Lightship Capital has an inbound and an outbound strategy. For the inbound, everybody comes to Lightship Capital, including their website and online show, Twitch Pitch. On the outbound side, Lightship is sourcing deals with co-investment partners. The firm also has accelerators in Detroit, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. Lightship is a seed and Series A fund and is usually looking for companies approaching $100,000 in monthly revenue. Brackeen notes that for industries like AI, that revenue number is less attainable for a seed investment. It is most relevant in sectors like consumer-packaged goods where proving the model is easier.
Although Brackeen is a Black VC, she is not only looking for black founders. She notes that although around 85% of the U.S. is not white men, that’s where most of the funding has gone. She feels confident that by focusing on this 85%, she is in a good position. Brackeen is looking to fund women, people of color, and many other historically underserved groups. Brackeen says she believes we will start seeing more women and people of color closing significantly larger and larger funds. She thinks over the next 10-20 years, these diverse funds will be the ones that are innovating and leading the way, and the ones that don’t diversify will get left behind.
Problems with Storytelling
One of the biggest problems in the Midwest, according to Brackeen, is with bragging about their successes. She’s convinced that midwestern states can attract talent and investment just like the coasts, but she notes that entrepreneurs from smaller inland cities need to be taught to tell their story effectively and to dream big.
Cincinnati, Brackeen’s Silicon Valley
Brackeen grew up in the economically depressed Toledo, Ohio. She describes the wonder of seeing the skyline and professional sports teams of Cincinnati in contrast with her hometown. So for her, on a relative basis, she calls Cincinnati her San Francisco. Brackeen notes that big-time innovation is happening in the city. Look no further than Procter & Gamble, as well as Kroger. Just because these aren’t B2B SaaS companies, doesn’t mean big things aren’t happening.
Candice Brackeen and her husband, Brian Brackeen, run Cincinnati-based Lightship Capital, a rare venture-capital firm managed by black partners. Lightship has just raised a $50 million fund to invest in minority-led founders in the Midwest and has backed eight startups. Brackeen previously ran the Hillman Accelerator, coaching and mentoring founders, and earlier in her career, she founded her own tech startup in the Heartland. While the venture capital industry is competing to get into hot deals in Silicon Valley, she is convinced that good returns are coming in overlooked businesses outside the mainstream. Brackeen has a BA in Economics from the University of Cincinnati.
-- Summarized by Silicon Dragon contributor Mike Weiss