A New Type of Explorer

Pranav Pawar shares how the MSAI program prepared him for his summer internship with Bain Capital Ventures and applying machine learning to identify worthwhile startups for investment.

When Pranav Pawar (MSAI '23) talks about his recent internship experience, it’s easy to see him as a bold wilderness explorer working his way through unknown territory in search of valuable new discoveries. 

But the uncharted territory Pawar explored had nothing to do with the great outdoors and everything to do with the wilderness that is the new landscape of artificial intelligence (AI).  

Pranav PawarPawar is a student in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence (MSAI) program. This summer, he served as the first machine learning engineer ever hired at Bain Capital Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Boston-based private investment firm Bain Capital.  

Pawar’s job was to use data to teach machine learning (ML) models to identify worthwhile startups for investment and to use those same technologies to find venture capitalists right for the opportunity.  

“Being the first ML engineer hire, my role was both comprehensive and pioneering,” Pawar said. “It's like venturing into uncharted territory. The satisfaction of finding effective solutions is unparalleled.”  

The MSAI program was instrumental in setting up Pawar for summer success, including three courses he felt provided him with an extra boost for his internship.  

The first two – Machine Learning and Deep Learning – are taught by Professor David Demeter. The third involved the research Pawar did for two quarters under the guidance of Professor Bryan Pardo.  

Pawar applied the lessons from those opportunities and his other MSAI experiences to what proved to be a valuable internship with Bain Capital Ventures. His work included building the firm's first ML models and AI toolkit library, which involved creating data pipelines, training machine learning models, and deploying his work.  

During his time with the company, he helped construct an ML model to identify high-potential founders of startup companies and developed applications utilizing generative AI.  

“These applications have since become an integral part of their daily VC operations, further demonstrating the transformative power of AI in the venture capital landscape,” Pawar said. “I'm thrilled by the level of responsibility I was given.” 

Pawar said the most exciting part of the internship was that his work had a tangible impact for such a high-profile company. Bain Capital Ventures has approximately $10 billion of assets under management worldwide.  

“The models I'm developing will augment investment strategies, resulting in funding promising tech startups that help transform the world,” he said. “That is incredibly rewarding.” 

Pawar plans to leverage his summer experience and the lessons he has learned through the MSAI program to accelerate his career path. He is excited to return to Bain Capital Ventures full-time in January as an AI engineer.  

Pawar said the MSAI program has given him exactly what he needs to boost his success.  

“If you're seeking a perfect blend of theory and practice, MSAI is one of the best programs out there,” he said. “It offers a comprehensive learning experience that effectively combines these two aspects.”

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