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Dr. Mike Zisman (left) and Dr. Vijay Kumar (right) lead the second keynote event discussing the state of innovation at the Penn Innovation Conference this past Saturday | Courtesy of Ishmam Ahmed

There is now another opportunity for Penn students to network.

On Oct. 17, the Weiss Tech House and the Technology Entrepreneurship Club hosted the first annual Penn Innovation Conference. The conference, held at Huntsman Hall, was designed as a consolidation of networking programs and opportunities within Penn, ranging from the legal clinics to various networking opportunities within the Wharton School. For those who didn’t apply for the conference, there were four preconference seminars.

“We really wanted an opportunity to bridge the different umbrellas of innovation on campus into one conference, and also have the opportunity to bridge current entrepreneurs and innovators with some alumni and also connect them with the resources that they are not aware of," College senior and event volunteer Chelsea Atkins said. "I think it was the brainchild of a bunch of people realizing that we needed to consolidate and make these resources more accessible.” 

Two panels during the event centered on the legal issues startups have to face and another focused on venture capital. A major focus of the event was the two sets of workshops for the attendees. The first centered on startup formation — with an emphasis on building concepts, engineering and business development — and the second centered on building skills to foster innovation and keep startups running. There has been a focus on social impact among the attendees and some have voiced a desire for the conference to include more of it.

“I heard about the conference through the Wharton Innovation & Design club. I saw it on the newsletter and felt like it was important to apply because they had several workshops that were specifically focused on consumer-facing decisions and that’s what I’m pursuing now,” Wharton MBA Student Ada Hopkins said.

Another major focus of the conference was networking. Attendees had the opportunity to network with the event’s speakers and with alumni, and there was a short, albeit productive networking session separating the two workshop sessions. Networking was also a major theme in the first keynote, a conversation between Engineering Dean Vijay Kumar and Rajendra Singh, chairman and CEO of Telcom Ventures, LLC.

Within the keynote, Singh focused not only on networking between people, but also put a spotlight on a form of networking less emphasized: the networking of ideas.

“There are incremental innovations and there are disruptive innovations. And disruptive innovations come through when you are embracing some form of human behavior, human health or humanity. For me, I think that the most critical thing is to stay connected. Stay connected with your local politics, your national politics, newspapers, events,” Singh said. 

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