Diverse Capital Support Can Translate into More Founders of Color
Diverse venture capital support can often translate into growing the ecosystem for diverse businesses.
CincyTech CEO Mike Venerable was talking to Venture Investor and former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones about the lack of diversity in venture capital. Jones was blunt with his answer, “You need to invest with more black investors.”
Venerable remembered that conversation during a recent “Let’s Not Talk About Covid” chat with Candice Matthews, founder of Lightship Capital and Foundation. Matthews happens to identify as African American. Years ago, Venerable invested in her success.
Matthews is an Ohio native, graduated from University of Cincinnati, and worked in consulting for 13 years before she decided to start her own tech firm.
She speaks of the difficulties that she faced as a woman and person of color finding investors for her company, primarily because of a lack of connections in the venture capital world.That experience led her to take to create communities and reach out for help across Ohio, forming an accelerator program with her two co-founders, called Lightship Foundation.
The foundation aims to serve underrepresented entrepreneurs and ecosystems with an accelerator, bootcamp, and an online pitch competition. “We’re always trying to create value,” said Matthews, talking about accelerator programs such as Lightship, that put people of color first, and expand their networks to diversify venture capital
Matthews uses the bootcamp to educate and fund diverse founders, and create community. “Creativity is sort of evenly distributed in the human population and it’s all about who you know… we’ve invested in some diverse founders and watched them go through the process of fundraising, [and] there is nobody like them in the room,” she said.
While success wasn’t immediate, Matthews used her network to help fund her original ventures, highlighting the importance of her location and the mindset of the people who surrounded her, “I think we have a really great network [in Ohio] of people willing to help.”
Not only do the early-stage founders gain the financial experience from Matthews herself, they gain connections to other founders in the bootcamp, an essential part of establishing a network.
Matthews spoke on the importance of networking as a diverse investor, “Without the proper network, or communication with your network, you will run into issues,” she said.
She also touched on the importance of teaching others, pointing out that people with experience should always be open to sharing their knowledge to help others. Matthews acknowledges the amount of information that she has learned from her network, and that it is a two way street, where she is able to educate those with less experience than her.
Through her experience, Matthews knows the importance of investments in early-stage businesses, and wants to use Lightship to help early-stage diverse founders in the Midwest, as she once was when she started in the VC industry.
Lightship’s portfolio consists of 13 companies, and is working to bring diversity to venture capital in the Midwest.