Aaron Saunders, CEO of INC3, speaks to innoMAYtion guests about the mission of INC3 and its progress to help underserved innovation and technology business owners in the Washington area on May 31. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Rain did not dampen the “street party” atmosphere at the wrapup celebration for the fourth annual “innoMaytion” held at the Innovation Inclusive Incubator (In3) in Ward 2 inside the Howard-Shaw community.

Brian T. Kenner, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, opened the festivities with praise for the District’s efforts to expand its innovation and technology development.

“There were more than 30 events with thousands of participants during “innoMAYtion,” Kenner said. “We are ensuring the District’s competitive edge in innovation and technology is well-established.”

Kenner also shared data from SmartAsset.com that rated the District as a top 10 city for diversity in STEM for 2017.

The incubator has been an ideal collaboration illustrating how D.C.’s innovation and technology vision yielded a successful public-private partnership.

In3, a co-working space that opened in April 2017 under the leadership of CEO Aaron Saunders, is supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s tech inclusion initiative and Howard University. The space at 2301 Georgia Avenue NW was intentionally established as an affordable, diverse co-working venture supporting entrepreneurs and businesses from underrepresented communities.

During the past year, In3 drew women, people of color and older entrepreneurs to nearly 250 networking and mentoring events while interacting with a variety of successful businesses and professional organizations.

Many people at the celebration tested their skills on a virtual reality (VR) cycling experience that turned out to be more challenging than expected.

“Tech is something I am getting into as I work on my master’s in information technology and cybersecurity,” said Alexandra Ngonga, a Germantown, Md., resident who gave the VR cycle a try. “A friend recommended I come to In3 to get hands-on experience and to network.”

Saunders came to In3 with successful track record as an entrepreneur. He is founder of Creatively Innovative, the company that designed the mobile app for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Luma Lab, the educational arm of Creatively Innovative, manages In3. During the “innoMAYtion” wrap-up, Saunders enthusiastically talked about the Innovation Fund announced by Kenner. Once established, the fund will support diverse start-up businesses that not only need financial help but can benefit from identifying potential partners to broaden an innovative business vision. Review of RFPs is underway to identify a group to manage the fund that will be in place later in 2018.

“Not everyone has family wealth to write a $50,000 check,” Saunders said. “The idea of the fund is to focus on filling that gap from not only the funding, but also from the growth and learning perspective.”

In3 looks forward to pursuing more brand-name sponsors during its second year. Recently, Microsoft began a multiyear commitment with In3, beginning with an event called “DigiGirlz.” DigiGirlz included an orientation to STEM careers, along with computer and technology workshops aimed at middle-school-age girls. The Microsoft sponsorship with In3 will offer training for entrepreneurs and a donation of computers which has been on the incubator’s “wish list.”

“With more sponsorships, it will give more validation to what we are doing and bring more people to the table,” Saunders said.

For more information about In3, email info@In3DC.com.

Brenda C. Siler

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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