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In a unique partnership with the District and Howard University, Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed close to 200 entrepreneurs, educators, government leaders and innovators to the grand opening of the Inclusive Innovative Incubator (In3), the nation’s first affordable co-working incubator.
Located on the edge of Howard University’s campus, and with a focus on diversity and inclusion, In3 will support entrepreneurs and businesses from underrepresented communities that provide products and services benefiting underserved communities.
“As we set out to make Washington, D.C., the capital of inclusive innovation, we are thrilled to witness In3 come to life,” Bowser said. “This initiative supports my Administration’s vision to make D.C. a more diverse and inclusive city as we expand our tech economy in ways that benefit every D.C. resident. To address the lack of diversity in the tech industry and create inclusive prosperity in every Ward, we will continue to identify more opportunities like In3.”
Bowser and Howard chose Luma Lab to operate the new incubator and to manage the hub’s programming. It will provide local entrepreneurs the opportunity to participate in networking events, mentorships and strategic connections to investors and partners. In3 will also offer membership plans, event space and office hours with industry professionals, as well as private offices.
Aaron Saunders, founder and CEO of In3, Luma Lab and Luma Lab’s education arm, Clearly Innovative, described the opening as “surreal.”
“This is a lifelong dream come true to see a space created that will specifically serve D.C.’s underrepresented tech entrepreneurs and residents who are working tirelessly but have not been exposed to the right opportunities to move their businesses forward,” said Saunders, 53, a self-described Navy brat who lives in Northwest.
“I’m a small-business owner and have always had a propensity, since my days in elementary school, for computers and technology,” he said. “We want to make sure we help other small businesses and so we’re going to keep rental costs down so they can focus on their vision without financial constraints keeping them from realizing their dream.”
Saunders said most of the revenue needed to maintain In3 will be secured from events, sponsorships and programming. He further noted that some of his excitement comes from the fact that just a year ago, the In3 building, located at 2301 Georgia Avenue NW, was abandoned and neglected.
“This was once an eyesore, now look at it,” he said. “This space had been closed for years. Now we have young people from the community and from Howard coming in every day, inquiring about our services and volunteering too. It’s amazing.
“We want to be successful and we’re going to be successful,” he said. “For me that means, presenting people with potential opportunities in the innovator space that they once knew nothing about. It means opening the door to technology for newcomers thereby opening the door to the middle class. It means helping people gain tech training that will move them beyond a minimum-wage job.
“When a small business adds just one employee, it significantly increases their revenue. Helping small businesses open their doors and succeed is what it’s all about,” Saunders added.
Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick said, “It is my belief that the essence of one’s academic pursuit is engagement, not isolation, especially as we encourage our students to engage in scholarship and research that is grounded in solving contemporary problems … the Inclusive Innovation Incubator will provide a platform for engagement on a plethora of levels.”
One D.C. activist and clergyman described the opening as “spectacular.”
“This is a much-needed blessing in our nation’s capital and a unique collaboration between government, HBCUs, corporate America, Wall Street and our own community,” said the Rev. Dr. George E. Holmes. “We have dozens of these kinds of buildings throughout the District that can be renovated and can then house incubators and we know more are coming. But in Ward 8, there’s still nothing. That’s what I want to see. Our youth have so much talent and so many dreams. But they need a way and a place for them to develop those abilities.”
Safir Monroe, 21, a Trenton, New Jersey, native, is a Howard University graduating senior who has already founded his own business, Options of the Future and has already made the most of In3.
“I was just walking down the street and came inside,” Safir said. “They asked me if I wanted to volunteer and I did. Just the networking alone has been amazing. I build apps and want to do more in the future, like my Cloud Bots app.
“Tech is portrayed as something very complicated and for geniuses only but that’s not true,” he said. “It’s fun. But it does take commitment and you have to work hard. But so many great things can come out of the work you put in. I plan to be a multimillionaire one day, a business owner and an expert in the augmented reality space. Technology is the way of the future — it’s the way of the world today.”