Seminar, Symsys 161: Applied Symbolic Systems in Venture and Entrepreneurship

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2 Units, Thursdays, 12:30AM – 1:20PM



A weekly seminar allowing students the opportunity to discuss and explore applied Symbolic Systems in Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Venture Capital. We will explore popular conventions and trends vis-a-vis the lens of numerous deductive and applied Symbolic Systems. The course explores disparate models to interrogate trends in Artificial Intelligence, technology in Silicon Valley, associated economic cycles, and Venture Capital theses.


  1. Platonic Realism to Data Nihilism: Overview of shift from a deductive, parameterized approach to Bayesian, statistical view. Give examples of each type of approach (2 weeks)
  2. Modeling Silicon Valley: The last 10 years have come full cycle in Silicon Valley. In a time period that encapsulates Sequoia’s ‘RIP Good Times’ letter in 2008, to the unprecedented rise in ‘Unicorns’ and record amounts of Venture funding, there is plenty to be reviewed and discussed. What are key drivers, how much can technology alone explain this, and how can we model not only for the past and present, but also the future? (2 weeks)
  3. Model Building in Venture Capital: This dual approach to problem solving can be applied to the investment process itself. Introduce and establish an array of investment frameworks (2 weeks)
  4. Case Studies: Evaluate select tech startups through the presented frameworks
  5. Big Data and Investment Nihilism: Apply observations from first quarter of seminar to the venture model itself. What are the implications here, what holds, what breaks? (2 weeks)


Instructors: Two active VCs with a background in CS - Zavain Dar of Lux Capital and Nan Li of Obvious Ventures