Zavain is driven by smart software, leveraging data and machine intelligence to scale, augment, and balance human 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. He looks for entrepreneurs that can use software and data to hone a philosophical position on where the world is, and how to direct it for the better.
Zavain has led Lux’s investments in Primer, a machine intelligence startup; Clarifai, which democratizes cutting edge deep neural networks; Auransa, 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; Tempo Automation, which applies software and automation to electronics manufacturing; Rigetti Computing, which is fabricating some of the fastest quantum chips in the world; Braid, which is bringing AI to medical diagnostics; Visor, which aims to simplify tax preparation; Computable Labs, which is building a decentralized data marketplace; Blockstack, which builds architectures to decentralize current winner-take-all centralized web components; Runway, which is putting machine learning tools into the hands of creators; LabGenius, a protein drug discovery company; Hugging Face, an open-source company democratizing Natural Language Processing; and Thrive Earlier Detection, an early cancer detection company that Exact Sciences agreed to acquire for $2.15 billion in 2020.
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