Kevin Durant knows about starting at the bottom rung. But he is blessed with a gift to play basketball, which is not just a paycheck, but a ticket to worlds with other possibilities. He has used that access to create business opportunities beyond the world of sports, such as in technology.
“What I love about tech is, I love watching the world advance,” said the 29-year-old star of the Golden State Warriors, who invests through his Durant Company. “I love the connections of people on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. I would look at it like [Cornelius] Vanderbilt, who built the railroad. He connected us. The next advancement connecting us to each other is social media. I want to be part of that.” His interest in technology connected him to Laurene Powell Jobs and has led to a new philanthropic venture.
Durant has committed $10 million and partnered with the Prince George’s public schools on a program called College Track, which was created more than 20 years ago in California by Powell Jobs and others. College Track helps disadvantaged kids — like Durant once was — attend college and get launched into life.
Durant is dropping a life-ladder called the Durant Center smack in the middle of the Seat Pleasant, Md., area where he grew up. It isn’t an elevator. The 60 students in the initial group must climb the ladder themselves.
But it’s a path.
“I want them to see the world,” Durant said in a phone interview this month. “I want them to see where people are from and see that there are things outside their world. I don’t know exactly or at what pace that they will get it, but there is a world outside that they need to see.”
Durant’s $10 million will seed construction and operating expenses of a local chapter of College Track, which is scheduled to open this year.
“This hits home, because it’s right in the neighborhood where me and my buddies lived,” said the 6-foot-11 “small” forward.
College Track is a 10-year program that provides the basic infrastructure — tutoring, test preparation, picking a college that is a “fit” and how to get financial aid — that kids from less-advantaged families often don’t have.
“These are all the things that middle-class families deliver if your parents went to college,” said Elissa Salas, College Track’s chief executive. “If your parents didn’t go to college, we fill that gap.”
Will.i.am carrying the i.am+ camera for iPhone 4 at the Ekocycle brand launch in New York in October
Will.I.am is set to launch a new line of accessories, named “i.am+,” for Apple’s iPhone. The Black Eyed Peas star, who was hired as a creative director for technology firm Intel last year, has created a collection of hardware which he insists will transform the cell phones.
The first product from his “i.am+” line is an accessory that clips onto an iPhone and transforms the eight megapixel smartphone camera into a 14 megapixel camera, which dramatically enhances the clarity and definition of the photographs. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he says: “We have our own sensor and a better flash. You dock you phone into our device and it turns you smartphone into a genius-phone. We take over the camera.”
Questioning whether the reality TV singing contests have run their course, rapper, musician, songwriter, singer, entrepreneur, actor, DJ and producer Will.i.am is reportedly working on a new technology-themed talent show that “aims to be an American Idol for young wizards.”
Should headphones made out of recycled trash ever cost $349? It depends on how cool they are. In hopes of giving products made from recycled materials a little more cachet, musician will.i.am and the Coca-Cola Co. are partnering to make a line of clothing and gear called “Ekocycle.” The idea is to brand recycled products with a hipper image that resonates with young consumers.
“If you think about (recycled) products now, none of them are cool,” said will.i.am, who is best known for his work with theBlack-Eyed Peas. “You have to bring some art and fashion sensibility into this technology that turns a bottle into something cool.”
The first Ekocycle product will be a pair of headphones by Beats, a popular and pricey line created by rapper Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine – both friends of will.i.am. The Ekocycle version will cost $349, which is on the high end of the range of Beats headphones. An Ekocycle hat by New Era will cost $32.