Ayan Ray

Computer Scientist

I began coding at 14, mainly to build websites for science projects and the various gaming clubs I was in.

In high school, I won the Computer Engineering awards in both my junior and senior year (97% and 100% grades respectively).

In college, I studied Information Technology, focusing on design, computer science, and business.

After graduating, I moved to San Franciso, first working at a design agency, then a mobile gaming startup, getting acquired, making my own startup, then working at Flickr during the Marissa Mayer era.

In 2017, I joined the AI startup Cogent Labs in Tokyo, working mostly on AI-powered systems and the digital transformation of Japan. With no background in AI, I studied AI every night, watching & reading anything I could find. I was hired as a Research Engineer, then became a Project Manager, then became an Engineering Manager, then the Head of R&D, and now the VP of R&D. I manage many teams with backgrounds from Research to Frontend to QA to TPM.

I hold a MSc in Software Engineering from the University of Oxford and an MBA.

My motto: There’s always something to learn and everyone has something to teach, as long as you stay humble, work hard, and listen attentively.

Career Highlights
  • In 2010, I created the visual and user experiences for the YouTube Play Exhibit at the Guggeinheim in NYC. I developed the user interfaces that were showcased on a 85-inch touchscreen TV and many 25-inch touchscreens.
  • In 2012, I worked at the gaming startup Funzio, which was acquired by GREE for $210M while I was there. I was a flash engineer for Kingdom Age and the first lead backend engineer for the game War of Nations. I setup the initial game architecture, sharding, and used TDD for all game logic. I also won a Hackathon.
  • In 2013, I created the social website builder Voxle.net, which powers OneUpMe.com (~30,000 users) and LMTMag.com (~10,000 users). Both were developed before, but incredibly slow, and I added several things like caching layers and a new database schema.
  • In 2014, I helped create Flickr's Camera Roll and Camera Roll Magic View. I made several significant performance improvements by removing unnecessary IO calls and cleaning up slow queries. I also fixed table de-normalization problems. I have a patent for my work on the Camera Roll.
  • In 2015, I was a part-time CTO for Scrumpt, which was #5 overall at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield.
  • In 2017, I joined Cogent Labs and was hired onto the research team, where I helped standardize datasets, create labeling tools, and execute model trainings. I then became a project manager for our flagship Tegaki (an AI-based handwriting OCR engine). I took over the backend engineering team, stabilized the website after years of challenges, and was eventually promoted to lead all of R&D (~30 people). In 2021, I became the VP and Executive of R&D, and have made several company-wide organizational changes.
  • I read about 20-30 books a year, on topics such as psychology, process management, strategy, finance, sociology, biographies, algorithms, and deep learning.

Personal Interests

I grew up in Canada and I was a fan of hockey and American football. In high school and college, I played on several competitive teams for soccer, volleyball, and badminton. I also practiced jiu-jitsu, wushu, and gymnastics.

I also really enjoy eating. I have been to at least 15 Michelin starred restaurants, including 3 Michelin 3 stars. I live in Tokyo, which has the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world.

I love watching movies. Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott are two of my favorite directors. I particularly enjoy watching action movies in IMAX.

Fun Facts
  • I have a Precision certificate from Porsche. I was trained to drive a Porsche GT3 RS2 (0~60 in 3 seconds, $500k sticker price). I was taught high speed maneuvering, entering a curve, lap lines, etc.
  • I have a motocycle license, though I have only used it in Philippines.
  • I passed my Japanese drivers license exam on my first try (pretty rare).
  • While at Oxford, I loved studying in Radcliffe Camera.
  • I took classes in Paris to learn to bake croissants.
  • I have been scuba diving only once, which was in Santorini, Greece.
  • I've been zip-lining several times, but the best was once in Quebec (60s+ zip lines).
  • I've flown first class and business class several times.
  • I've ran a few 5K races, but nothing longer.
  • I'm a huge fan of foosball and table tennis.
  • I've eaten a few times at a friend's house, who works at a M1 restaurant, which was also quite incredible.
  • I am a dual citizen (Canadian and American), and have Japanese permanent residency.
  • I was born in Boston, where my father worked after graduating from Harvard.
  • I am an avid stock investor. Currently, my IRR is around 40-50% since 2015.