Bronner hatches idea

Michael Bronner, who founded marketing firm Digitas in 1980 as a discount coupon operation while he was an undergraduate at Boston University, has endowed an e-business development center at his alma mater.
Operating under the aegis of the university’s School of Management, the Michael Bronner e-Business Center and Hatchery will allow students to develop ideas under the supervision of faculty, executives and venture capitalists who, it is hoped, will provide funds to help the startups get off the ground.
Bronner has lined up several venture firms and investors, including Boston’s General Catalyst, to participate. Investors have agreed to make a gift to BU of 10 percent of all equity positions they might take in any of the student-launched ventures. David Fialkrow, a principal of General Catalyst, is chairman of the Hatchery’s investment committee.
The level of Bronner’s personal investment in the project is unknown. He received $123 million last year when he sold shares of Digitas to San Francisco’s Hellman & Friedman, though he remains chairman emeritus and a board member of the Boston agency, which has filed for an initial public offering. Bronner also will soon launch Lifetime, which he has described as an e-commerce venture with a strong social conscience.
–David Gianatasio