Howard University Breaks Ground On $1 Million Innovation Incubator For Startups

Cities beyond Silicon Valley are becoming burgeoning tech hubs. There are growing markets from the Midwest to below the Mason-Dixon Line in terms of deal flow and venture dollars.

New York may have Silicon Alley but the nation’s capital has Silicon Hill, and Howard University is staking its claim in the latest hotbed for emerging companies.

[Related: Raleigh-Durham Is Startup Capital of the South]

A year after announcing the initiative, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and Howard University leaders have officially broke ground on the forthcoming Inclusive Innovation Incubator. The new space will support entrepreneurs and businesses from underrepresented communities that provide products and services that benefit underserved communities. The District’s partnership with Howard University focuses on leveraging University resources for venture capital firms to support medium to late-stage technology and innovation startups.

The District has “a great tech community,” said Bowser in a statement. But “the thing that we lack is a cohesive tech education system that can take startups to the next level.” She noted the collaboration with the school is about providing below-market-rate space for venture capital firms interested in investing in local businesses. The city-backed Howard University incubator will serve to augment this strength further.

Howard University and Mayor Bowser selected Luma Lab to operate the new D.C.-based incubator on Howard’s campus, which is expected to open in Fall 2016. Luma Lab will manage the new startup incubator space and manage the Hub’s programming. According to a statement, Luma Lab was chosen from a group of “elite,” but undisclosed, list of other contenders.

“Homegrown innovation in the District is expanding, and our tech sector is growing,” added 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 D.C. on the cutting edge.”

In addition to offering technology and entrepreneurship training, the hub will offer affordable co-working space, training, networking events, mentorship, and strategic connections to Silicon Valley, investors, and partners. The hub will also provide tiered services and programs to its member companies, Howard students, staff, and faculty, as well as the broader community.

According to a statement on Howard University’s website, the District contributed nearly $1 million in grant funds to construct over 8,000 square feet of cutting edge workspace within Howard’s Wonder Plaza retail center in the 2300 block of Georgia Avenue. Howard University provided retail space at 50% of market value, institutional support and resources to ensure the lab is successful. What’s more, Wingate Hughes, a D.C.-based architecture firm that designs a lot of offices for area startups, will be designing the space.