Manhattan Borough President’s Office Awards $500K to the Zahn Innovation Center

The Zahn Center’s MakerLab is getting an upgrade! In June, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office awarded the MakerLab with $500,000 in capital funds. The award will enable us to dramatically improve our manufacturing offerings by adding short run manufacturing capabilities to the equipment in our MakerLab, a rapid prototyping facility designed for student entrepreneurs and the hardware startup community. The new equipment and improvements will bring lasting impact to CCNY and Harlem, more broadly.

“We are incredibly grateful to Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Matthew Washington, Deputy Borough President, for recognizing the value of technology by offering this award to the Zahn Center. Their generosity will enable our student startups to realize their visions sooner,” said Lindsay Siegel, Executive Director.

One of our goals as a startup incubator is to help student startups build prototypes, develop their products and refine their features, improve sales pitches, and negotiate the complicated realms of financing and intellectual property law. Since its founding, the Center has graduated 155 startups. Collectively, these startups have raised and earned more than $32 million in capital, and filed more than 75 provisional and full patents for their concepts.

However, the initial costs of starting a business, especially a hardware-focused business, are high. Many entrepreneurs, including the student entrepreneurs at the Zahn Center, cannot front these startup costs. In 2016, 60% of CCNY students came from homes with an annual family income of $30,000 or less.

“Currently, our equipment is for learning and iterating on a single basic prototype. The next stage in the program’s development is to have the appropriate equipment for our student startups to be able to manufacture their initial run of product. With this award, we will have the capability to do small runs of electronics and create plastic and metal encasements and parts for shelf ready products. This enables students to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign months ahead of the typical production schedule associated with most crowdfunded hardware startups. This rapid fulfillment of orders and the drastically reduced costs will allow student startups to proudly manufacture in the U.S. and get their businesses off the ground,” said Devin Voorsanger, Technology Program Director of the Zahn Innovation Center.

In addition to allowing the startups coming out of the Zahn Center to more easily bridge the gap between the theoretical and tangible aspects of running a business, the expanded capabilities in the lab will provide CCNY engineering students with experience in their chosen fields. CCNY Engineering students will be working to help fulfill prototyping and small batch manufacturing Kickstarter orders from the upper Manhattan community and surrounding area.

These new services will also be available to community startups beginning their first steps in their journey as a company. This will make it significantly easier for startups in the Harlem community to launch and iterate their own hardware startups as they have a homegrown manufacturing and prototyping facility available to help them. “CCNY has always been an important part of the Harlem community, and this is another way in which the college can partner with the local community to everyone’s benefit,” added Siegel.

“I am thrilled to support the Zahn Innovation Center and assist in the creation of a prototyping hub in Harlem, led by student innovators” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A Brewer. “I am proud to invest in a diverse group of students and local entrepreneurs as they build their startups and test their ideas in this lab of the future.”

For more information about our MakerLab’s offerings, please contact Devin Voorsanger at