'There's a power in a network': Black Tech Week coming to Cincinnati this summer

Black Tech Week Cincinnati
Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 18:31:06-04

CINCINNATI — A local venture capitalist is bringing a new convention to the Queen City. Candice Matthews Brackeen is hoping to show Black entrepreneurs what it's like to work, play and thrive in Cincinnati with Black Tech Week.

"I would like for folks to see what it looks like when someone is high-achieving, when someone can live to their greatest potential," Matthews Brackeen said.

The University of Cincinnati graduate studied economics and thought that would be her lifelong career, but after getting into tech, she decided to take the entrepreneurial route — helping founders who are Black, people of color, LGBTQIA, women and have disabilities.

"I didn't know that's what I was going to get into when I got into tech, but I've fallen into it and it is truly my passion and my life's purpose," she said.

In 2015, Black Tech Week made its debut in Miami. Matthews Brackeen planned to go with a group of friends and colleagues.

"We went to see what Black excellence looks like in the venture capital and entrepreneurship space," Matthews Brackeen said. "So when I went, I found my tribe, my family, my network."

Now, that experience has come full circle. The Lightship Foundation, where she serves as CEO, acquired Black Tech Week. The annual conference brings in about 2,000 attendees. This year's iteration will host ticket holders at venues in Over-The-Rhine and Cincinnati's central business district.

"We'll host a women's brunch, we'll have an opening night," Matthews Brackeen said. "Just like many things, you will see a demo day. You'll see a pitch competition where we will invest in some companies."

Management consulting firm McKinsey reports only 4% of Black businesses survive the start-up stage. That's out of the 20% of African Americans who pursue entrepreneurship. Matthews Brackeen said the stats for investment are even worse.

"Less than 1% of venture capital goes to a black-led company," she said.

With the data and odds stacked against Black entrepreneurs, Matthews Brackeen said this conference can be a light bulb moment.

"There's a power in a network," she said. "It's a system of people who are going to help you get to the next level."

Black Tech Week will run from July 18 -23. The conference ends with a bang where certain ticketed attendees can also get into the Cincinnati Music Festival at Paul Brown Stadium. You can buy tickets here.

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