Zavain is enthralled by the power of data and its counterpart, intelligence. He invests in companies that are using machine learning and AI to augment or replace physical-world functions including biology, language, manufacturing and analysis.
Zavain has led Lux’s investments in Primer, a stealth machine intelligence startup; Clarifai, which combines machine intelligence and image recognition; Capella, which is developing novel medicines based on computational insight applied to genomic data; Recursion which uses automation and Deep Learning to develop drugs for rare diseases; and Tempo Automation, which applies software and automation to electronics manufacturing.
Previously Zavain was an investor at Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. There he sourced and led the firm’s investments in early stage technology companies including Zymergen and BlockStream. Zavain drafted the firm’s theses in Genetics, Synthetic Biology, and the Blockchain.
Prior to VC, Zavain was a founder and computer scientist. At Discovery Engine (acquired by Twitter), he engineered machine learning and AI systems across a proprietary distributed computing framework to build web scale-ranking algorithms. Zavain was also a cofounder of Fountainhop, one of the first hyper-local social networks.
Zavain holds a BS in symbolic systems and an MS in computer science from Stanford where he was a researcher in Stanford’s AI Lab. He is currently a Lecturer at Stanford and has taught quarter long seminars in Cryptocurrencies, Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy, and Venture Capital. Current course notes can be found here.
What was your first paying job?
Selling solar panels door to door in high school. Nothing like getting chased by dogs, yelled at by annoyed home-bodies, and invited in for snacks and drinks by total strangers.
What was it like growing up?
My mom raised me and my sister. She was a graduate student working on a Master’s in CS at Cal Berkeley, where she then did a PhD in Feminist Studies. She instilled in me an insatiable curiosity, love of learning, and desire to fight for social justice and the underdog.
Advises the Philadelphia 76ers in moneyball and data strategy
Co-chaired 2012 Game Playing Championship at International Joint Conference on AI in Barcelona
Disenchanted Philosophy graduate school dropout