Synapse Boston 2023 by Katie Dahlen

On Friday, April 21, 2023, we had the opportunity to host Synapse Boston, a trip that had not taken place since 2018. Our day started at 8:45 AM at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, where we all gathered. We then boarded the 9:15 AM train to the Back Bay station, where we were greeted by Mike Cummins, the CEO of Percy, a Boston-based recruiting automation platform that leverages artificial intelligence to help companies find and hire top talent. Percy’s clients range from startups to large enterprises, and the company has raised several million dollars in funding from investors. Mike, who is a Brown Class ‘08 alumnus, has a background in education and shared his passion for teaching entrepreneurship to students with us. After getting to know each one of us, we discussed current AI trends, future predictions for job markets with the increasing use of AI, renewable energy, and solutions to environmental issues. Mike emphasized the benefits of working for a startup and being heavily involved in its success. His kindness and passion were an inspiration to all of us.

Next, we walked to Maggiano’s Little Italy, where we had lunch with both Mike and Ben Karlin, co-founder and director of Q Mixers, and a Brown Class of ‘98 alumnus. Q Mixers is a premium mixer brand that enhances the flavors of spirits and cocktails. Unlike conventional mixers, which are often made with artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup, Q Mixers are made with high-quality ingredients such as agave, ginger, and citrus. Ben shared the story of how Q Mixers became such a successful company, earning over 100 million in sales annually. He talked about the challenges he faced during the company’s development, the ins and outs of manufacturing, and current trends in the beverage industry. Ben’s main message was about redefining risk and pursuing your passions, even if others discourage you. He encouraged us to break out of the mold and follow our dreams, despite societal expectations.

Our last stop of the day was at Veson Nautical, a Boston-based company with offices in Japan, Singapore, London, and Houston. John Veson, a Brown Class of ‘96 alumnus and CEO of Veson Nautical, gave us a tour of their office and explained how they use technology to increase the efficiency and sustainability of freight voyages. Veson Nautical’s platform helps shipping companies plan their trips, manage their finances, and monitor their voyages. They have around 350 clients worldwide, including various shipping companies and workers in the maritime industry. One interesting technology they have developed measures emissions and the amount of time ships spend in restricted areas for wildlife protection. This software helps companies reduce the costs of emissions and operate more sustainably. John’s advice to us was not to be afraid to make mistakes or take unexpected paths, just like a boat on a voyage.

Overall, we had an informative and inspiring day, learning from successful entrepreneurs and traveling through Boston. We are looking forward to hosting more Synapse trips in the near future!