Highland Program Offers No-Strings Stipends to Student Entrepreneurs

With the departure of Paul Graham’s Y Combinator startup school, Boston-area entrepreneurs have one less local source for seed funding and mentorship. With the advent of a Boston clone of Boulder, CO-based TechStars, they have one more—so things have evened out. But Highland Capital Partners‘ “[email protected]” program has been a constant in the area throughout those transitions. And the venture firm said this week it’s accepting applications for the third iteration of the program, which matches university-affiliated entrepreneurs with access to stipend money, partners at Highland, and work space in Lexington, MA or Menlo Park, CA.

According to Michael Gaiss, a senior vice president at Highland, the company is looking for student entrepreneurs (or small teams of them) with business ideas in the areas of advanced materials and semiconductors, cleantech, digital media, information and communication technology, and life sciences. The program is open to undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and recent graduates. As usual, Highland will lean toward applicants whose ideas address big markets with disruptive products or services. But this year, more than in past years, the firm will be looking for applicants who have already achieved some momentum in their industries or markets, Gaiss says.

Highland provides the individual entrepreneurs it selects with stipends of $7,500; teams can receive up to $15,000. Unlike TechStars or Y Combinator, Highland doesn’t require that participating teams hand over equity in their companies in return for the stipend. But if Highland likes what it sees, there might just be some capital available for outstanding teams. To quote from a notice Gaiss sent out today: “Advanced initiatives/companies may qualify for seed financing and/or additional involvement by the Highland team to help accelerate company growth.”

Applications for the [email protected] program are due April 9. Details and application materials are online at www.hcp.com/summer.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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