Late last month, our DC SYEP intern Martia Simms-Beard attended Venture DC 2015 with our CEO Aaron K. Saunders who spoke at the event and though it’s been a month since the empowering event, the message behind it still resonates as meaningfully as ever.
Here is Martia’s recap of the event, some of Aaron’s comments and a look into why programs like Luma Lab are so crucial to communities of color achieving greater economic prosperity.
Make Innovation Convenient For The Communities You Seek To Empower
Venture DC 2015 is a voluntary event coordinated by eight students to encourage entrepreneurship and technology innovation within Washington DC’s Ward 7 and Ward 8. The event took place on July 31st at the DC R.I.S.E Demonstration Center.
Unfortunately, very often those who reside “east” of the river are perceived as underexposed, not business-savvy, and as consumers as opposed to creators. This negative stigma reinforces untrue stereotypes, among those who live outside of these communities, in addition to making those who live within the community feel subordinate. The mission of Venture DC is to address these misconceptions in a straightforward way. Venture DC welcomed investors, local entrepreneurs who are looking to start businesses within wards 7 and 8, and an established panel of guest speakers who are successful entrepreneurs and have expertise in technology.
Clearly Innovative CEO Aaron K. Saunders
Aaron Saunders, CEO and Founder of Clearly Innovative, was selected as a member of the panel, and provided insights on the much needed topic of discussion. When asked his thoughts regarding the lack of opportunities for young minority adults within the technology industry he responded simply, “we as established professionals must create an inclusive ecosystem for our youth where they can thrive.”
He elaborated on the fact that there are simply not enough people in positions of power within the technology industry who create opportunities. Saunders has a firm where he has allowed people who do not come from traditional technology related educational backgrounds, to break into coding, digital marketing, product management, and design. He believes that this is the one of the primary ways to create an innovative space where people can leverage their skill sets and apply them to the technology industry.
“we as established professionals must create an inclusive ecosystem for our youth where they can thrive.”
His deep connection to his surrounding community, and frustrations with the perceptions of minorities within the technology space have made him devote time to giving back and enhancing the lives of the underprivileged. His end goal is to create a world where students from underrepresented backgrounds can have a seat at the digital table as creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. Aaron’s foremost strategy to lower the barrier into the technology space and increase the number of students who enter into this growing industry came to fruition with the creation of Luma Lab, Clearly Innovative’s tech-education arm. Luma Lab teaches students, predominantly from underexposed backgrounds, the entire process of creating a mobile app from creativity and ideation, to coding and prototype and finally to pitch and completion. The program also continuously allows children in and around Washington, D.C. to become aware of careers that exist within the technology industry and encourages entrepreneurship.
The Luma Lab program is driven to positively change the perceptions of people outside of communities like Ward 7 and 8, and encourage people within those communities to pursue their potential in the tech sector. Words of encouragement are simply not enough if they are not accompanied by opportunities and partnerships. Venture DC was an extremely well organized event that did a fantastic job of motivating entrepreneurs to invest and improve upon their local communities and created a much needed buzz around a sensitive subject matter. Nevertheless, we must all strive not be silent members of our communities but rather active members who improve the quality of life for everyone. Everyone should strive to be intentionally inclusive as opposed to the current state of being unintentionally exclusive.
So whether you’re interested in our Luma Lab tech education work or curious about about Clearly Innovative’s web and mobile development services, talk to us about creating a solution for the problem you see.