GMS PhD Spotlight: Stamatios Liapis ‘24

Stamatios Liapis is a January 2024 Computational Neuroscience PhD graduate through the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. He is the co-founder of Enlaye, a cloud-based deep-collaboration contract platform that streamlines the writing, editing, negotiation, and collaboration phases of contracts. Liapis and his team won first place and $20,000 in the 2023 BU New Venture Competition through the BUild Lab. He successfully defended his thesis in August 2023.

Tell me about your journey to Boston University. Are you from the area?

I’m originally from the D.C. area, but right after I turned six, my parents and I moved to Paris, where I stayed until coming back to the United States to attend [the University of Pennsylvania] for undergrad. Both of my parents are also Greek, so I embody a mixture of French, Greek and American culture. It was while in France that I met my good friend and cofounder, Philippe Rival (Harvard Business School class of 2023), where we both attended a French school with an additional international component to it – the Lycée International de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

We drew inspiration from the name of our old school’s town to name Enlaye and remind us of our common roots. It also happens to mean “a forest path” in old French, signaling our intent to help guide our customers through their contracts via Enlaye. After my time in Philadelphia, I came to Boston to pursue my PhD.

What drew you to the computational neuroscience program at BU? 

Oddly enough, my journey to join BU’s Computational Neuroscience Program was launched by a disillusionment with philosophy. No matter how hard we may think about the nature of reality, we cannot escape our conscious experiences. Everything we experience around us is filtered and reconstructed by computations in the brain. That means that understanding those computations is our best chance at understanding reality itself. That little realization, along with a push from my undergraduate mentors, put me on this path.

BU’s Computational Neuroscience Program is a specialized track of sorts within the Graduate Program for Neuroscience (GPN) housed in GMS. Professor Eric Schwartz is actually credited for coining the term while he was part of the faculty at BU, so the school has a rich history of computational neuroscience. That being said, my main attraction to BU was the combination of a strong sense of community fostered by our program director and the incredible fit between my research interests and the amazing faculty here. No other program felt as welcoming or as exciting to join. The strong interdisciplinary and collaborative research landscape also really spoke to me. I strongly believe that paradigm shifting research is spurred by collaborations and the integration of ideas across various labs and disciplines. This is something I think is quite unique to the program here, and my experience as a PhD candidate has been wonderful thanks to that community.

Can you talk a bit about the research you’re doing in your program? Also, whose lab are you in and how far along are you in your PhD?

My work focuses on bridging the gap between human and artificial intelligence by trying to understand how the complex network of neurons in the human brain can solve problems we can’t train algorithms to solve. Fundamentally, humans are adept at flexibly balancing the ability to generalize and separate overlapping experiences. To form models of how the world around us operates, we sometimes need to draw inferences from the commonalities shared across our experiences while sometimes needing to separate similar experiences that we don’t wish to conflate. Take, for instance, learning the rules of two different card games. It may be the case that cards of a certain suit or color are high value cards in one game, but not in another. And yet, aces of any suit or color may always be high value cards in both games. This type of flexible learning is quite uniquely human.

All this information we learn must be represented somewhere in the brain. I use fMRI to probe how the geometry of those representations mediates the brain’s ability to perform the balancing act between generalization and separation. I do this work in Chantal Stern’s Cognitive Neuroimaging lab and Joseph McGuire’s Cognition and Decision lab, aided by a wonderful team of fellow students and collaborators across other labs at BU and beyond.

[Editor’s Note: Liapis defended his thesis in August 2023.]

Tell me a bit about Enlaye. Can you sum up what your company does? 

Enlaye is a cloud-based deep-collaboration contract platform that streamlines the writing, editing, negotiation, and collaboration phases of contracts, making reaching a deal faster, cheaper, and clearer for all enterprises. We take the manual, repetitive, and adversarial aspects out of reaching an agreement. We empower teams to both collaborate internally in the drafting of a deal and negotiate externally to sign that deal faster. We also offer a unique way to make understanding convoluted and intricate contracts much easier for everyone.

What is your company’s history? Where did the idea come from, when was it founded, and what growth have you seen thus far?

Philippe interacted with complex custom contracts for years when he worked as a civil engineer on large infrastructure projects. He witnessed first-hand how frustrating writing contracts and interpreting them can be and brought me on to help find a solution to this problem. While brainstorming, we kept finding similarities between how contracts work and my own research into the human brain, which is essentially one big network of interconnected nodes, much like a contract! The idea behind Enlaye was born and has grown quickly ever since. After winning the BU New Venture Competition, we onboarded our first team member over the spring and are preparing to raise a Seed Round of funding this fall.

Can you talk about the market need for Enlaye? 

If you’ve ever had to write, edit, understand, negotiate, renegotiate or obtain signoff for any contract, purchase order, or agreement, you’ve witnessed what a pain it can be. Add to that the need to go through in-house counsel, counterparties, or external law firms who send endless redlined Word files back and forth via email, and you’ve just pointed directly to the market need and huge pain that Enlaye is working to eliminate.

How does it feel to have won first place at the Innovate@BU New Venture Competition? If applicable, have you/your company won any other awards, attended any expos/conferences, etc.? 

We are very grateful to the judges and the team over at the BUild Lab for the opportunity to take part in the BU NVC and are both excited and motivated by the validation that wining such a competition represents. The problem space is large and ubiquitous, and Enlaye’s potential was clear and vibrant enough for the judges to favor our startup over five other great companies with equally interesting and additive ideas. We were even more energized by the fact that this is the first competition Enlaye ever entered!

Where do you see Enlaye going from here? 

We are spending the summer developing, building, and testing features for our pre-market product ahead of a launch later in the year. Our first target is focused on complex and intricate contracts in specialized fields for which no tools or solutions currently exist. However, the vision for Enlaye goes far beyond. Our mission is to make understanding all contracts easier for anyone who must deal with them and to streamline contract drafting, negotiation, and collaboration for all enterprises.

What are your goals in the computational neuroscience field? Do you see yourself staying in entrepreneurship?

I’ll always have a space in my heart for my research, but I am excited to take a full leap into entrepreneurship through Enlaye. I really believe in the vision and mission of my company. We’re not just trying to build something for ourselves; but, like my research, I see a real need for Enlaye in the world. So much money and time is wasted during the contracting process that truly hurts people. For instance, every minute wasted arguing over contract terms in the Green Line Extension project here in Boston was taxpayer money being wasted while postponing the extension. The way Enlaye relates back to my own research is also a lovely little cherry on top. If it is possible though, I think it would be wonderful to come back to academia and continue my research once Enlaye has made the changes it needs to radically transform the way we deal with contracts.

What do you like to for fun in Boston/what are your hobbies outside of your program and company? 

I absolutely adore cooking. I enjoy coming up with new dishes inspired by some of the wonderful meals I have experienced in my travels and by summers spent with my grandmothers (both stellar home cooks). I’m also an avid runner who loves running around all the most scenic parts of Boston (even if it’s freezing outside).