Applied Symbolic Systems in VC + Entrepreneurship

A weekly seminar mapping key trends in computational frameworks towards entrepreneurship and venture capital.


Zavain Dar | @zavaindar

Zavain is a Principal at Lux investing in and collaborating alongside passionate entrepreneurs building paradigm-shifting technologies to disrupt and engage large and greenfield markets. He manages investments in Recursion Pharma, Clarifai, a stealth genetics company, a stealth Artificial Intelligence company, and Tempo Automation. He's also an active angel in Zymergen, and Tala. Zavain's interests lie broadly at the intersection of bits, atoms, and intelligence.

Previously, as an investor at Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors, he led or co-led numerous early stage investments including early rounds in Zymergen, HumanAPI, and BlockStream. Zavain led the firm's theses in Genetics, Synthetic Biology, and Bitcoin.

Prior to Innovation Endeavors Zavain was an early engineer at Discovery Engine, a next generation keyword search engine ultimately acquired by Twitter. There he engineered Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms across a proprietary distributed systems framework to build web scale ranking algorithms. He was also a founder of Fountainhop, one of the first hyper-local social networks.

Zavain attended Stanford University where he holds a B.S. in Symbolic Systems (emphasis in Mathematical Logic) and an M.S. in Computer Science (emphasis in AI and Theory). While in graduate school Zavain researched in Stanford's AI Lab through which he co-chaired the 2012 General Game Playing Championship at IJCAI in Barcelona. He is currently a Lecturer at Stanford, recently teaching courses in Cryptocurrencies and another in Venture Capital, Philosophy, and Artificial Intelligence. A huge sports fan, Zavain enjoys watching his favorite local teams and advises the Philadelphia 76ers in Moneyball and Data strategy.

Nan Li | @nanli

Nan is a Principal at Obvious Ventures where he focuses on applying technology to systemic challenges. He is passionate about disciplined investing rooted in technological insight and business fundamentals. He has been a venture investor/advisor for the past 5 years and is excited to help companies with significant technological assets commercialize and go to market.

Prior to joining OV, Nan managed early stage investments for Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors where he led investments in Zymergen, Estimote, Blue River Technology, Planet Labs, Course Hero, and HumanAPI. He authored and invested behind the firm’s theses in Retail Technology, Supply Chain Logistics, and Manufacturing Automation.

Prior to Innovation Endeavors, Nan was Head of Product, Operations, and Finance at Gigwalk - a mobile crowdsourced data and analytics company funded by Greylock Partners and August Capital. There he hired, scaled, and managed sales, operations, customer support, product development, and financial planning. Prior to Gigwalk, Nan was a Venture Capitalist at Bain Capital Ventures - a longstanding venture firm founded in 1984 with $2B+ currently under management. He was a part of a small team that lead early stage investing for BCV. Earlier in his career, Nan was a management consultant at Bain & Company as well as a product manager at Microsoft.

Nan holds a B.S.E. in Computer Science Engineering from the University of Michigan, where he was President of the engineering honors society. He has been an entrepreneurial advisor to Harvard Business School, MIT Media Lab, Techstars, the MassChallenge accelerator. Nan grew up in Detroit after emigrating from China. He enjoys music, photography, culture, puzzles, all Detroit sports, and general nerdom.