Sandbox has three main funding groups. Under $5K and Over $5K are for new teams while Continuing is for teams who have previously received funding. The application process is slightly different for each one. Choose the appropriate category below to get started!
New Sandbox teams typically begin in the Under $5K group. This level of funding is intended for student teams that have an idea and require support in order to explore it. Starting in this group allows teams to get used to Sandbox, make use of the support offered, and to test out their concept in a safe environment. Funding is awarded with the belief that this project may have an educational benefit for the team members involved as well as the potential for personal growth. This group offers the unique opportunity for teams to find out what works and what doesn’t work for them. They may make changes to their original project, continue to grow it, or abandon it entirely based on what they learn while in Sandbox. Experimentation and failure are encouraged and students are welcome to apply with new ideas in the future. Below, see some demographics from the Under $5K group.
Every application cycle, Under $5K teams may request additional funding. The amount requested may keep them in the Under $5K group or advance them to the Over $5K. Many teams have taken either approach over the years. In the Under $5K group, teams are not expected to pitch to a Funding Board in order to receive funding, but they will be asked to pitch for Over $5K funding. For more information for Over $5K funding, click here.
Once part of Sandbox, teams have access to a host of support, including and perhaps most importantly, mentoring. In the Under $5K group, teams will be assigned a group mentor who will oversee their progress and whom they are expected to meet with regularly. Mentors are experienced professionals who are able to guide and challenge their teams and help them progress as quickly and efficiently as possible. Teams have almost always found their mentor’s insight and experience to be invaluable to them as they shape their own projects. Sandbox assigns mentors to each teams based on the needs of the team, such as a technical team with a more business-oriented mentor. Students may ask to change mentors if they feel it is not a good fit, although this is generally not a problem.
In the Under $5K group, mentors meet with multiple student teams in group mentoring sessions. This setup has been effective in that the entire group is able to provide feedback, and different teams are able to connect over common issues.
Sandbox also offers other resources, including Workshops on topics such as IP and . MIT has many resources for students, and Sandbox has endeavored to host workshops on topics not generally covered elsewhere. These Workshops are meant to complement the offerings at MIT and provide students with perspectives they would not otherwise have. Student teams are expected to attend at least 4 Workshops each semester.
In addition to Workshops, Sandbox will bring in experts in fields such as  for office hours. Teams may sign up for these hours on a first-come basis.
Sandbox also provides access to programs such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud to help teams manage their projects. Under $5K teams are…
Each semester, Sandbox will also hold several Info Sessions for students to hear and ask questions about Sandbox. These sessions are open to everyone and are often held at the end of each academic semester. Check out our Events page or our social media for the latest updates.
At Sandbox, the barrier to entry has been kept deliberately low to allow everyone at MIT to participate, regardless of the market value of their ideas. We want everyone to be able to innovate. All teams that apply will likely be awarded some level of funding unless their project does not meet Sandbox’s mission statement or the requirements below. (link to mission statement section).
All MIT degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for Sandbox
Each team must include at least one full-time MIT student in a leadership role, but non-student and non-MIT members are welcome to be part of a team. Postdocs do not count as students
All students participating must be in good academic standing
If a team has other sources of funding, their concurrent funding total must be under $50K. Teams must also disclose other sources of funding
Under $5K teams can apply for Sandbox funding using an online application. The applications include basic information about each team and will be reviewed by a group of specialized mentors who will determine the appropriate level of funding. Teams at this level of funding are not expected to pitch their ideas to a Mock Funding Board or Funding Board, although they will be asked to pitch if they wish to move into the over $5K group. Individuals may apply as part of more than one Under $5K Sandbox team, although they will be asked to focus on one group if they move into the over $5K group.
Sandbox has 3 application cycles every year: Spring, Summer and Fall. Below is the approximate timing of the 3 cycles. Applications for the Under $5K group take roughly one month to review and teams will be notified via email of the level of funding they have been awarded. They will also be given feedback on their idea. In some limited cases, students may be asked to come in for an interview prior to a funding decision being finalized.
