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Entrepreneur Forum 2021

Entrepreneur Forum 2021
Entrepreneur Forum 2021
Entrepreneur Forum 2021
Hampton Roads Chamber held a panel discussion for our Entrepreneur Forum Event, held at Harbor Club in Waterside District.

“Entrepreneurs are cut from a different cloth.” Andy Hodge, Regional President & Head of Corporate Banking at Atlantic Union Bank kicked off the Entrepreneur Forum Event and was a panelist for this event.  Dean Jeff Tanner of Old Dominion University Strome College of Business acted as moderator. This is part of the Chamber Strome Business series. The Hampton Roads Chamber works as an inspiring ignitor partnering with the Strome College of Business to bring powerful economic partners as speakers.

          The panelist for the event represented various components of the Entrepreneur ecosystem.

-        Nancy Grden: Maritime Collaborative Director for Old Dominion University

-        Andy Hodge: Regional President & Head of Corporate Banking at Atlantic Union Bank

-        Kevin Leslie: Executive Director at Hampton Roads Biomedical Research

-        Aaz Mickens – Dessaso: Executive Director of Ecosystem Development at Hampton Roads- Techstars 

Leslie had an interesting emphasis on the biotech industry as more innovation was expressed that should be put into the learning process. “What a time to start focusing on biotech classrooms to help the water community initiatives.”

Dean Tanner raised questions about the existing involvement of corporate companies that act as the consumer. “Right now because the system is so liquidated, all companies call on the corporate companies as the corporate customers.” Nancy Grden also added that statement on the financial side; “Money may help, but money is not the only and total solution.”

Audience members asked questions about innovation, how much should be spent on entrepreneurship, and best utilization. Hodge expressed that the need for innovation is now and bigger than ever. “My goal is, especially with state funding, I want to make sure what we invest in is stuff that really will be around even if I disappear.”

 Mickens-Dessaso spoke on the relationship between entrepreneur founders and students in their thrive for innovation as well. “I believe the connection between founders and students should be much stronger.”

The 2021 Hampton Roads Chamber Entrepreneur of The Year is Pratik Kothari, the Founder & CEO of TechArk.

Pratik is the Founder & CEO of TechArk Solutions which was also this year’s Norfolk Small Business of the Year! TechArk is an award-winning mobile app and web development company. Based in Norfolk, VA - TechArk Solutions specializes in developing mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows platforms. TechArk also designs beautiful, mobile-friendly responsive WordPress websites and interactive marketing solutions.


Pratik expressed great advice and history on how entrepreneurship can be successful for any startup and a focus on how TechArk conducts business. “During the Gold Rush, the people who tried to find the gold didn’t make the money. It’s the people who sold the tools to find gold. Sell the tools, and that’s what we have been doing for 9 years; we’ve been very focused on selling the tools.”


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