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Success Stories

Lightship Foundation

Thu Jun 30 2022
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Ohio Innovation: Opportunities Lead to Breakthroughs

Startup ecosystems are key to growing a vibrant economy. These clusters of talent and science drive job creation and fuel new business. However, in addition to great innovation and people, these companies need access to capital, which is something minority businesses have lacked. Lightship Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering underrepresented entrepreneurs, leverages corporate partnerships, specialized programming, and capital investment to drive growth within the innovation economy.

To attract minority-owned companies to Ohio and convince existing companies to expand and create jobs, Lightship Foundation is establishing its headquarters in the Cincinnati Innovation District.

In 2014, Candice Matthews Brackeen developed an idea for a small tech company. During her attempt to gain support and secure funding, Matthews Brackeen realized how little venture capital is awarded to Black-led companies. She also found the disparity apparent for other underrepresented groups. Inspired to help others like herself, Matthews Brackeen founded Lightship Foundation.

Innovation is the cornerstone of sustained economic growth. Diverse businesses fuel that prosperity. Matthews Brackeen’s goal is to make Ohio a leading destination for startups and minority founders. In partnership with the University of Cincinnati, the nonprofit plays a critical role in growing the state’s innovation economy. Three companies have already relocated to Cincinnati as a result of the foundation’s investment strategy.

“We’re here because my partners are real partners. I have great access to the people I need to talk to... When I talk to my peers in other cities, they say, ‘I don’t know how you get that stuff done.’ It’s because of Ohio.”
Candace Matthews Brackeen
Chief Executive Officer / Lightship Foundation


  • Ohio’s Innovation Districts attract and grow companies, which help diversify the state’s economy.
  • Collaborations are essential for successful innovation. Projects like the Lightship Foundation’s expansion are possible because of local and regional partners like REDI Cincinnati.
  • In 2021, venture capital more than doubled 2020’s total to $2.4 billion Ohio is now #2 in the Midwest and #10 among peer states.
  • Ethnic and racial diversity are an integral part of Ohio’s narrative.


The Cincinnati Innovation District is on the forefront of building the workforce of the future.

  • Lightship Foundation is converting two properties into collaborative spaces for students, artists, and entrepreneurs.
    • The Beacon, located at 121 E. McMillan, will serve as the foundation’s headquarters.
    • The Boulter House, located at 1 Rawson Woods Circle, will house the program’s “Innovators in Residence.”



New STEM Graduates Innovation Districts Aim to Inspire


Funding Committed to Project by the University of Cincinnati


Investment by JobsOhio Innovation Districts

3 Innovation Districts

3 Ohio Innovation Districs