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.

Fall 2017 Cohort Dates

  • Over $5K application dates
    • Applications opens: August 14, 2017
    • Application deadline: August 28, 2017
    • Interim decisions / invitations to mock funding board go out: September 15, 2017 (we will let you know if you are invited to the mock funding board)
    • Mock funding board: September 23-27 (attendance is mandatory as this is the last selection step before the funding board)
    • Funding board: October 5, 2017 (Acceptance is competative as there is a fixed nunmber of pitch slots)
    • Decisions go out: October 13, 2017
  • Under $5K application dates (including extending teams not applying for more money)
    • Info Sessions:
      • 9/11 4pm in 1-214
      • 9/13 1pm in 1-214
    • Applications opens: September 18, 2017
    • Application deadline: September 29, 2017
    • Decisions go out: October 20, 2017
  • Cohort start date: November 1, 2017
  • Cohort end date: January 31, 2017

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. 


  • 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


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 

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.