Flybridge Unveils Scholarship Program to Help Students Network and Stay in MA

12/16/08Follow @bbuderi

Stay in MA logoMassachusetts is home to perhaps the world’s greatest concentration of top colleges and universities, many of them rich in the science and engineering education that forms the backbone of our high-tech economy. But one rap the Bay State has taken is that many graduates leave for jobs on the West Coast and other places rather than stay here, where they might join or even form companies and fuel economic growth.

One of the best ways to get students to stay in Massachusetts after graduation is to better connect them with ideas and job opportunities, local business proponents argue. One of the best ways for them to do that is to join industry associations or attend events where they can meet entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and company executives. There’s a catch, though: joining those organizations and attending those events often costs money—more than many students can afford.

These problems just got easier for students in the Boston area to handle. Today, Flybridge Capital Partners is announcing Stay in MA, a scholarship program that provides up to $100 per student per event for students to attend the events of business and technology organizations in the state. Funds can also be used to cover the costs of joining trade associations and other organizations. The program, initially funded with $5,000 from Flybridge, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students at any university or college. It has the initial backing—sure to grow—of six other companies and groups. Xconomy, which has since September been offering steep student discounts to all our events, is proud to be a charter participant in the program—and starting today all of our events are eligible for Stay in MA scholarships. Other charter participants include: the Massachusetts Network Communications Council, the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX), the New England Clean Energy Council, SEMNE (Search Engine Marketing New England), and TiE Boston.

“We’ve just been reading about the tragedy in Massachusetts of all this fantastic talent graduating out of the state, and that is the talent we need to fuel our innovation economy,” says Flybridge general partner Jeff Bussgang. “And one of the claims is that students don’t know where to plug into the business community.

“In this job environment in particular, no one’s going to get a job at a small company by sending out a blind resume,” Bussgang continues. “A student has to be in the mix, they have to be at the networking events, they have to show up.” But with tickets running $50, $100, and up, “it’s a real barrier” to attendance, especially if a student wants to attend several events a year, he says. The purpose of the new program, of course, is to eliminate or greatly reduce that barrier. “It’s about sending the signal to the student community, that the Massachusetts…business community really welcomes them, really wants them.”

To apply, students fill out a simple form, providing basic details such as their contact information, the name of the event, and a few sentences about why they’d like to attend. If accepted, Flybridge will buy them the ticket they seek.

One of the leading voices on the need to encourage students to stay in the Bay State is Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner—and Flybridge says his commentary played a role in its decision to launch the program. You can find one of his personal blogs on the subject here.

Bussgang also says that while Flybridge is putting up $5,000 to start, he hopes other firms step forth to contribute. “We’ll see how that plays out.” Hopefully the pot will grow—and quickly.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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