Once accepted into the program, student teams will have access to Sandbox funding and resources. Each team is considered active for one Cohort, roughly 4 months at a time. Each cohort lines up roughly with the start and end of an academic semester.
chart for different application requirements
differences in Summer Cohort
Every semester, Sandbox provides roughly $2 million in funding to students to pay for expenses that will allow their teams to advance their projects. Sandbox funding is processed through reimbursements, and each team must keep appropriate documentation and receipts in order to receive funds. Active teams will be given access to a Dropbox folder for their team into which they may upload a coversheet of expenses along with the appropriate documentation. All reimbursements must also be approved in advance by the team’s mentor. Reimbursements are processed through MIT and expenses without proper documentation cannot be reimbursed. Reimbursed funds will be deposited in your account in ~2 weeks. Below is a brief summary of allowed and non-allowed expenses. Please note and plan to use Sandbox funding accordingly. More detailed information is also available in the Information For Teams section of the Sandbox website, which teams are given access to after becoming part of Sandbox.
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)
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
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.
Sandbox also offers free services such as access to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. For more information, click here.
We’re happy to work with all of our teams and try our best to be flexible around their needs. However, there are some expectations that come with being part of Sandbox.
Once part of a Sandbox Cohort, a team, or at least the MIT student in a leadership role, is required 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 the cohort
Take advantage of as many of the resources provided as possible
Sandbox exists to serve student interests, but we also appreciate when students give back to us. Sandbox does not take equity in student companies, but there is an expectation, not a requirement, that teams will make a pledge of cash or equity back to Sandbox and/or the organizations that supported them if their venture is successful. If teams 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. Teams that receive >$5K in funding will be asked to sign a pledge to give back, though this pledge is a personal choice and non-binding. Funding will not be conditional on a student signing a pledge.
Lastly, we would also appreciate if student teams credit Sandbox in any publicity they may receive. We are a growing program and eager to reach more students and one of the best ways to do this is for our teams to speak for us when they have a chance to do so. We thank you in advance for helping us to achieve our own goals!
Over $5K funding is meant for more advanced Sandbox teams. These teams usually have a plan for customer discovery, product design, and technology validation. They may also have completed preliminary market research and have proposals for a viable business model. The majority of Over $5K teams began in the Under $5K group and develop their ideas to be ready for this level of funding. However, new teams are welcome to apply at the Over $5K level if they feel they meet these requirements. There is no harm in applying. Even if a team is found to be not ready for Over $5K funding, they will likely be awarded Under $5K funding. Please keep in mind though that this makes more work for our team and reviewers and only apply for Over $5K if you truly believe it will benefit you.
New teams that apply for this level of funding will be asked to submit an online application and to pitch to a Mock Funding Board (MFB) and Funding Board (FB). These boards are comprised of investors and industry experts that will evaluate the team’s pitch and determine the appropriate amount of funding to award. Pitches to the MFB are a preliminary step to determine if a team is ready to pitch to the FB. These pitches usually involve a 5-minute presentation to 2-3 Mentors and then a 20-minute Q&A. The MFB will then evaluate each team and determine if they are ready to pitch to the FB. The MFB is typically held a month in advance of the true FB and student teams may sign up to pitch to the MFB. Experienced Over $5K teams may choose to pitch to the MFB while teams applying for Over $5K funding for the first time are required to pitch to the MFB.
If a team is selected to pitch to the FB, they must be present in-person on the date of the FB Meeting. More than one person can present, but the presenting team must include at least one MIT student. The format of the FB will be similar to that of the MFB. In terms of pitches, the Funding Board is interested in funding teams with a demonstrated commitment level, innovative/novel ideas, and the potential to learn the most from the funding/resources.
Continuing teams are those who have previously received Sandbox funding for the same project. Such teams include Under $5K teams, Over $5K teams, and Extend teams, which are teams looking to continue their involvement with Sandbox but are not requesting additional funding. In this group, a team is considered Under $5K cumulative funding is below $5K. For example, if a team has been given $1K one Cohort and then requests $2K the next Cohort, its cumulative funding is $3K and it remains in the under $5K group. If a team is given $2K one semester and is asking for $4K the next, its total funding is now $6K, which makes it an Over $5K team. Teams who have received funding one Cohort, taken some some off, and are reapplying are considered to be Continuing teams. The application process can again be broken down by level of funding and specific information is provided below.
Teams seeking <$5K in funding will be asked to fill out a questionnaire.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Try searching this page!