Candice Brackeen Builds up Minority Entrepreneurs

Venture capital funds don’t always serve BIPOC-led businesses well. The Lightship Foundation CEO changes that.

Venture capital funds don’t always serve BIPOC-led businesses well. Lightship Foundation CEO Candice Brackeen changes that dynamic.

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

What kind of work do Lightship Foundation and Lightship Capital do for minority entrepreneurs?

Lightship Foundation has a mission to support remarkable entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. That includes BIPOC founders, people who identify as women, people from the LGBTQ community, and folks with disabilities. Lightship Capital is an organization that funds companies both that go through our programming but that also fit within that demographic.

Why is it important to focus on these populations?

Less than 1 percent of all venture capital goes to a Black-led company. That was the original goal, to make certain that we were moving the needle in that space, but as you look at the numbers amongst other minority populations, it is just as abysmal. So I thought, if we’re fixing one thing, let’s just try to fix multiple things at the same time. While intelligence is distributed equitably across the country and across all people, opportunity isn’t, and we’re just bringing [that] to light to our investment partners, to our ecosystem partners, and to folks nationally: [There are] great deals in companies that are led by diverse founders.

Who has helped you along the way?

I always say my favorite person is Mike Venerable from CincyTech. When I came to him with my first tech company, he very politely let me know that that wasn’t it but to come back to him when I had a better idea, and this was that better idea. Since then we’ve been partners within the Cincinnati startup ecosystem and co-investing together.

What makes you the right person to change the future for minority entrepreneurs in Cincinnati?

Why not me? Because it’s gotta be someone. I think that our state has set up an atmosphere where there’s an equitable chance for anyone to do this work, and we recognized the problem locally in Cincinnati years ago. Now since we’ve expanded our footprint—because we’re in multiple cities now—it’s been the right place. Yes, I was the right person, but I also had the right network. I have the passion for it. I think it’s my life’s work. I think the things I did before—building community, running a small tech company, understanding those things—helps me to understand the plight of an entrepreneur, most specifically a tech entrepreneur.

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