IHS Announces Student Sandbox Program

Innovative summer program to “hire” student entrepreneurs to pursue ventures full-time

BUFFALO, NY – WNY Innovation Hot Spot, a consortium of the region’s business incubators, today announced Buffalo Student Sandbox, a summer accelerator for scalable, disruptive ventures led by college and graduate students.  The nine week accelerator, running from June 1 – July 31, 2015,  will select promising teams of student entrepreneurs, provide them with seed funding, stipends, and mentors as they compete for cash prizes at the end of the program. 

Teams of applicants, which must be led by a student or recent graduate, will be evaluated based on their application, interviews, and overall commercial potential of their venture.  Selected teams will complete an intense summer program focused on product development and input from potential customers. 

Buffalo Student Sandbox is modeled after the Syracuse Student Sandbox which was conceived in 2009 and counts several WNY stakeholders as mentors.  The Syracuse program has grown to include more than 30 teams each year. 

The program will be administered by the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), hosted by BNMC Inc.’s Ignite business development program in the dig co-working space at the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center, and include a customized version of the UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Startup CEL course.  Student Founders will spend their days working independently on their ventures, but will also benefit from the structure of the Startup CEL course, receive help from mentors, and participate in social and business events.  At several milestones throughout the program, teams will compete for additional resources to be used for the development of their businesses.  Participants are required to treat Student Sandbox as their primary commitment during the program. 

Organizers will seek applicants from the region’s colleges and universities, as well as programs including Startup Weekend and Student 2 Biz, a business plan competition facilitated by the WNY College Connection. 

“This is not an academic exercise, but rather an opportunity for students to experience the entrepreneurial process in real time,” said Tom Ulbrich, executive director of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “There are no tests, grades or homework for these founders, and we will expect great things from them.”

For Vic Nole, director of business development for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Buffalo Student Sandbox represents an opportunity for Western New York’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to shine.  “Entrepreneurs will lead our region into the future, and Buffalo Student Sandbox offers an opportunity for all of us to work together and build our next generation of entrepreneurs,” he said.

Tom Murdock is manager of the WNY Innovation Hot Spot and sees the program as a chance for students to take major steps forward.  “We anticipate a big demand for this program and will be highly selective in selecting promising, market-driven companies,” he said.  “We’re looking for students with a demonstrated entrepreneurial capacity and are determined to succeed.”

Applications for the program are available online at www.WNYInnovationHotSpot.com/Sandbox.  The application deadline is April 1, 2015; applications received after the deadline will be considered as space allows.  Interested parties are encouraged to attend the Ignite Startups at the dig coworking space on Saturday, March 21 (registration required).