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Our Story

There’s no shortage of entrepreneurs whose success stories began among the halls of Harvard. Bill Gates dropped out after two years to start Microsoft. Ray Dalio launched Bridgewater at the end of his first year. Mark Zuckerberg coded the first version of Facebook from Kirkland House.

Our story begins a little differently.

Our founder, Garrett Burke, was not a restless student, but the Associate Director of Occupational Safety at the university for almost a decade. In this role, he was responsible for ensuring the safety of Harvard’s students, faculty, staff and partners during major construction projects and facility operations. 

With billions of dollars of projects underway and hundreds of contractors, suppliers, and vendors working around the Harvard campus, Garrett needed a way to assess and mitigate risk. He wasn’t satisfied with the archaic solutions for compliance and prequalification, so he designed an internal solution with the support of Harvard faculty and staff.

They built a platform that enabled contracting partners to do their best work. It allowed Harvard to engage each partner with intelligent assessments, collaborate together on risk mitigation plans, and review objective performance data to consistently learn and improve. And with his construction-industry colleagues always in mind, Garrett focused on building software that made the entire user experience and enrollment process simple for his partners. 

In 2008, at the request of the contracting community and with Harvard’s backing, Highwire was spun out as an independent company. 

In 2021, after a decade of bootstrapping Highwire, Garrett took on investment from Summit Partners, a $42 billion growth equity firm. As part of the investment, Summit introduced two new seasoned entrepreneurs and long-time business partners, Don Fornes and Austin Merritt. Together they serve as co-CEOs.

Garrett’s deep risk management expertise is perfectly complemented by Don and Austin’s backgrounds as successful software industry entrepreneurs. After making a few key additions to assemble a strong management team, they shifted their focus to charting a new course for the company’s future.

Now the world’s most admired companies, including Google, Skanska, and Merck are using Highwire to elevate partners and deliver projects on time, under budget, without compromising. 

Garrett Burke

Founder & DIRECTOR

Don Fornes

CHairman & CEO

Austin Merritt


Highwire is on a mission to elevate the entire industry, 
which has been our focus since we began at Harvard.

See it in Action
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