Team’s innovative business model seeks to arm Anacostia residents with digital skills
WASHINGTON – Oct. 19, 2023 – After a 12-hour hackathon and pitch, judges crowned the Anacostia Community Internet Solutions team as the winners of the Connect Anacostia Business Model Hackathon. Their group, consisting of Olorunfemi Adisa, Lyric Prince Harris, Rylinda Rhodes, Laura Thomas, and Yemi Adewunmi, was one of six teams consisting of local small business leaders, community members, and entrepreneurs tasked with creating a business model to upskill Anacostia residents.
The judges also selected the Fresh Start Digital Financial Key team for second place. First place winners received 10,000 Amazon Web Services credits each and $2,000 and second place winners received 10,000 Amazon Web Services credits each and $1,000.
The first-place winners’ business model focused on Anacostia residents’ need for reliable high-speed Internet. The team proposed building their own municipal node network, called AnaMesh to deliver no-cost Wi-Fi access to residents and advisory services to DC. This would diminish the reliance on Internet Service Providers and expand Internet connectivity to those who need it most in the community.
“Anacostia is full of talented folks, but because of the historic lack of reliable and affordable Internet access in the neighborhood, some residents have fallen behind in digital skills and literacy – the skills required to engage in critical aspects of the modern economy,” said Catherine Forrest of US Ignite. “For Anacostia residents to truly thrive in entrepreneurial endeavors, business leaders need to build the community’s digital skills through innovative models like the ones proposed by the winning teams.”
“The Internet is a vital public utility that all constituents need. We see students complete homework at fast food places because they don’t have access at home,” the winning team stated. “We see residents unable to connect to tele-healthcare services and emergency services delayed. We came up with the AnaMesh solution to ameliorate all of this and empower our community to thrive.”
The runner-up team focused their business model on giving formerly incarcerated, undocumented, and under-banked residents access to digital financial products and digital literacy training through a digital financial key called Fresh Start. The team proposed partnering with banks and financial institutions in a private-public-partnership model to increase banking in this niche community.
The teams received coaching and mentorship from experts and executives at AWS, Anacostia BID, AreaProbe, Build Within, CivStart, Capital eXperience Group, DC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), DC Department of Small and Local Business Development, George Mason University, George Washington University, JessBe Creative, K Street Capital, Columbia Capital, Manifest, Model b, Astra Capital Management, EducationSuperHighway, Product Savvy Consulting, Conways Field & Court, University of the District of Columbia, Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), Enlightened, Inc. and US Ignite.
“The Anacostia BID continues to do the vital work of strengthening DC’s Ward 8 businesses and residents through partnerships and out-of-the-box thinking that provide community centered professional programs like the Connect Anacostia Business Model Hackathon,” said Kristina Noell, Executive Director of the Anacostia BID. “We focus on smart growth. We’re so proud of all the participants who contributed their experiences, ideas, and energy to today’s event. We heard from many that the personal rewards were tremendous, and they’d do it again with no question. This program was a great success. We intend to keep the ball rolling.”
“CivStart believes solving society’s biggest problems starts at the local level,” said Anthony Jamison, Co-Founder and CEO, CivStart. “The winning team’s focus on the Anacostia community moves us one step closer to closing the digital divide.”
“Enlightened is proud to support the Connect Anacostia Business Model Hackathon, the two winning teams, and all the participants,” said Antwanye Ford of Enlightened. “Hosting this type of event at the Headquarters of Enlightened demonstrates the viability and excellence that is in Anacostia.”
About US Ignite and InnovateDMV:
US Ignite collaborates with smart communities and research testbeds to drive high-impact solutions to their toughest challenges. Operating like a high-tech startup, our organization delivers timely results by applying technical expertise, stakeholder engagement, and targeted tools. US Ignite works tirelessly to ensure our programs are effective and reach the communities that need them the most. For more information, go to us-ignite.org.
InnovateDMV, powered by US Ignite, accelerates access to technical training and business development support for diverse small businesses and startups in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA. Learn more at innovatedmv.com.
About DC Startup Week:
DC Startup Week (DCSW) is the fastest-growing startup community in the DMV region with over 15,000 entrepreneurs. Once a year, we bring together our expansive community over 5-days to connect, collaborate, share resources and celebrate our thriving ecosystem. Throughout the year, we strengthen our united community by curating inclusive, thought-provoking, and meaningful events and partnerships.
CivStart is a nonprofit innovation hub with the mission to create an honest and inclusive ecosystem for local government innovation. Together, we address the most pressing challenges faced by local governments, fostering inclusive innovation that brings positive change to communities across the country. Learn more at: civstart.org
About Anacostia Business Improvement District:
The Anacostia Business Improvement District supplements existing DC government services and programs, provides local business support resources, maintains the public realm, sponsors special events and programs, and advocates for stakeholders. The BID’s goal is simple: maintaining a thriving, safe, clean, vibrant commercial and arts and culture district. The Anacostia BID is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. Learn more at: anacostiabid.org.
Enlightened is an award-winning company that provides application development, systems integration, cybersecurity, management consulting, and cloud solutions that resolve complex business problems for federal, state, and local government agencies. Enlightened holds GSA MAS schedule contracts and is certified as a HUBZone and Small Business by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Additionally, Enlightened is rated CMMI-DEV Level 3 and CMMI-SVC Level 3 by the CMMI Institute and is a DOD and SBA Mentor. For more information, please visit www.enlightened.com.