MBA Program: Stanford Graduate School of Business
Founding Student Names:
MBA Founder: Ian Cinnamon (MIT B.S. ’14, Stanford GSB MBA ’19)
Non MBA Co-Founders: Simanta Gautam (MIT B.S. ’17); Bruno Faviero (MIT B.S. ’15)
Brief Description of Solution: Every month, millions of people go through security checkpoint X-ray machines. These machines are becoming increasingly ubiquitous at schools, courthouses, office buildings, and airports. However, these machines rely solely on a human operator to interpret the image generated and determine if a bag contains a threat like a gun, knife, or explosive. Unfortunately, human screeners are not very effective.
At Synapse Technology, we build software to completely automate these X-ray machines. Our artificial intelligence platform integrates with existing X-ray machines, automatically identifying threats more quickly, more accurately, and with fewer false alarms than human operators.
Imagine a future where security checkpoints were quick and seamless, with nobody looking inside your bag invading your privacy. Everyone in the world deserves safety and security, and they can have that with Synapse Technology’s products (See CNBC segment).
Funding Dollars: $6.3 million dollars raised from investors including Founders Fund, 8VC, Village Global, and Neo.
What led you to launch this venture? During my undergraduate studies at MIT, I worked in a research laboratory where we studied the effects of large visual search tasks on the human brain. The research was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and we looked closely at the effectiveness of security X-ray operators. I quickly learned that despite how well-paid, well-trained, or alert a human operator is, staring at a security X-ray machine for hours is a task that is incredibly difficult for any human to achieve. After studying how these types of tasks affect the human brain, I knew I wanted to solve the problem with technology. When I saw artificial intelligence (AI) becoming a tool that was ubiquitous, cheap, and powerful enough to solve this problem, I decided to found Synapse Technology. Our goal is to build fully autonomous security scanning machines that use AI to automatically identify dangerous threats like guns and knives with a higher speed and accuracy than human beings can detect.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? My biggest accomplishment was being able to witness our small team come together for our very first installation. We managed to work with Narita International Airport (Tokyo’s major airport) to install a demonstration on some of their X-ray machines. Flying to Japan with our system, installing it, and seeing it work for the very first time made our entire team feel enormously accomplished.
I am so proud of our team—in a matter of just over a year, we were able to develop a solution that was installed in an operational environment, helping keep passengers safer and more secure.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? When I first started Synapse, it was just an idea for a technology. Going through Stanford GSB while I was growing Synapse let me take a step back and evaluate the idea not just as a useful innovation, but as a true business.
Now, I have a toolkit and lens I can look through when I evaluate opportunities and strategies for Synapse. Whether it be investment, product development, or growth, I feel like I have a better understanding of the business world to optimize for the strongest company growth possible.
Furthermore, I was able to participate in Stanford’s BASES Launch competition, where over $100,000 in prizes are awarded. It was an incredibly special moment for me when Synapse Technology won the 1st place grand prize in the competition.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My parents were truly the figures that motivated me to become an entrepreneur. They work together – they’re comedy writers and, as writers, they’ve effectively always been their own boss. From an early age, they encouraged me to carve my own path, follow a non-traditional route, and pursue my passions. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking the entrepreneurial leaps that I embarked on.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Entrepreneurial Finance was the most valuable MBA class I took. Taught by Robert Siegel and Shai Bernstein, the class focused on helping both investors and entrepreneurs understand the full 360-degree view of venture investing. Being able to deeply understand the incentives that drive the unit economics of the industry have allowed me to make more strategic decisions when it comes to the financing of Synapse.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? I see a future where security checkpoints are seamless, non-invasive, and ubiquitous throughout society. Unfortunately, we live in a world where threats will continue to grow and emerge. I want to see Synapse Technology building new, fully automated, high-speed non-intrusive security inspection systems that allow everyone to live in a safe and secure world. Imagine if every doorframe had an integrated AI-based “gun detector” where you knew everyone entering a bar, synagogue, airport, school, or concert was free of dangerous weapons. That’s the kind of future Synapse Technology enables.