HARLEM — Calling all uptown tech entrepreneurs — a new business project is offering startups nine months of free office space and access to mentors from tech companies like Google, Voxy and Genius.
The only catch is that the startups have to commit to staying in Harlem for at least five years.
The program, Cofound Harlem, was started by three young entrepreneurs this year. They are currently accepting applications for their inaugural class.
The idea is to make Harlem attractive to new businesses, said co-owner John Henry.
“We will certainly make our stamp in Harlem,” he said. “I think it’s going to quite visually impact the community. These companies are going to be using Harlem as their backyard to test their products. Their first prototypes, their first iterations of their products are all going to be tested here.”
Henry, 22, moved his dry cleaning business to Harlem in 2013. The small startup grew into a personal concierge service that included housekeeping and dog walking.
Henry, who left college to run the business, had to learn a lot on the fly, he said.
“I spent thousands on direct mail advertising and didn’t get anything out of it,” he said. “When I started using Facebook I got a lot more value.”
While different organizations in Harlem offer business workshops and seminars, they tend to focus on the basics. Startups that are further along need more specialized help like how to land distribution deals, secure funding and manage their brand, Henry said.