HARLEM — The recent closure of a co-working space has fueled ambitions of a local startup founder to create a campaign to bring another co-working space to the neighborhood.
Ike Echebiri, the founder of Startupmound — an app that streamlines the pitch process between investors and startups — recently started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new space for local small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The campaign hopes to raise $15,000 online for a new space over the next two weeks.
Echebiri said he will add $10,000 to the money raised online and investors he has already lined up will shell out $75,000 to get the project moving.
The closing of Harlem Garage, which was located on West 118 Street and shuttered this past June, was the main inspiration for Echebiri.
The space was billed as an incubator for small businesses to flourish when it opened in 2013.
The owner cited rising rents in the city’s real estate market as the reason for closure. Tenants at the time, however, told DNAinfo New York that “mismanagement” was to blame for the space’s failure, which the owner denied.
"It cast a dark shadow around Harlem and people don’t think Harlem is conducive to co-working,” Echebiri said.
Rival co-working space WeWork has plans to open a new space in Harlem this December. But Echebiri said he has been working with some of the former tenants of Harlem Garage to distinguish his new venture.
For instance, his space would offer 24-hour and weekend access, something Harlem Garage did not offer. Echebiri said he would also use his tech and startup connections to give entrepreneurs access to prominent investors.
“That was a concern that some of the former members voiced,” he said. “Inability to incubate and put them in contact with investors.”
He said the co-working space should be up and running by early 2017 in West Harlem on 125th Street, between Columbia University and City College — which he said is a coveted spot for co-working because of the university’s development of the area.
“[T]his area is next in Harlem’s revitalization,” he said in the Kickstarter campaign. “By 2017 the area… will look completely different and will attract new companies and opportunities.
“Right now we are in a rare position as we are able to be a part of this transition and contribute to it in a positive way.”