Lightship Capital is a Cincinnati-based venture capital fund led by Candice Matthews and Brian Brackeen. Both are successful entrepreneurs, product experts, and ecosystem builders: Candice built her career working to accelerate the startup ecosystem in the Midwest, and Brian made a similar impact on the Miami ecosystem.
As Candice entered the startup community, she became aware of how few resources were available to Black founders. Determined to create a more equitable environment for innovators, Candice created the Black Founders Network and the Hillman Accelerator to support underrepresented startup founders. Together, Candice and Brian launched Lightship Capital to invest where there have historically been major funding gaps in the Midwest.
Lightship Capital invests in high-growth companies led by BIPOC people, LBGTQ+ people, women, people with disabilities who operate in the consumer packaged goods, e-commerce, sustainability, artificial intelligence, and healthcare spaces. The firm plans to make 35 investments from its new fund.
Candice and Brian designed an inclusive sourcing strategy that creates a fair, equitable pathway to funding for founders. Any founder who wants to work with Lightship Capital can simply fill out a webform on the firm’s site. According to Brian, “Everyone goes through the same funnel and everyone gets a reply. We do this because it’s not about who you know to get investment, it’s about you and the quality of your company. We are proud that we check every single application. Some VCs think that’s too much…we think it’s our job.”
Why we invested
With Lightship Capital, Candice and Brian have combined their experiences and networks into a laser-sharp focus on underrepresented diverse founders building the next big businesses in the middle of the country. Their deep understanding of the opportunity set and their ability to align resources for Midwest founders impressed us from the start.
Their network enables Lightship to support its founders by connecting them with executives at places like Yum! Brands, Procter & Gamble, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. With Lightship Capital, Candice and Brian have combined their experiences and networks to support diverse founders building the next big businesses in the middle of the country. Their open, helpful approach to investing is exactly the kind of strategy that will help more founders close their rounds. We believe the level of transparency that Lightship brings to the difficulty of raising capital serves as an example to all investors.