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, 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.
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.
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
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
- Lightship Capital leads round for Healthy Roots doll
- Lightship Capital leads round for mobile dentistry startup
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