Program Structure

Sandbox provides up to $25K in cumulative funding.

  • Sandbox is structured into 3 cohorts per year (Spring, Summer, and Fall), and each cohort has an application associated with it.
  • As a new Sandbox student / team you can apply for any cohort. You can also be a one person team if you don't have team members yet. 
  • As a returning student / team you can apply to extend your existing funding for a subsequent cohort (if you have remaining unused funds) or apply for additional funding. In both cases you have to fill out an application.
  • The Fall and Spring application rounds are broken into two tracks with separate deadlines and slightly different processes.
    • Under $5K: you fill out an online application.
    • Over $5K: You fill out an online application, but you may also have to pitch your idea to our funding board which is made up of investors and industry experts. 
  • Summer applications are for up to $5K only, but team members can also apply for a summer living allowance of up to $4K per student and a max of $10K per team.
    • Only MIT students working on their project full time are eligible for a living allowance.
  • Sandbox awards up to $25K per idea. The application you qualify for (over or under $5K) is determined on a cumulative basis, for example:
    • If in cohort 1 you received $2K and are now applying for $4K, you are in the over $5K application.
    • If in cohort 1 you received $3K and are applying for $2K or less, you fall in the under $5K application.
  • The funding that you are given is distributed through reimbursements.
    • A reimbursement typically takes 2 weeks to process.

Spring 2018 Cohort Dates

  • Over $5K application dates
    • Info Sessions:
      • 12/11 1pm in TBD
      • 12/13 4pm in TBD
    • Applications opens: January 2, 2018
    • Application deadline: January 11, 2018
    • Interim decisions / invitations to mock funding board go out: January 29, 2018 (we will let you know if you are invited to the mock funding board)
    • Mock funding board: February 1 and 2, 2018 (attendance is mandatory as this is the last selection step before the funding board)
    • Funding board: February 9, 2018 (Acceptance is competitive as there is a fixed number of pitch slots)
    • Decisions go out: February 23, 2018
  • Under $5K application dates (including extending teams not applying for more money)
    • Info Sessions:
      • 1/22 1pm in TBD
      • 1/31 4pm in TBD
    • Applications opens: January 31, 2018
    • Application deadline: February 11, 2018
    • Decisions go out: March 1, 2018
  • Cohort start date: March 12, 2018
  • Cohort end date: June 29, 2018

If you are extending your Sandbox funding for another cohort, you still need to fill out an application, but it will be a shortened version. Also, please note that reviewers will not have access to any previous applications. 


Eligibility

  • Graduate and undergraduate students and teams that have a start up idea that they are working on or want to start working on are eligible to apply.
    • All business models are welcome, including non-profit and commercialization of MIT research (the latter needs approval from the TLO).
    • It does not include internships, charities, or research that you are not actively trying to commercialize.
  • Teams can have undergraduate or graduate students from any department at MIT, as well as non-student and non-MIT members.
  • A team must have at least one full-time MIT student in a leadership role.
    • For the Summer Cohort, students who graduate in June count as current students.
    • Post-docs do not count as students.
    • All students participating in the program have to be in good academic standing.
  • Teams must disclose other sources of funding.
    • You are still eligible for Sandbox as long as you your prior or concurrent funding totals under $50K.

Application Process

  • Submit an online application (click the apply button at the top right of this page) and provide: 
    • A clear description of the problem that your idea addresses
    • A clear description of the proposed solution 
    • A short description of your project that can be shared publicly 
    • A description of the team members and their skills
    • A high-level project plan, including milestones
    • A description of achievements to date
    • A budget plan showing how you will use your Sandbox funds (using this template)
  • Decisions will be sent by email and will include:
    • Feedback from reviewers
    • The awarded $ amount if the group decided to award you under $5K, or
    • An invitation to the funding board, along with the max amount that you are allowed to request
    • In some limited cases we may ask you to come in for an interview prior to making a decision
  • Funding Board (over $5K application only): 
    • If you are invited to the Funding Board meeting you will need to present your pitch deck
    • Presentations are 5 minutes with 10 minutes of questions
    • Decisions will be sent out with feedback and the $ amount awarded

