"I feel I am at my real-life Hogwarts," said Heather Sewell of Halcyon House. She is one of seven inaugural fellows of the Halcyon Incubator, a 14-month fellowship and social entrepreneurship program, administered by the S&R Foundation.
The Halcyon fellows were publicly acknowledged at a Sept. 4 presentation at historic Halcyon House on Prospect Street, where they will live for the next four months with 10 additional months of collaboration, support and consulting with program staffers.
"The Halcyon Incubator is a place to work . . . and learn . . .," said Kate Goodall, chief operating officer of S&R Foundation, which takes no equity from the fellows' projects. Goodall said the no-strings-attached fellowships benefit from "the unique properties of Washington, D.C."
The program, according to the foundation, "provides fellows with rent-free housing and office space, food and living stipends, mentorship, complimentary strategic, legal and PR resources," as it "nurtures problem-solvers addressing 21st-century social challenges by transforming raw talent and audacious ideas into scalable ventures."
Citing the story of calm nesting days for the Halcyon bird, as pictured in the program's logo, S&R Foundation CEO and co-founder Sachiko Kuno said, "Halcyon is such an aptly named house for an incubator." At the presentation in Halcyon's ballroom, she introduced her husband Ryuji Ueno to the crowd -- "my media-shy co-founder."
Kuno and Ueno -- who hail from Japan and made their fortune in the pharmaceutical business -- made a big splash in Georgetown, when they purchased the Evermay Estate ($22 million) on the east side in July 2011 and then Halcyon House ($11 million) on the west side in March 2012. Both historic properties are used by S&R Foundation. (Halcyon House underwent a $3-million renovation.)
The foundation was founded in 2000 and includes the Overtures Concert Series, the Evermay Chamber and science programs and awards.
Introduced by Incubator program manager Ryan Ross, each fellow had his or her story to tell and vision to persuade -- and each made quite an impression. They are seven chosen out of 200 applicants. (Next year's class application deadline is Sept. 18.)
Olivier Kamanda of Ideal Impact wants the news to go further; his website shows how or where one can help to volunteer or contribute. Ari Raz of Purejoy wants to produce fresh baby food for all. Diana Sierra of BeGirl wants to help women around the world have sanitary pads they can use, as they work or go to school, during menstruation. Ben Reich and Dan Gallagher of Datasembly run a data aggregate that helps small businesses sift through it all, avoiding the "data-rich and info-poor" conundrum. Founder of the Daily Prophet, a online newspaper inspired by the Harry Potter book series, Heather Sewell of NewsEase wants reading news and other stories to be more educational. Matt Fischer of Control A+ has constructed a monitor that predicts asthma attacks.
Can these fellows change the world? It might just help that they started to make it all work at Halcyon House -- and in Georgetown, more innovative than most suspect.