Dave Kahng is a native New Yorker, product designer, entrepreneur and mechanical engineer. His fascination with umbrellas began while studying mechanical engineering at Tufts University. He was intrigued with the frame mechanism and how each rib would neatly nest into each other. As an engineer, he marveled at how the limbs would extend out synchronously with a single stroke. He was fascinated that the basic design had remained the same for over a thousand years. And yet, he was perplexed as to why its obvious flaws had gone unaddressed for so long.
Ben Tai was working at an animation studio when he met Dave, managing the studio’s design and animation systems. The two shared a common sensibility when it came to product design—clean lines, material authenticity, and an appreciation for products that were built to last.
Together, they founded a successful chain of computer resource centers in New York City, which was acquired by a Fortune 500 company 10 years later. After selling the business, Dave received an MBA from Columbia Business School with a focus on branding. He also started thinking about umbrellas again.
The vast majority of umbrellas in the market were disposable—they were cheap, undifferentiated and poorly made. They were designed to fail after two or three uses, after which the owner would need to buy another. It was part of the business model. Dave wanted to change that. He felt it was better to buy one, high-quality umbrella that would last for many years, than an endless stream of replacements. He conceptualized an umbrella that met the engineering standards of high-performance automotive machinery, one that was designed to endure.
Together with Ben, they assembled a team of industrial designers and engineers in 2005 to develop Davek’s first line of high-performance umbrellas. The umbrellas were uniquely strong and, unlike the cheap and disposable umbrellas in the market, engineered to last. As testimony to their commitment to quality, they decided to include an unconditional lifetime guarantee on every umbrella. Exhibiting Davek umbrellas at tradeshows led to rapid growth soon after the company launched, with upscale stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue picking up the line. Today, Davek umbrellas can be found in hundreds of top-tier stores nationwide, and online at davekny.com.
Dave lives with his wife and three sons in Connecticut. He enjoys illustration, exercise, and the finer art of furling umbrellas. He is co-founder and CEO.
Ben lives in New Jersey with his wife, daughter and son. While not testing umbrellas in a wind tunnel, Ben voraciously consumes all things tech. He is co-founder and Director.