Durham Inspired: Live in Lockdown
Fuelling Innovation: Start-up Success in a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Thursday 15 October 2020, 6pm (BST) 



Covid-19 has created huge and unprecedented changes to the way we work across all industries, roles and sectors, impacting companies big and small alike. This interactive panel discussion will examine the required 'fuel' for innovation. It brings together a range of start-up founders and entrepreneurial minds from across the globe to discuss the adaptations required for a successful start-up and a successful business in 2020. It will explore both the challenges and opportunities present in attracting, retaining, and developing diverse teams in the creation of new companies, products, and initiatives. This event is open to Durham alumni, students, staff and friends. 

This event is free to attend and will take place on Zoom.

Click the Booking tab to secure your place on this event today.

Expert Panellists


Jon Vlassopulos – BA Chinese, Korean & Management, Van Mildert, 1997

Jon Vlassopulos is the Global Head of Music at Roblox, a successful online gaming platform that allows users to program games and play those created by others.

Before starting his new role, Jon was also Founder and CEO of Tribalist, a company described by the Sunday Times as a ‘rival to Pinterest’. Prior to this he has also led several award-winning start-ups and enjoyed a varied career building innovative entertainment products and experiences for Fortune 500 brands. He is also the Managing Partner of A-Force Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in consumer start-ups with a focus on female founders.

Jon completed his undergraduate degree at Durham University, majoring in Chinese and Economics with a minor in Korean.  He currently lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children and is an active volunteer for Durham’s North American Development Board.


Priya Guha - University of Cambridge, 1996


Priya is a Venture Partner at Merian Ventures, investing in women-led innovation, a Member of the Innovate UK Council, NED at the Digital Catapult and Adjunct Faculty at the Ashridge Hult Business School. She was previously G M for RocketSpace, launching their UK operations.
Priya used to be a career diplomat, most recently as British Consul General to San Francisco and previously in India and Spain. She is on the Althea Foundation Board, the Tech London Advocates Advisory Board and London Tech Week Advisory Committee. She also Chairs the Board of Trustees of Modern Muse and is an Advisor to The Youth Group.

Priya was named in the 2019 Top 50 Most Influential Women in Technology and Top 5 Asian Investors in UK Tech.

Iynna Halilou


Iynna Halilou, BA International Relations, Van Mildert, 2013

After acquiring experience in the international organisations/government space at the United Nations, Iynna found her truest passion in entrepreneurship and its interplay with tech and social impact. She returned to her home country of Cameroon to start a sanitation venture whose mission was to provide access to toilets to the 1M individuals in marginalised communities in the city of Douala. Iynna later returned to New York where she continued her entrepreneurial and tech career managing operations for a startup that provides STEM and entrepreneurship education to local underrepresented underserved minorities. She combined her social business and entrepreneurial expertise to manage Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ digital global accelerator - to support the growth of social ventures across the world.

Currently, Iynna is the Global Programs Manager at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, New York’s largest early-stage startup accelerator and seed VC fund. She is responsible for building partnerships with global startup ecosystems; identifying investment opportunities globally; creating and running US market entry acceleration relevant for the startups.

Iynna holds a Master in International Affairs, specialising in International Development from NYU and a Bachelor in International Relations and Spanish from Durham University.

Mahek Vara


Mahek Vara, BSc Natural Sciences, College of St Hild & St Bede, 2021

Mahek Vara is the award-winning Founder of Code Camp, a charity she founded at age 16 which now works with thousands of children across the world to help them to develop essential coding skills.

Mahek’s work has been recognised by former Prime Minister Theresa May and current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and her accomplishments have been featured across a variety of news and media channels worldwide. She has also previously been invited as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar, and has recently become an advisor on the Steering Committee of the BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mahek is currently undertaking the final year of her Natural Sciences degree at Durham University, during which she is also acting as Co-President for student entrepreneurial society, Entrepreneurs Durham.

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15 October 2020 at 18:00

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