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Highland Capital puts an end, at least temporarily, to its summer program for young entrepreneurs

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 19, 2010 06:04 PM

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The Summer@Highland program, which aims to help undergrad and MBA students get a start-up off the ground, won't take place this summer, according to Michael Gaiss, senior vice president of marketing at Lexington's Highland Capital Partners. Gaiss describes the change as a "hiatus," implying that the program could return at some future date.

"The firm has got other priorities right now," Gaiss told me on Friday. "We just have a finite amount of time and energy."

For the past three summers, the venture firm has invited teams of student entrepreneurs to work out of its Massachusetts and California offices, while getting advice and guidance from Highland's partners (who include Staples founder Tom Stemberg) and the experienced entrepreneurs in the Highland network. 

Gaiss says that five of the teams managed to raise money after the program, including Affine Systems in San Francisco and Paragon Lake of Lexington, which raised money from Highland itself. Wildfire Interactive of Palo Alto raised money from Facebook's fbfund in 2008. 

"It has been a great program," says Matt Lauzon, co-founder of Paragon Lake, a customized jewelry start-up that still operates out of the office space Highland has used for the Summer@Highland program. "Everyone I've talked to has found it valuable." Without the program, Lauzon says his company probably would've moved out to Los Angeles, where his co-founder had connections in the jewelry industry. "It was that program and meeting [Highland partner] Bob Davis that kept us here," says Lauzon, who participated in Summer@Highland in 2007, its first year. (I wrote about Paragon Lake and the program back in 2008.)

Last summer, Lauzon helped mentor the latest crop of Summer@Highland participants.

In a notice posted today to Highland's site, the firm explains, "We will review the program again at the end of this calendar year for next summer and keep you updated." Last November, Highland announced it had raised its eighth venture fund (totaling $400 million), which was half the size of the fund prior.

Business Week wrote this piece about the program in 2008.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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