Founders & Funders: Building Successful Startups in the COVID-19 Era

Jul 20, 2020, 1:30 – 3:00 PM

Abu Dhabi

Surviving the new normal isn't enough. How can startups thrive? Join us as Silicon Valley meets the Desert to explore the global/local implications of the pandemic as well as what it takes for startups to succeed in the COVID-19 era. We're excited to welcome investors Sonia Gokhale (VentureSouq), Vijay Tirathrai (Techstars) & founders Patrick Rogers (Clara) and Parker Wells (Element 16).

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About this event

Surviving the new normal isn't enough. How can startups thrive? Join us as Silicon Valley meets the Desert to explore the global/local implications of the pandemic as well as what it takes for startups to succeed in the COVID-19 era. We're excited to welcome investors Sonia Gokhale (VentureSouq), Vijay Tirathrai (Techstars) & their portfolio founders Patrick Rogers (Clara) and Parker Wells (Element 16).

Sonia Gokhale

Sonia is a Founding Partner of VentureSouq. Previously, Sonia was a consultant to the Global Special Situations Group of Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), a large sovereign wealth fund based in the UAE, focusing on venture capital and tech deals. Prior to this role, Sonia was an Actuarial Consultant at Mercer Human Resource Consulting in its Dubai and Toronto offices. Sonia is a qualified Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Society of Actuaries (USA). Sonia obtained a BSc from the University of Toronto (with distinction) and majored in Actuarial Science and Statistics.

Vijay Tirathrai

Vijay is the Managing Director at Techstars. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed with a network of over 10,000 mentors in 150 cities worldwide. Through its mentorship-driven accelerator programs around the world Techstars has invested in 1,900+ start-ups at seed stage with a portfolio valuation estimated at $22Bn. Currently he is managing the Hub71 accelerator in partnership with Mubadala based in Abu Dhabi.

Formerly, Vijay was the Global CEO of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) based in Washington D.C. At EO he led the growth of 16,000+ leading entrepreneurs with the combined revenue of $600Bn, through the creation of a world class peer-to-peer network present in over 180 cities worldwide.

As a serial entrepreneur, Vijay founded several start-ups such as in manufacturing of safety helmets, association management, event production and a venture fund. Early in his career he served in senior executive roles namely in fashion retail, clothing manufacturing and real estate development.

Throughout his career, he has taken up leadership and boards roles on several non-profit entities: such as the Young President Organization (YPO International Board), Richmond University (U.K.), the 16th Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and as International Chairman of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Now based in Abu Dhabi, Vijay has previously lived and worked in Dubai, Washington D.C, London, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Hong Kong. He is proactive in supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem as an investor and mentor. During his spare time he is passionate about exploring world heritage sites.

Patrick Rogers

Patrick Rogers is an entrepreneur working at the intersection of law and technology. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Clara, a legal technology company that digitizes and automates startup legal expertise. Clara is rewriting the rules of startup law across the world to deliver better outcomes for both entrepreneurs and investors and in the process saving all parties substantial time and money. Patrick previously co-founded Support Legal, an award winning, UAE-based law firm that has brought some much needed disruption to GCC’s legal services sector with its innovative business model. Patrick also acts as a director and advisor to a number of high growth companies and serves as a mentor with both Endeavor and Techstars. His thoughts on entrepreneurship and the disruption of the legal services sector have been featured in a range of publications including the FT, Crunchbase, The National, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Arabian Business and Gulf Business.

Prior to commencing his entrepreneurial journey in 2015, Patrick practiced corporate law with two of the world’s largest law firms, DLA Piper and Jones Day, where he advised on venture capital financings, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures across more than 40 countries. He holds a B.A. from the University of British Columbia and a J.D. from Western University. During his career he has lived and worked in Toronto, London, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Parker Wells

Parker Wells is the founder and CEO of Element 16, a Los Angeles-based heat energy storage startup. He has led the company to receive over $6 million in non-dilutive funding from Federal and State governments and has led the company through the Techstars Accelerator in Dubai, the Creative Destruction Laboratory Energy Program, SparkLabs Energy in Oman, and the US National Science Foundation i-Corps Program. Previously, Parker was a co-founder and CEO of, a digital media streaming service for SMBs. Parker has his background in mechanical engineering, including experience with Google X, Northrop Grumman, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and as a Faculty Instructor at Cal State Polytechnic University – Pomona. Parker received his M.S in Heat and Mass Transfer from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Sc.B. from Brown University in mechanical engineering.

Check out what happened


  • Sonia Gokhale


    Founding Partner

  • Vijay Tirathrai


    Managing Director

  • Patrick Rogers


    Co-Founder & CEO

  • Parker Wellls

    Element 16

    Founder & CEO


  • Ahmed Sheikh

    Startup Grind



Sage Middle East logo

Sage Middle East

STEP Group logo

STEP Group

Careeem logo


Delta Partners logo

Delta Partners

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Vision Fwd

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