When Candice Matthews and Brian Brackeen ran into each other at the 2018 Black Tech Week in Miami, they were both at a pivotal moment in their lives. Two weeks earlier, Candice had finalized her divorce and was a year into her work as CEO of Cincinnati-based Hillman Accelerator. Brian was in the middle of exiting his $120-million-valuation artificial intelligence startup Kairos over disagreements about whether or not its technology should be provided to law enforcement.
The two had met before, but this time was different — they struck up an extended conversation and went out for dinner. Six weeks later, in January 2019, they were engaged. “We’re good at picking talent,” Brian says, laughing, about their whirlwind romance that led to his leaving Miami and moving to Ohio.
Their story is partly about two Black entrepreneurs who found love, but it’s also about the powerful effect of having spaces that cater to communities of color. In July, Candice and Brian, both 42, announced that their venture capital firm Lightship Capital was partnering with SecondMuse to create a $50 million fund to invest in underrepresented founders in the Midwest, from racial minorities to the LGBTQ and disabled communities. It instantly became the only fund dedicated to backing minorities in the Midwest, as well as the largest fund launch by a Black woman to date.
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