Young entrepreneurs show off what they made in the "Sandbox"

Aug 16, 2012

Thirty-four teams got coaching from 115 mentors for three months in the Student Sandbox. Fifteen of those teams made it to Demo Day.

The Sandbox, a startup business accelerator for college students and recent graduates, wrapped up for the summer on Thursday.

Company founders presented their ideas and business platforms to a packed room of fellow startups and potential investors.

The program has ballooned in its four years of existence, part of a nation-wide focus on entrepreneurship on college campuses. The Sandbox started with just five teams and four mentors.

"What the university has done here with the Sandbox program is they’ve been able to [turn] concepts from kernels into sustainable, what I believe investable, businesses," said David Freschman, a venture capitalist and one of the judges for Demo Day.

The pitches did not go off without a few hitches. For UpFront, which aspires to eliminate wait time for customers at places like restaurants, it was trying to get the Mac computer to work with the projector.

For Little Tinker Co., which wants to connect the physical and digital world, it was the gum ball getting stuck in their machine.

"You gotta roll with the punches," Nick Mancini of UpFront said after his pitch.

But one bit of showmanship did work well. Full Circle Feed's founder Michael Amadori ate his product - a dog treat made from food scraps - and drew laughter and applause.

It was a mail-order, do-it-yourself craft kit that wowed the judges - which also included former Kauffman Foundation head Carl Schramm - the most. Craftistas founder Camille Malkiewicz won a $1,000 check.

The Sandbox housed the 34 teams for the summer and opened them up to resources and mentors to help the young entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. And sometimes it was about teaching the hard lessons.

"There are times when parts of your idea that you might love are kind of dead ends and you have to pivot and work around them," says Ross Lazerowitz, co-founder of Blue Arc Media. "It’s a long grueling process, but once you get past it and let go of an idea that you love, you make progress."

For most of the entrepreneurs-in-training, starting a company will go back to being a part-time job in a few weeks. The fall semester, classes and homework are just a few weeks away.