Award Rubric

Whether you are exploring a new idea or are ready to seek outside investor funding, the Funding Board will assess your business proposals based on these criteria:

  • Project has educational potential for students: $1K-$25K
  • Students have identified a clearly defined problem: $1K-$25K
  • Team has a plan for customer discovery, product design, and technology validation: $5K-$25K
  • Team has completed preliminary market research and has proposals for a viable business model: $10K-$25K

Expectations

Once you become part of a Sandbox Cohort you will have to: 

  • Attend a kick-off session
  • Actively participate in a mentoring session once a month (attendance and participation at all mentoring sessions is mandatory)
  • Attend 4 workshops or an equivalent class
  • Submit a monthly status report and final report 
  • Attend a Funding Board showcase at the end of your cohort 
  • Take advantage of as many of the resources that we provide as you can 

To help you prepare a budget for your application, the guidelines for permitted use of funds is below.

  • Allowed Expenses (purchases must have been made after award notification):
    • Software licenses (if it can’t be obtained for free)
    • Hardware parts & materials
    • Conference fees if you are attending to meet with potential customers and conduct customer/market research (within reason – must be in the $200-$500 range)
    • Domestic travel
    • Market research expenses; expenses incurred (including meals and coffee/tea) to meet with prospective customers or subjects of market research
    • Service provider/developer fees (done by students at rates similar to UROP rates ~ $12/hour), up to 25% of the team’s budget
    • Legal fees, patent fees, and incorporation fees, up to $1000 total
  • Non-Allowed Expenses:
    • Gifts, alcohol, and items not directly related to the team project
    • Team dinners, meals, outings
    • Tax, including sales tax and franchise taxes
    • Personal computers or smart phones: MIT Sandbox will have a set to give out as loaners. If there are none available, those expenses will be covered, but students are expected to return those devices at the end of the funding period. We can work with you to provide AWS and Google Cloud credits, and they should be requested when computer resources are needed for the product development.
    • Education courses, MIT Ventureships, and non-Sandbox internships
    • Legal fees exceeding $1000. Patent filing fees are generally not covered. Provisional patent filing is covered. Sandbox offers access to free legal advice
    • Rent for housing. This should be covered by the summer living allowance, which you can only receive if you satisfy the requirements (see Sandbox Summer for details).
    • Coworking space rental. Work in your dorm room, an empty classroom, a common area. MIT is full of places to meet and work together. 
    • Uber, Lyft, or other private means of transportation. Teams should use public transportation in the local area. 
  • Outside Developers and Contractors
    • MIT Sandbox funds are not meant to be used to pay for outside developers or contractors for your team. We encourage you, if you need these services, to find someone with that expertise to join your team. Only up to 25% of your funds can be used for outside developers and contractors and this must be approved by your mentor in advance.

Use of Funds


Equity, IP, and Giving Back

  • MIT Sandbox does not take equity in student companies
    • There is an expectation, but no requirement, that participating students will make a pledge of cash or equity back to the MIT Sandbox Program and/or the organizations that have supported it if their venture is successful
    • If students elect to make a pledge it will come due only when their venture becomes a legal entity and raises its first round of equity funding from sources outside of Sandbox
  • Students and teams do not give up any rights to intellectual property (IP) through participation in the program
    • Sandbox provides legal expert advice to team to understand how use of other campus and non-campus resources may impact their IP
  • Funding for MIT Sandbox (and other programs) is possible because of the deep commitment of alumni and friends to MIT’s mission
    • Students who receive +$5K in funding will be asked to sign a pledge to give back to the Fund or MIT
    • This pledge to give back is a personal choice and not binding
    • Funding will not be conditional on a student signing a pledge.