In 2018, Black Tech Week came to Miami and changed the fate of now husband and wife venture capitalists, Candace Matthews Brackeen and Brian Brackeen. The entrepreneurs found love and a future business partner all in one. After a whirlwind romance that blossomed into an engagement six weeks later, they've been shaking the room ever since announcing their launch of the first venture fund for marginalized communities in the midwest this July.
Their Ohio firm, Lightship Capital, partnered with SecondMuse to create the fund, which is worth $50 million and will support the disabled, LGBTQIA, and communities of color. With this merger, Candace has made history creating the largest fund launched by a Black woman to date.
"The venture capital market has failed BIPOC and, ultimately, itself," Candice told OZY. "We're making it clear this is not a social impact fund.… We're capitalists at heart. We're here to respect the money and get a market-rate return when people see our teams win, then you'll see a model that works."
According to Black VC, an online community founded for and by Black Venture investors, only 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are black. Of the 80 percent of venture firms, none have a single black investor.
At an online event entitled, "We Won't Wait" held on the same day as George Floyd's memorial service, Monique Woodard, an entrepreneur, lamented at the lack of investment in the Black founders.
"Black founders are often over-mentored and under-invested," Woodard said during the event. "If you have the ability to write a check, but you will only offer mentorship to Black founders, that is only helpful to your ego."
— Candice Matthews Brackeen (@CandiceBrackeen) July 15, 2020
Candace is setting out to prove that by investing in places, and people, that generally receive less attention, investors can actually make more substantial returns. The duo takes the people portion seriously, even moving in with potential investors to perform "the ultimate" due diligence.
"The thing about living with someone for a week is it's easy for a founder to be really polished for a one-hour pitch meeting," Brian said. "But it's hard for them not to show their true selves living with you."
Although their methods may sound extreme, their business partner and co-CEO of SecondMuse, Todd Khozein, told OZY appreciated that they have a "fantastic sense of actually digging into the details and weeds and understanding a business as opposed to investing from an ivory tower."
"Most of the funding goes to the coasts, as opposed to the center of the country. It's an overlooked opportunity, which in investment-speak tends to translate to opportunity," he continued.
The fund plans to invest in 35 businesses to start, ranging from technology, health care, AI, and consumer packaged goods, eventually branching out to Chicago, Indianapolis, and Tulsa Oklahoma.
"When you see [capitalism] not serving you, or your friends, your mama or her cousin, you do start to wonder if it's really for you," Brian says. "We are making capitalism for everyone, by doing it as well as anyone."
The future is all about innovation, we're excited to see what business come from this opportunity!
Photo credit: Twitter/@CandiceBrackeen