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May 29, 2024

2024 Yale Innovation Summit opens in New Haven

HBJ PHOTO | DAVID KRECHEVSKY Moderator Kaakpema "KP" Yelpaala, left, faculty director for Innovative health at the Yale School of Public Health, leads a panel discussion during the 2024 Yale Innovation Summit in New Haven.

James Konziela, Ph.D., believes he’s invented a better workstation.

“It’s called the Clockworkstation and it does things that no other workstation in the world does,” he said Wednesday.

Konziela, whose business Clockworkstation LLC is based in Stamford, is precisely the kind of innovator Yale Ventures hoped to attract to its 2024 Yale Innovation Summit, being held Wednesday and Thursday at the Yale School of Management at 165 Whitney Ave. in New Haven.

More than 2,500 people are expected to attend the two-day event, including featured speakers and presenters, such as Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.  

“The goal is to bring together the innovation community at Yale, in New Haven and across Connecticut to meet and to network,” said Josh Geballe, managing director for Yale Ventures. “For startups to be able to present in front of investors, for people to hear from industry experts about the trends that are going to shape the future, and to make connections, and to really showcase New Haven and Connecticut as a growing hub of innovation.”

Geballe said 260 startup companies will present during the event, 

“These are companies that are developing the technologies that are going to change the world in the next several decades,” he said. “So, it’s a great opportunity to get eyes on these new inventions before they become household names.”

That includes Clockworkstation, though Konziela said he is still working on the prototype. He already has a patent for the design, as well as a trademark. He said he came to the Yale Innovation Summit mostly to get feedback. 

“I’m at the early stages, I do have an LLC but I do want critical feedback as much as possible,” he said. “The earlier you get negative feedback the better.”

Describing himself as an ergonomist, Kondziela said he’s been “really dissatisfied with chairs and tables out there. Typically they’re bought separately, so they invite an ergonomic mismatch.”

That, he said, is why “everybody’s always complaining about their back hurting, they have carpal tunnel and a zillion problems. … I said we can do better.”

Everyone, from young children to adults, can use a better work station, he said. 

“I aim it to be the most versatile, functional, beautiful, ergonomic and healthful,” he added.

The Yale Innovation Summit also offers breakout sessions that focus on the arts, biotech, climate, health and technology. One held Wednesday morning discussed social entrepreneurship and featured a moderated  panel discussion with CEOs of four startups.

Moderator Kaakpema “KP” Yelpaala, senior fellow, lecturer, and faculty director for InnovateHealth at Yale School of Public Health, suggested to the panelists that all entrepreneurship is “social.”

Steph Speirs, a Yale graduate who co-founded and serves as CEO for Solstice Power Technologies, which provides solar power to low-income users, said entrepreneurship is similar to investing in that way. 

“All investing is impactful, but it can have a positive impact or a negative impact,” she said.

“How do we imagine a system that works better than the current system?” Speirs asked rhetorically.

She then provided an example, noting that in order to qualify for solar in the United States, a person needs a FICO score of 680 and above, “which half the country doesn’t have.” So, Solstice Power worked to create a new type of credit score, one that took into account a person’s ability to pay things like their utility and cell phone bills.

“We found that a lot of low-income people who could not qualify with their FICO score could now qualify for clean energy,” she said

The summit will also feature pitches for innovative ideas, including those in biotech and technology.

For information on the event, visit the event website.

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