Ivan Estevez came up with the idea for his start-up business while skateboarding through the streets of Harlem after realizing that at night it can turn from fun to dangerous.
“In skateboarding there’s a lot of stuff you have to look out for,” says Estevez, 25.
With his business partner, Aulio Diaz, Estevez created Torpedo Skateboard Lights, designed to make the sport safer. Their company, Ekick Technologies, is one of an increasing number of tech businesses in Harlem’s growing start up scene.
The two young men, both Dominican, won the $10,000 Kaylie Prize from The Zahn Innovation Center based at City College. Like Harlem Biospace, the Harlem Garage and HBK Incubates, the Zahn Center encourages entrepreneurship and promotes economic growth uptown.
“We have all kinds of resources available to make it possible for you to start with just an idea and hopefully by the end of the semester have something real,” says Lindsay Siegel, Zahn’s executive director.
Twenty-three start-ups have taken off out of the CCNY based incubator, including two wearable technology companies, a toy website and physical therapy software. Last year, Homer Delivery won the 2013 Zahn Social Innovation Prize. This Harlem based company delivers food more efficiently to areas in Manhattan that are highly populated with restaurants and people. Founder Adam Price believes the Zahn Center played a key role in turning his idea into a reality.
“The Center has provided wonderful mentors for us to work with,” says Price. “In fact, some of the pro bono legal support has actually saved our company money.”
Estevez says the Zahn Center offered a safe place to “fail” when he and Diaz were fine-tuning their mountable skateboard light. “If you don’t fail, you don’t learn,” he says.
Zahn is sponsoring four upcoming contests with $140,000 up for grabs. For more information or to enter, visit the Center’s website.