the program are great, but the coaching is one of the things I personally like about the app. I think that’s going to appeal to a lot of students where they receive real-time assistance.”

Elon’s support of De Poortere didn’t stop there. The project also secured funding through an Elon Innovation Grant that will help financially support the pilot program’s coaches.

Despite graduating this May, De Poortere’s time at Elon won’t come to an end. Beginning in the fall, he will start the M.S. in Business Analytics program offered by the Love School of Business. It is a fitting next step for someone who knows where they want to go and how to get there.

“I feel like that I finally figured out what my brain is really good at, right?” he said. “For me, I enjoy data and identifying problems and looking for connections that are there. You just have to look for them.”