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The DC Government’s First Ever Tech Incubator is One Step Closer to Launch

luma lab space

luma lab space

DC’s First Ever Incubator will soon launch and today DC’s mayor announced today that DC ‘StartUP training for young people academy’, Luma Lab, will operate the INCUBATOR. It has been a long but steady road for the man behind it.

Here’s my connection to it:

In 2014, my then 12-year old son attended a two week course at Howard University‘s StartUp Middle School, a science and technology-focused Middle School located on the campus of the Historic Black university.

By the end of the intense STEM (science, technology, Engineering and math) camp, my pre-teen had conceptualized an app, drawn up wire-frames, started the process of developing a web-based non-native beta real version app and eventually presented his app to all the parents at the end of the session.

The  course curriculum was developed by a man named Aaron Saunders the CEO of DC software company, Clearly Innovative and the former StartUp Middle principal Patrick Gusman.  Many of the course instructors were also employees of Clearly Innovative.

(The two have since moved on to create their own original content and taken their respective courses to other locales like Georgetown Day school,  The Boys & Girls Club on Benning Road and other locations in the city and other states.)

Before actually meeting Saunders at some DC Tech MeetUp event, I had seen his name everywhere, usually on announcements about panels on several programs about tech inclusion and building out DC to become the next big tech and innovation hub.

It’s a very very small network and circle, so everyone basically knows everyone in these parts.

Because he is African American, Saunders was considered a bright shining example of the potential available from people from groups underrepresented in tech.

The fact he was successful enough to have a physical building and several employees made him a virtual unicorn!

Of course he would be the one everyone would point to and say, “See! we can be great!”

When I last chatted with Saunders, he was hard at work on a book of a new platform (“Building Cross-Platform Apps using Titanium, Alloy, and Appcelerator Cloud Services)  which he eventually finished to much acclaim.

At one point in the past, we started talks for me to host and teach a series of startup camps to people who were bootstraping their entrepreneurial endeavors and had little to their own capital to get it done.  It didn’t get off the ground.

Aaron Saunders speaking DC TEch

Clearly Innovative CEO and Luna Lab founder Aaron K. Saunders speaks at a DC tech event

These days, the software developer teaches mobile development courses and is up to bigger things as well when it comes to educating the next generation of children and adults from underrepresented and underprivileged groups.

All his hard work has started to bear fruit a lot in recent years.

Last fall, I discovered that Saunders had spun off the education and training nonprofit of his company and named it Luma Lab and that it had won a $100,000 Mission Main Street Grant from Chase bank.  It beat out 30,000 other competitors and businesses from all 50 states to get the grant.

Luma Lab DC classroom

Since 2012, Luma Lab has taught over 250 students through after-school programs, summer camps and a year-long curriculum.  The students not only learn to code but how to be an entrepreneur and operate a lean startup.

Bravo!

And more good news for my old friend!

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced this week that the DC Government has selected Luma Labs to run the city’s first ever Technology & Innovation Incubator that will launch this fall 2016 with the purpose of supporting diverse entrepreneurs and local startups and giving them the tools, resources and workspace to develop and grow.

The incubator will be housed on the Howard University campus.

It is the District’s first venture capital hub for start-ups and emerging companies.

The incubator will provide much needed support for underrepresented entrepreneurs and businesses that provide innovative products and services to underserved communities.

“Homegrown innovation in the District is expanding, and our tech sector is growing,” said Mayor Bowser.  “I remain committed to supporting our entrepreneurs and startups so that every resident has a chance to benefit from the innovation economy.   And I am confident that this partnership with Howard University and Luna Labs will keep DC on the cutting edge.”

Luma Lab was chosen from an elite group of technology and entrepreneurship organizations to operate the innovation hub, a release about the announcement read.  This selection demonstrates the commitment by Mayor Bowser and Howard President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick’s to foster an inclusive technology and innovation industry in the District.

“Howard’s partnership with the District and Luma Lab exemplifies the University’s longstanding commitment to innovation,” Dr. Frederick said in a statment. “This incubator will support our social mission by creating opportunities for the next generation of minority innovators at Howard University and beyond.”

The hub will make available co-working space, networking events, mentorship, and strategic connections to Silicon Valley, investors, and partners.

And it’s truly a hub for home-grown talent.

Membership will be offered on a tiered basis for member companies, Howard students, staff, and faculty, as well as the broader Shaw and DC communities.

“It is both an honor and privilege to be selected to operate the tech incubator here in DC,”  my old friend said about the opportunity to run the incubator for the District of Columbia. “Working closely with Howard University and Mayor Bowser’s office, we will improve the technology landscape in Washington, DC by providing the underserved community with the right tools and access to technology partners and a seat at the digital table as successful creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

Although the District contributed close to $1M to build the facility to house the incubator at Howard, Saunders and his Luma Lab team pounded the pavement raising all the funds they would need to fully operate the incubator.

And more good things….

Luma Lab will soon be in 4 DC public schools and will teach entrepreneurship and innovation. There will be 3 locations starting this summer for its Summer program.

Very awesome! It’s about time and I’m excited to see the first class of innovators start taking advantage of the services and resources this fall!

 

Photo: Courtesy Clearly Innovative,

HU Middle School Student Busayo Bird-Maqubela Talks About Luma Lab

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