Ian Akash Morrison ’13

Ian Akash Morrison

Founder and Managing Partner, Optio Ventures
CEO and Co-Founder, Avesta76 Therapeutics
BS 2013, Rice University

ARA Board term ends: 2024

Get to Know Ian

Executive Biography

Ian Akash Morrison (Will Rice ’13) is an entrepreneur with a background in finance and engineering. He is the founder and managing partner of Optio Ventures, a boutique advisory and venture firm that helps founders launch and raise capital for early-stage startups across various industries, with a primary focus on healthcare, and also serves as CEO and co-founder of Avesta76 Therapeutics, a biotech startup focused on developing new treatments for multiple cancer indications.

With deal volume experience exceeding $10 billion across a diverse set of transaction types, Morrison has a decade of experience working both with startups and in finance as an entrepreneur, strategic advisor and investor.

At Rice, he studied electrical engineering and participated in various club sports and Will Rice College student government. In 2012 and 2013, he co-founded the OwlSpark accelerator, alongside fellow students Vivas Kumar ’14, Veronica Saron ’14 and Darren Clifford ’13 under the guidance of Bryan Guido Hassin ’01 ’02, who was teaching an entrepreneurship course at the time. From 2016-20, Morrison served on the Rice Engineering Alumni Board of Directors.

Morrison enjoys attending both local and virtual Rice alumni events, working out and running, playing his guitar and violin, playing golf and tennis, and surfing and hiking in the waters and hills around sunny Los Angeles, California, where he resides.

What part of serving on the ARA Board are you most excited about?

During my time on the Rice Engineering Alumni Board, I was able to see the real, tangible impact possible through financial support of various special projects, scholarships and grants that we helped raise money for and direct toward the George R. Brown School of Engineering. Being a part of that process was inspiring because I had the opportunity to see what amazing projects and technologies our talented students and faculty were working on, while also being able to support these efforts directly. I am excited to serve on the ARA board to expand that impact beyond solely the engineering school and to be connected to the broader university and give back in that way.

Beyond that, simply being connected to my fellow alumni, the administrators continually striving to make Rice a better place, and the high intellectual energy and breakthrough research done at Rice is incredibly exciting to me!

What is your favorite “Only at Rice” memory or story?

Sitting down in a room in front of President Leebron at the age of 21 and presenting OwlSpark, which at the time was simply our crazy idea for a startup accelerator, and having him actually take us seriously is my favorite memory of my time at Rice. I remember we’d raised specifically $88,700 in support for the program from a local Houston-area non-profit, and that was a catalyst for Rice helping launch and run the program. Rice is a place where student ideas are supported in a truly special way by faculty and the administration. Other than that, I was the final crash of 11 crashes in the men’s race during Beer Bike in 2011…I took down a judge, and the race was converted shortly thereafter into “Beer Run” due to the wind, but the judge ended up being okay and turned out to be a college associate at Will Rice whom I shared a beer with every year thereafter!

If you could give one piece of advice to Rice students, what would it be?

Take advantage of as much as you possibly can while you’re at Rice, because four years fly by — seriously, drink it all in. Get involved and explore anything that interests you, from clubs to student government to sports. Those are the memories you’ll take with you when you graduate.

On the academic side, there’s really one thing I wish I’d actually done: GO TO OFFICE HOURS! And quite possibly a close second would be to dive into research with professors because they are truly world class. In my life now, as an entrepreneur, often supporting commercialization of university research, I work alongside professors day-to-day and I am acutely aware of their time limitations and research accomplishments, which makes it all the more impressive that Rice professors make time and are so dedicated to undergraduate students at Rice through office hours and welcoming students to do research alongside them.