Almost thirty years ago David Yan conceived the idea of digitizing a paper dictionary, in the 2000s he got involved in the restaurant business, and now he spends most of his time on a startup working with artificial intelligence

David Yan #174 is a shining example that not only a hardcore geek can understand complex scientific topics and create high-tech products, but also a charmingly sociable person. He keeps in touch both with his colleagues who launched IT companies in the 90s (for example, Arkady Volozhy, the founder of Yandex #64) and with new acquaintances, and thanks to this he regularly gets involved in new businesses, up to the restaurant business.

Yang was born and grew up in Yerevan, but when it was time to go to college, he chose the MIPT in Dolgoprudny. Despite his specialization in physics and mathematics, this institution has given Russia many famous businessmen. Ian started his own business when he was still a fourth year student: he founded BIT Software in 1989. The idea was simple: to convert a big, inconvenient paper dictionary onto floppy disks so that you could quickly find word translations on your computer. Jan recalled that the hired help had forgotten one letter while typing the words in the dictionary and then had to sleep nights to finish the pairs of words.

In 1997, the organization was renamed ABBYY. By this time, it was already known for two of its products: the ABBYY Lingvo electronic dictionary and the ABBYY FineReader image recognition program, which turned Jan into an international company. FineReader became so well known in the world that it was used by Intel to demonstrate its new processors.

Optical character recognition became the topic of David Yang’s dissertation, and the use of artificial intelligence technologies for its realization allowed to find the next niche for business. Compreno technology allows to understand texts, which is actively used to facilitate document flow. At the moment, the ABBYY group has offices in 16 countries and employs over 1,250 people. Yan’s share in it forms the basis of his fortune, and the company’s rapid growth has earned him a place on the Russian Forbes list.

Alongside his work at ABBYY, Yan launched several other projects. In 2004 he became interested in restaurant and club business, his latest projects being the bar “Ferrain” on Bolshaya Polyanka. Now Ian is devoting most of his time to his startup Findo, a search service using artificial intelligence on the user’s personal files and documents. In July 2016 Findo raised $4 million (total investment reached $7 million). Despite the modest size of the business, David Yang believes that 2017 was a key year for the development of artificial intelligence technology. While AI systems are technically 100,000 times dumber than humans, by 2030-2040 they will be comparable in capability to the human brain.