Bowser Connects Entrepreneurs With Innovators

First Inclusive Innovation Incubator Opens its Doors

From left: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Howard University’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Anthony Wutoh and Aaron Saunders CEO of Clearly Innovative/Luma Lab enjoy a group photo during the inauguration of In3, the District's first affordable community space focused on inclusion, innovation and incubation in Northwest on April 20. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)
From left: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Howard University’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Anthony Wutoh and Aaron Saunders CEO of Clearly Innovative/Luma Lab enjoy a group photo during the inauguration of In3, the District's first affordable community space focused on inclusion, innovation and incubation in Northwest on April 20. (Lateef Mangum/The Washington Informer)

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.

Safir Monroe
Safir Monroe, Howard University senior (D. Kevin McNeir/The Washington Informer)

“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.”

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About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 165 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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