Great opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs begin at CID

Lightship Capital boosts funding, innovation through two-day bootcamp in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub

Two-day Lightship Capital bootcamps in University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub, the nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District (CID), help create serious, lasting change in access to business opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs in Cincinnati and across the region.

Beginning in early July, Cincinnati-based Lightship Capital — a venture capital fund that finds and funds remarkable, underrepresented business entrepreneurs and is an embedded corporate partner in the CID — brings in regional industry rockstars to help educate entrepreneurs and nascent companies typically excluded from meaningful access to mentorship and venture capital.

“Our partnership with the Cincinnati Innovation District and UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub is a win for underrepresented founders as well as the community," says Candice Matthews Brackeen, UC business economics alumna and founder and executive director of Lightship Foundation. "Their vision aligns with our mission to advance minority entrepreneurship in the region, as we strive to offer founders meaningful access to local resources." 

Tapped as one of the top women venture capital entrepreneurs in the nation by the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine, Matthews Brackeen has been an instrumental force in taking Lightship Capital from a small, local startup fund to more than $50 million to invest in underrepresented founders throughout the Midwest.

When small businesses do well, the community thrives

Candice Brackeen stands at a white board in a 1819 Innovation Hub meeting..

Candice Matthews Brackeen and Lightship Capital work closely with UC's 1819 Innovation Hub and the Cincinnati Innovation District to connect underrepresented entrepreneurs with local and regional industry experts.

As a successful venture capital fund driving leading innovation and investment in the Midwest, Lightship's bootcamps engage underrepresented startups with experienced executives-in-residence (EIR) at corporations including Yum! Brands, Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and more. 

What began in 2019 as a residential accelerator — in which clients from all around the region would stay in the same large, rented house where the bootcamps were held — ended in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now entrepreneurs stay in a local hotel and attend the bootcamps in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub each day. And thanks to the recent Chase Foundation grants, the program is completely free for new startup founders.

Unlike UC’s Venture Lab cohort training, where accelerating startups are often still in the idea stage, Lightship bootcamps help fuel new companies that are already established but need assistance in expanding and growing to scale, helping to boost their growth onto the next level.

How do I grow my company?

From the very first day, local industry leaders engage with entrepreneurs, sharpening their startup skills and helping to expand their network of corporate leaders who are seeking to modernize their strategic workplaces. During the hands-on training, keynote talks, AI and customer analysis training and Q&A sessions, new entrepreneurs meet the folks making lasting headway in corporate innovation and learn to take their own innovative business and marketing skills to the next level.

Even better, entrepreneurs meet mentors one-on-one and glean 

  • practical advice on how to scale innovation in the corporate world from experts who’ve made it happen in their workplaces
  • critical suggestions for issues they currently grapple with  
  • further clarification about how industry leaders make things work with their teams
  • intimate Q&A sessions where questions get real-world answers
  • afternoon roundtables where teams work together to tackle the big issues 
Women and minorities sit at a table learning business strategies.

Women, minorities and underrepresented entrepreneurs learn valuable strategies for enhancing their marketing skills, web presence and acquiring the critical funding necessary to retain innovative talent in the city and region.

New adventures

The two-day format packs a lot of punch. Starting in day one, entrepreneurs are instructed in the discipline of performing market research and validated learning interviews to better understand their overall market and illuminate which features should command focus in the product development process, including AI copywriting.

Using their own tools like "Twitch Pitch," a fun and completely virtual pitch contest giving startups the educational exercise and opportunity to practice their pitch, Lightship teaches startups the skills necessary to improve their investibility and to win cash prizes. 

By the end of the bootcamp innovative immersion, newbies, as well as established entrepreneurs have covered financials, formed cap tables and have crafted a winning pitch deck to help garner more than $1 million in funding from appropriate investors.

Aligning with the CID’s mission to create the ‘creative collisions’ that develop and enhance the local economic impact, Lightship Capital provides a tremendous opportunity for underrepresented entrepreneurs to build their skills.

Bootcamps provide the next step toward engaging with the promising, diverse corporate CID partners in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub that help retain next-generation skilled talent in the heartland and local region.  

Check out two recent entrepreneurial success stories from Lightship Capital bootcamps

Apply to an upcoming bootcamp opportunity


Featured image at top: Brian Brackeen, general partner of Lightship Capital, shares business strategies with underrepresented entrepreneurs during a two-day Lightship bootcamp in UC's 1819 Innovation Hub. photo/Greg Glevicky/UC Office of Innovation

About UC's 1819 Innovation Hub

The nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District®. Home to startups and midsized and Fortune 500 companies, the 1819 Innovation Hub is an ecosystem that serves as a catalyst for collaboration for industry and talent. The 1819 Innovation Hub is the home to UC’s Office of Innovation, UC’s Venture Lab (a startup accelerator program), UC’s Makerspace, UC’s Office of Technology Transfer and 14 corporate partners who are seeking access to talent and proximity for cross-collaboration. Partners that are currently embedded include: Procter & Gamble, Kroger, FIS, Kingsgate Logistics, Cincinnati Bell, Kao Brands, Hillman Accelerator, CincyTech, Village Life Outreach Project, Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati Insurance Company, Live Well Collaborative and Simpson Center for Urban Futures.

About the Cincinnati Innovation District®

The Cincinnati Innovation District® is a unique and thriving ecosystem that attracts, produces, retains and develops talent by co-locating and collaborating with organizations. Unveiled in 2020 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, the district envelops myriad innovation assets and access to some of the world’s leading academic and research centers, organizations and talent pools. Powered by the University of Cincinnati, the CID includes the world-renowned Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and other national research centers. The district’s mission is to become a globally recognized talent hub and lead a transformational movement. The combination of industry engagement, unique experiential platforms and accessible research expertise — working at the pace of change — will become a model nationwide. For more information on the Cincinnati Innovation District, visit

Innovation Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission, is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities and secured a spot on Reuter’s World’s Most Innovative Universities list. UC's students and faculty investigate problems and create innovative solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.

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