riva and grandma

Me & my Grandma, Istanbul, circa 1990.

From a young age I’ve been compelled by the idea of ensuring positive futures for current and future generations. My first two companies were child-focused: at the age of 19 I co-founded a London-based toyshop and kids’ club, and at the age of 21 I co-founded a children’s story-publishing app, based in Berlin. Following these, I held teaching positions at both the DAB and HTW Universities in Germany, lecturing on topics such as entrepreneurship and consumer psychology.

My academic background in Philosophy along with a deeper understanding of engineering that I was able to acquire in Berlin resulted in a paradigm shift in my views and goals. In 2012, I started the discussion group Berlin Singularity, with the initial roundtable held in my living room. After 18 months we had grown to 400 members, hosting events at universities and curating technology conferences. During that period, I began giving talks on the topics of life-extension and machine intelligence, including a speaking tour for Apple. Around this time I was part of the team that won the first European LinkedIn Hackathon.

While running and developing Berlin Singularity, I noticed how many deep-tech start-ups had issues with fundraising, and researched the wider market and financing gap. We spun out a consultancy group, Kardashev Tech, working with biotech start-ups to improve upon their business models and fundraising strategies in order to connect them with Seed or Series A funding. During this time, I presented several times on investing in emerging technology including at Oxford, Birkbeck and Stanford Universities. I am an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, which was founded by Nick Bostrom and James Hughes, as well as a Director of the Neuroethics Foundation, founded by David Pearce.

Over the last five years, my research has shifted towards investment structures, decision analysis, machine intelligence and tools that systematically advance science.  In 2014, I wrote a collection of essays on the topics of institutional investment, decision-making, and the potential impact of artificial intelligence.  Some of these ideas can be found in this Medium piece  ‘Finance: An Industry Based on Psychology’. In 2015, I spoke about the intersection of machine learning, predictive analytics and business in a global campaign for The Economist & Microsoft, risks and rewards of AI for Vanity Fair and Intelligence Squared and similarly at the Effective Altruism Global Summit.

I co-founded a new early-stage venture fund, Permutation Ventures, in 2015 to fill the need for a technically focused fund solely focusing on machine learning applications. Our goal is to help break out research to industry, focusing on the technical strength of applications and teams, whilst also working with other funds and groups to avoid AI hype. Our portfolio can be found on AngelList. The fund is named after one of my favorite books- Greg Egan’s sci-fi novel, Permutation City.  In 2017, I was a recipient of Forbes 30 under 30 for finance for my work at PV.

I try to balance both sides of my brain by writing, predominantly for Medium’s ‘The Mission’ and previously as a columnist for The European Magazine , Byline and The Idea List. For the last few years, I have been trying to finish a sci-fi novel of which I pre-released one chapter here. In my spare time, I enjoy long-distance running and working on a life-extension research project with my great friend Maria Konovalenko, currently at the Buck Institute for Aging, as well as the DJ and life-extension activist Steve Aoki.

We all suffer because of humanity’s innate myopia.  However, the systems that define us are complex. I’m growing to learn more about the systemic failures in the justice system by helping with San Quentin State Prison’s Financial Literacy course.  The opportunity to volunteer at San Quentin came through my much-missed friend Dan Fredinburg, who continues to impact my life every day.

If I have headphones in, I am most likely listening to the composer Max Richter or the kind of punk music that most people grow out of.