Startups

Power Moves: Why this former Nerd Street Gamers director pivoted to clean energy

There's a through line of data and partnerships, Christian Kunkel said. Plus, meet a new leader at Wharton Social Impact Initiative, a new dean at Temple's Beasley School of Law, and a new board member for Stuzo.

Christian Kunkel.

(Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us: philly@technical.ly.


After roles in edtech and esports, Christian Kunkel is pivoting to another E industry: energy.

Kunkel joined BlocPower, a Brooklyn-headquartered climate tech company focused on clean energy projects, as director of data partnerships and acquisition in July. He is working with a new product called the Building Data Collective, a Bezos Earth Fund-backed open source database that aims to track energy usage of buildings across the United States. The goal is to make this data available for anyone in the energy space to help improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

“What I’m looking forward to, though, is the challenge of it,” he told Technical.ly. “It’s a massive, massive undertaking to try to pull all this data together, because it’s all in distributed locations controlled by different entities.”

Before this move, Kunkel was the director of university partnerships for venture-backed, North Broad Street-headquartered esports company Nerd Street Gamers until fall 2021. He said he left that position due to the pandemic, in that the company faced a lot of challenges and uncertainty during that time: “My role, specifically with university partnerships, was impacted significantly because universities understandably froze budgets as they dealt with the uncertainty.”

"Education will permeate everything that I do."
Christian Kunkel

Prior to that, Kunkel was the CEO of Slate, an open source learning management system, which spun out of web dev firm Jarvus in 2013. (Jarvus was cofounded by Nerd Street Gamers CEO John Fazio.)

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Though most of his career has been focused on the intersection of education and technology, data and partnerships have played important roles throughout — and he’ll continue to work with universities in his new role by involving students and professors in the research effort. BlocPower also has an education focus in the form of workforce development training for energy efficiency skills.

“So there is a lot of shared philosophy there, even though it’s not the core of the business,” he said. “I also know that education will permeate everything that I do. The thing about learning and development is that no matter what age you’re at, it always is happening and every organization needs an intentional focus on that.”

And Kunkel, who lives in Fishtown, is excited to join the urgent climate cause.

“Education is a battle that we’re going to have to fight forever,” he said. “Climate is a battle we have to fight right now.”

WSII has a new leader

After 10 years, Katherine Klein announced in July that she was stepping down from the position of vice dean for social impact at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII). The program’s new head will be Witold (Vit) Henisz, whose title will be both vice dean and faculty director of the ESG Initiative — that’s environmental, social and governance — at The Wharton School.

Klein said that with Henisz and Wharton Dean Erika James in leadership roles, WSII will continue to grow.

“This is an exciting time for impact and ESG at Wharton,” she wrote in a letter on Wharton’s website. “Please join me in congratulating Vit, Sandi [Hunt, WSII’s managing director], our team, and Wharton for this bold move to strengthen the School’s work in serving a world undergoing tremendous change.”

In his own letter, Henisz said he will be responsible for supporting research, student programs and industry engagement opportunities.

“While the activities of the Initiative will be diverse, we will emphasize harnessing the power of business to address ESG factors,” he wrote. “The resulting network of scholars, students, and practitioners will shape strategy, innovation, valuations, investment flows, and policy.”

Temple Law has a new dean

Temple University’s provost, Gregory Mandel, announced on July 21 that Rachel Rebouché has been appointed dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law. Rebouché served as the interim dean starting in August 2021 after Mandel left the role.

Rebouché is an expert in family and health law and one of the nation’s leading scholars in reproductive law, per the law school. She was previously the associate dean for research at Beasley. In her position as dean, she will oversee about 900 full time students, 65 staff members and over 50 full-time faculty members. Rebouché will also continue her jobs as the James E. Beasley Professor of Law and a faculty fellow at the center for public health law research.

“Serving as interim dean drove home for me the importance of engaging in the national dialogue,” she said in a statement. “Our faculty at Temple Law includes the nation’s leading experts in bankruptcy, tax, corporate law, international law, social justice and other areas, and we can shape and move conversations forward. We are a place where people should feel welcomed and expected to contribute to national discussions, and we’re committed to that at Temple Law.”

Ken Parent joined the Stuzo board

Center City commerce tech company Stuzo announced this month that Ken Parent has joined its board of directors. Parent is described as “a convenience and fuel retail industry veteran” bringing experience from tenures at the Pilot Company, Mobil Oil Corporation and PepsiCo.

Stuzo’s tech aims to make everyday payments easier and help retailers, including gas station chains, drive more loyal customers to their brick-and-mortar stores by combining enterprise, customer and commerce data on one platform.

“I am philosophically aligned with Stuzo’s approach to business, its company values, and have tremendous respect for its executive leadership team,” Parent said in a statement. “Additionally, I am a believer that our industry must transform to retain and grow market share and the core of that transformation resides at the intersection of intelligent loyalty, connected technology, and data. Among all suppliers in our industry, Stuzo has proven it possesses superior capabilities in this Area.”


Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-
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