Brian Brackeen’s successful career speaks for itself, but his work paired with his journey as part of the Endeavor network is one that we can’t help but highlight. Coming full circle, Brian exhibits the “founder to funder” model Endeavor hopes all entrepreneurs can one day embrace. First entering the Endeavor scene in 2014, selected as the 1,000th Endeavor Entrepreneur as the CEO and founder of Kairos in Miami, and now years later engaging in another way as an Endeavor Board Member and General Partner at Cincinnati-based, Lightship Capital.
Brian Brackeen: The Founder
Brian’s entrepreneurial spirit struck later in life. Adopted at an early age by loving parents, he was never afraid to take risks, a characteristic many would consider a necessity in the innovator community. Dropping out of college and leaving a job at Apple would seem like a step in the wrong direction to many, but for Brian, it was a move towards bigger and better things.
“Starting is the most important thing as a new entrepreneur. That’s the key to everything,” Brian said about what early entrepreneurs should know out of the gate. “After starting, humility and listening are key to being successful. There is no success without other people’s help and ideas. You may think you have it all figured out, but it’s not going to work out.”
In 2012, Brian founded the Miami-based face recognition and emotion analysis technology company, Kairos. His leadership saw the company selected by Wall Street Journal as one of the top 25 startups in the country and positioned Kairos alongside tech giants like Microsoft and Face++ as one of the world’s foremost face recognition software providers.
Brian’s work with Kairos also led to his selection as the 1000th Endeavor Entrepreneur at the Miami International Selection Panel in 2014. Kairos has processed nearly a billion faces and has raised more than 15 million dollars from investors. Under Brian’s leadership, Kairos took a strong stand against the government’s use of facial recognition and worked hard to eliminate racial bias in its datasets.
Brian Brackeen: The Funder
Following his impressive work leading Kairos, Brian shifted his efforts to the venture capital space in the Midwest, launching the Cincinnati-based VC firm, Lightship Capital with his wife and business partner, Candice Matthews Brackeen in 2018.
The firm is dedicated to backing underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Midwest, investing in early-stage companies led by Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), those in the LBGTQ+ community, women and people with disabilities. As General Partner, Brian oversees fund operations, leads the AI development team, and serves on the investment committee.
Brian Brackeen: The Board Member
Now, as one of our newest Endeavor Board Members, Brian brings along his experience as an entrepreneur, founder, and funder to support our region’s emerging innovators.
“Think about Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and the areas we work in. Historically, a lot of the things we use, consume, and do in America have come from this region and those three states,” said Brian. “Sometimes we lack support, mentorship and capital in these regions to create that kind of success. So one of the things I’d like to bring to the board is how we can continue to grow that engine of innovation, with kindness, tolerance and thoughtfulness.”
Brian has already taken multiple steps to provide support to the region as General Partner at Lightship Capital. In fact, the firm will be opening a second office in Indianapolis next year to provide their services to even more Midwest entrepreneurs.
Speaking at the first ever Endeavor US ScaleUp Summit on a “Founder to Funder” panel last month, Brian discussed the important impact the founder-funder-mentor connection can have.
“Here at Endeavor, we believe that peer to peer mentorship–it’s transformational,” Brian said. “Though it’s been a while since we were that Day 1 founder, when we as mentors talk to founders, it’s the feedback that is fresh and actionable.”
Through all his success, one thing still remains. His connection to Endeavor and commitment to giving back.
“Endeavor leans towards community building versus wealth creation for a small group of people,” said Brian. “Endeavor loves to see all Endeavor Entrepreneurs become Board Members because that means that it is working, and that people are giving back. It represents the power of the organization and what this work means to the people that are in it.”