Business development / COVID-19 / Incubators

Here’s how In3DC CEO Aaron Saunders plans to run the incubator online

After three years operating out of its 8,000-square-foot space, the Inclusive Innovation Incubator is transitioning its operations online.

Inside the now-closed Inclusive Innovation Incubator. (Courtesy photo)

The Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3DC) will say goodbye to its physical space on Nov. 15 as it plans to move all of its programming online. In3DC CEO Aaron Saunders shared the news in an email last week.

In3DC, which occupies an 8,000-square-foot space at 2301 Georgia Ave. NW, was born three years ago from a partnership with the incubator, Howard University and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). Saunders told that this partnership was for a three-year term and based on the current economic climate, “it wasn’t feasible to continue with the existing structure.” The incubator’s space was leased from Howard, so the university will choose what happens with the location moving forward.

The incubator first transitioned its programming online back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit, which Saunders said has been successful. Now, the organization is making that move more permanent.

“I am disappointed that we are in this situation, but it is understandable,” Saunders said. “I am mainly disappointed because small businesses are being devastated by this current economic downturn, specifically, businesses run by our target audience of Black and underrepresented communities.”

In3DC reopened its space in July and has had some members return, as well as hosted a few small events and allowed some conference room rentals, but Saunders said the space did not reach the level of activity it was used to pre-coronavirus. Though it’s planning to operate online for the foreseeable future, In3DC still needs some support to continue serving the community.

“We are ready to move forward with the next chapter with Inclusive Innovation Incubator’s online programming, but we are still in the same situation as before where we need support from those in the region who have the financial ability to support programs like ours,” he said. “This is the time when organizations like In3DC are needed yet we have struggled to find funding.”

(Saunders wrote about this topic for in June, amid protests calling for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd: “The time is now to connect with ecosystem builders.”)

In3DC will provide a combination of paid and sponsored workshops online under each of its specific brands:

  • In3Labs, a 48-hour entrepreneurship and business bootcamp
  • Grow & Glow, a combination of fireside chats, panel discussions and workshops for women
  • The Future Is Written In Code, a series of technology-related and programming classes
  • In3Gaming, special events with gamers and amateurs in gaming to play, learn and share

The incubator is also working on launching a program for small retailers with fewer than five employees. They will gain access to an ecommerce platform, targeted programming and support. In3DC also plans to create training videos and ebooks to support the training offered through its The Future Is Written In Code program.

In3DC is currently redesigning its website to reflect its full transition online. Saunders said the organization is focused on transitioning current members from the space, ensuring a smooth move, and identifying more partners for programming. In3DC is also evaluating its business model as it prepares for this big change.

“Our transition might be seen as a lack of success, though it’s not,” Saunders said. “For us, we are going online full-time to continue serving the community.”


Saunders is one of five nominees for Culture Builder of the Year in the 2020 Awards in D.C. Voting closes for all categories at the end of the day: Do it here.

Companies: Howard University
Series: Coronavirus

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