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.
  • As a returning student / team you can either extend your existing funding for a subsequent cohort (if you have remaining unused funds) or apply for additional funding. 
  • 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 will also participate in an interview, and may 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.

Fall 2017 Cohort Dates

  • Over $5K application dates
    • Applications opens: August 14, 2017
    • Application deadline: August 28, 2017
    • Interviews: September 7-8, 2017
    • Interim decisions / invitations to funding board go out: September 15, 2017
    • Funding board: October 5, 2017
    • Decisions go out: October 11, 2017
  • Under $5K application dates
    • Applications opens: September 18, 2017
    • Application deadline: September 29, 2017
    • Decisions go out: October 18, 2017
  • Cohort start date: November 1, 2017
  • Cohort end date: January 31, 2017


  • 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)
  • Interview (over $5K application only): 
    • Students / teams applying for over $5K will have to complete an in-person interview with a panel of Sandbox mentors who will ask questions and provide feedback. 
    • 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
  • 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. 

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

Award Rubric


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

  • Attend a kick-off session
  • Attend a mentoring session once a month (attendence 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 

  • 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.

Equity, IP, and Giving Back