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Awni Hannun

AI Fund Fellow

A renowned scientist and researcher with experience across some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, Awni’s focus at AI Fund is helping new startups develop their technology.

“One of the reasons I love working with AI is because it’s a multidisciplinary tool and it can solve so many different problems. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for everything when used correctly. ”

“You need domain knowledge to be effective at solving problems with AI, but much less than you would need with traditional software. Which makes AI so amazing in how we can use it to solve so many different problems,” he says.  

He is especially passionate about growing and amplifying problem-driven approaches to leveraging AI. 

“A lot of my work in AI has been towards scaling it up. And it’s not so simple as just making the models bigger and using more hardware,” says Awni, noting that, “the algorithms and the architectures have to change and we have to take that scale and show that it’s useful for problems in a practical sense. This is a gap that we as research and entrepreneurial communities haven’t bridged yet and I’m really excited about the future progress here.”

Awni has pioneered AI applications with a special focus on speech recognition, for more than a decade at companies like Baidu, Facebook, and Zoom, as well as earning a doctorate from Stanford University. 

He worked with Andrew Ng at Baidu on the original Deep Speech project which popularized the concept of “end-to-end” speech recognition models. His work followed a similar vein at Facebook, where he built algorithms semi-supervised machine learning, understanding speech and audio, and also focused on methods for maintaining user data privacy. Most recently, he’s helped lead Zoom’s AI research and development group as a founding member.

Awni lives in California with his wife and two children, where he enjoys outdoor activities such as running, rock climbing, and skiing.


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