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Black Tech Week — and Serena Williams — coming to Cincinnati in July

Serena Williams arrives at the LACMA Art + Film Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles. (
Richard Shotwell
Serena Williams arrives at the LACMA Art + Film Gala on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles. (

Some of the most innovative people in the world are coming to Cincinnati this summer for the newly relocated Black Tech Week. While here, startups will have a chance to connect with other founders and investors.

Lightship Foundation’s CEO Candice Matthews Brackeen, who acquired the event, sees it as part of a concentrated effort to diversify the people investing and the companies, they invest in.

A news release says the Lightship Foundation "plans to leverage local corporate partners and community networks to bring remarkable business leaders and creatives from all over the world to Ohio. The Cincinnati Innovation District hopes to attract 20,000 new jobs and $3 billion in annual economic impact for Ohio over the next 10 years.”

A little over 98% of all managed assets are managed by white males, according to the Knight Foundation. Matthews Brackeen says that leaves a little under 2% for white women and everyone else. Years ago, she began telling private fund managers and local and state governments they need to invest in minority startups.

“We started this work well before George Floyd’s murder and really, the rise of Black Lives Matter, and so in the beginning, they were really tough conversations," she says. "No one wants to hear that their bias is impacting the way that they are investing.”

CincyTech and Ohio’s Third Frontier did invest in Matthews Brackeen and others. But CincyTech’s CEO Mike Venerable believes his public-private seed stage investment organization has a long way to go.

“Having capital in the hands of diverse fund managers is the most important thing to drive change in diverse capital investment because diverse fund managers will invest in diverse founders who will hire diverse people,” says Venerable.

He’s talked to retired minority PhDs in Cincinnati who never felt they got a fair hearing when seeking funding for their ideas.

Venerable remembers, “I literally had breakfast with somebody a few weeks ago asking me about this topic, asking, 'What am I missing, how does this work, why is it so important to have diverse funders and managers?' ”

But Matthews Brackeen calls on Cincinnati and Ohio leaders in making this change. She says conversations are becoming easier and is excited about Black Tech Week, saying, “There are amazing things that happen when you get like-minded folks all in one room sharing life experiences and I’m excited for my community to see that in real time.”

Black Tech Week is scheduled for July 18-23, the same time as the Cincinnati Music Festival.

Updated: June 21, 2022 at 9:54 PM EDT
Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.