This brand-new Silver Spring coworking space is making diversity a top priority - Technical.ly DC

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Sep. 3, 2015 10:28 am

This brand-new Silver Spring coworking space is making diversity a top priority

There's a new hub for technologists and entrepreneurs of color near the Silver Spring metro stop. “We’re literally two months old and the goal is to have like-minded people,” said I/O Spaces cofounder Leslie Tita.
Silver Spring’s I/O Spaces is hosting the D.C.-area launch event.

Silver Spring's I/O Spaces is hosting the D.C.-area launch event.

(Photo by Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt)

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed Jason Towns as a founder of CODE2040. In fact, he launched a Google-funded program at CODE2040. The copy has been updated. (9/9/15, 12:04 p.m.)

Outside of Silicon Valley, coworking spaces are the next big thing in providing office solutions for lean startups in many cities where there is a thriving tech scene.

Leslie Tita wanted in, but rather than open up a coworking space in the very crowded and competitive market in D.C. proper, Tita and his cofounder, Rebecca Enonchong, headed north to Maryland.

The two found a cozy 3,200-square-foot coworking space in downtown Silver Spring and decided to target people from underserved communities. The two are natives of Africa and have a network of African venture capitalists they hope to connect to the thriving community of founders in the D.C. area.

Today, the space hosts about 12 startups with founders hailing originally from all around the globe.

On the evening of Thursday, Aug. 27, I/O Spaces hosted the first of a series of panel presentations that will feature diverse experts, founders and other mentors.

The inaugural session featured diverse startup founders who had successfully gotten funding for their ventures — thus the hashtag for the night, #FoundedToFunded.

Panelists included three founders that Technical.ly DC has previously featured, including:

  • Brian A. M. Williams, cofounder of Pentagon City-based PurchaseBlack.com;
  • Maxime Paul from D.C.-based PitchLove, an adaptive education management application that helps people learn through feedback and data;
  • and Sage Salvo, owner of Words LIIVE, a 21st-century literacy education company that uses a proprietary technology platform to teach students how to read and write using urban music and computer code.

The event also featured Stacie Whisonant of PYT (“Pay Your Tuition”), a financial technology platform that uses crowdfunding to help students obtain cash collateral that lowers their risk profile; and startup coach and mentor Jason Towns, who launched a Google-funded program at CODE2040 that focuses on providing funding and access to black and latino entrepreneurs.

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For about an hour and a half, audience members got insight from the panelists on how they each overcame challenges to get funding for their respective ventures.

At times, the conversation got deep with the speakers getting “real” and offering granular insight into the “dirty secrets” that aren’t talked about when it comes to the diversification of the tech industry.

Before and after the panel, event attendees got to nosh on light fare and sip wine, self-made cocktails and soft drinks.

Guests also got to dip into rooms and check out the space, which includes a conference room that I/O Spaces members can access on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis.

The space, which is close to the Silver Spring metro stop, is minutes from shops and restaurants like Whole Foods, Fudruckers, Panera, Eggspectation and other spots.

“We’re literally two months old and the goal is to have like-minded people,” said Tita.

Twenty-four-hour access starts at $250, with dedicated office spaces starting at $600 a month.

One of the rooms at Silver Springs' I/O Spaces.

One of the rooms at Silver Spring’s I/O Spaces. (Photo by Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt)

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