As Amazon competition heats up, D.C. mayor heads west to talk tech
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Washington is looking to build its own bridges. Last year, the city launched In3, an incubator offering training programs in tandem with historically black Howard University. D.C. officials regularly tout the city’s ranking as the No. 1 place in the country for women in technology.
Aaron Saunders, a programmer and entrepreneur who heads the incubator, is also chief executive of Clearly Innovative, the firm that produced mobile apps for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In3 has about 35 members, and Saunders said officials from Amazon Web Services, based in Herndon, Va., have already come to the incubator to make presentations.
Saunders said the challenge for black entrepreneurs in tech is more than getting their foot in the door. It’s also important to provide new hires with mentors and other support staff they can relate to.
“If you’re a person of color or a woman, and you look up and you don’t see someone above you who looks like you, it makes you question where you’re headed,” Saunders said.
Saunders said benefits can flow both ways. If Amazon chose a city such as Washington, the area could become “a gateway for a more diverse Amazon” and, because of Amazon’s reach, tech in general.
“Running a company in a diverse community like this would force them to address some issues that they don’t have to deal with in Seattle,” he added.
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