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D.C. Start-Up Places Focus on African Diaspora

Two immigrants from Africa are challenging the status quo of the tech world with a start-up geared towards fellow immigrants.

Facing careers in an industry that lacks a true amount of diversity, Leslie Tita and Rebecca En­onchong decided to take matters into their own hands. They have worked together to open I/O Spaces, a co-working office space that is geared towards the African diaspora.

With an office located just outside of Washington, D.C., Tita is an interface designer and came to the U.S. in 2010 for school. According to the National Journal, he quickly realized there is a large racial gap between the designers of technology and the people who use it.

“More [tech] users are people of col­or, but people [mak­ing the products] don’t know what they want.” Tita said.

After winding up in D.C., Tita found a large number of co-working spaces that were geared towards specific populations and demographics. He often felt like an outsider and had trouble feeling accepted in such office spaces.

Then his idea was born.

After sharing his idea to start a co-op space for his fellow African immigrants with Enonchong, Tita began pursuing his dream. He met with African entrepreneurs at local DC tech meetings and through Diaspora Demo events.

While they encourage African immigrants to use their co-op space, there aren’t stipulations for membership. They have members hailing from England and Sri Lanka as well as a variety of African countries.

“Co–Working spaces give you the freedom that you can’t find anywhere else in the industry, flexibility on your time, a relaxed environment, the collaboration of others to pull through your projects, setting up a network of businesses working together for the same purpose, and much more,” said Alex Restrepo, Administrative Manager for OfficeList.com. “Those are just a few examples of how a co-working setting can help you through if you are a start up company, or even if you just want to find the best fitting environment to work on your personal projects, at the end of everything, you become part of a community, part of a family.”

The beauty of I/O Spaces lies in their simplicity. They are a group of people with large ideas, but they don’t play into extravagance. They do very little advertising and rely heavily on referrals.

In a neighborhood lined with Ethiopian restaurants, the I/O Spaces building is directly across the street from the Ethiopian Community Center of Maryland. This allows them access to their key demographic without having to spend a penny.

According to the I/O Spaces website, Tita hopes to create an inclusive and productive environment that is dedicated to diversity and the love of technology.



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