District residents straddled the fence in reviewing a new business incubator, developed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in partnership with Howard University and Luma Labs. The introduction of affordable technology services for underserved local entrepreneurs, was met with jubilation mixed with concerns over offering services to underrepresented communities that would benefit neighborhoods more.
The facility, Inclusive Innovative Incubator, or In3, is to serve as a collaborative environment for new entrepreneurs with limited resources. The facility gives entrepreneurs access to space and technological services to build their businesses.
“There are so many young, Black kids in the city who have exceptional and talent, but have little to no business understanding,” Nervelee Harris-Mitchell, a LeDroit Park resident, told the AFRO. “They are confused or intimidated by the process and could use a safe space to exchange ideas and get answers.”
In3 offers co-working space to the public in an 8,000-square-foot incubator with 60 workstations, 11 offices, and five classrooms. Corporate sponsors – including CISCO and OCTO – are providing free Wi-Fi and other technology to the space. The mayor’s office provided $1 million in grant funding to Howard University to construct the incubator within Howard’s Wonder Plaza retail center in the 2300 block of Georgia Avenue.
Bowser said, at the launch of the hub on April 20, In3 would improve the business landscape in D.C. by providing members with the right tools and access to financial, technical, and professional resources. “As we set out to make Washington, D.C. the capital of inclusive innovation, we are thrilled to witness In3 come to life,” she told attendees at the launch. “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.”
Ward 8 resident Wardell Jamison said while In3 has the potential to do loads for those on or near Howard University’s campus, most young business-minded residents living East of the River often find it hard to access such services due to location.
“Some of these young folks are born hustlers and they know how to create, promote, and disseminate their products in a very informal way,” Jamison, a returning citizen with a business of silk screening t-shirts after more than two decades in prison, told the AFRO. “I used to work from my aunt’s basement and so I understand what it is like to do things without the benefit of real business structure. I applaud the mayor, but we need this type of investment over here.”
In3, however, prides itself on being inclusive – without regard for Ward or socioeconomics. “Howard University has a longstanding commitment to inclusivity and I am grateful Mayor Bowser and the mayor’s office have supported this vision,” Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard University president, said during the hub’s kickoff. “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. I am confident that the Inclusive Innovation Incubator will provide a platform for engagement on a plethora of levels.”