Former Student Sandbox participant and Syracuse University alumnus Michael Smith offers advice to this year's Sandbox class.

By: Diane Stirling
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The biggest day of the year for Syracuse University's Student Sandbox participants, and for much of the Central New York entrepreneurship community, is this Friday, “Demo Day.”

The Sandbox,” as it’s informally known, is an incubator that helps aspiring entrepreneurs push their ventures from idea to company.  Students from Syracuse University and other area – as well as this year, some international students from Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia comprise Demo Day’s participants. They form teams and develop new business concepts of every kind. This year, there are 15 teams participating, and a total of 28 students. They will present their ideas for new business concepts, apps, and projects to an audience of mentors, investors, student teams, and other interested parties, for judging and prizes at Demo Day.

The event is the culmination of an entrepreneurship immersion course that has been offered by the School of Information Studies (iSchool) each summer since 2009. It is among several entrepreneurially-oriented course offerings at the iSchool.

Public Event, Reception

The pitching event takes place at the Everson Museum of Art in Downtown Syracuse, beginning at 3:00 PM. A reception follows at the Syracuse Tech Garden that gives students an opportunity to mingle, and attendees a chance to get a closer look at team ideas and talk with the concept developers. 

The event is open to the public.

Three Pillars

According to John Liddy, Sandbox director, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Syracuse Tech Garden, and an adjunct professor at the iSchool, the Student Sandbox is a place for student entrepreneurs to meet, work, learn and grow. It’s where “young startups and entrepreneurs can tap the minds of experienced mentors, gain the necessary tools to get a company off the ground, and develop a relationship with valuable resources to help gain seed funding,” Liddy said.

He noted that the Sandbox “operates on three pillars: inspiration, information, and income” and that as “a unique and important part of the Central New York business community, it serves as the model for many other public/private student accelerators around the country.”  

Students from more than a dozen universities and colleges have participated in the Sandbox, and the incubator has worked with more than 30 students from Asian universities and introduced them to Central New York in an international entrepreneurship model.   

This year’s Sandbox crew includes “many teams with traction (customers), several with big ideas, and we have enjoyed a fantastic mix of international participation,” he added.

Many Accomplishments

Since The Student Sandbox’s beginning, there have been significant accomplishments in the Central New York region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, according to Liddy. They include:

  • Being part of educating more than 300 entrepreneurs
  • Attracting students from around the world to Syracuse
  • Teams have competed on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank
  • Teams have won the CenterState CEO Business Plan Competition
  • They have raised more than $10 Million in investment capital
  • Team businesses have been acquired
  • Teams have helped to generate more than 100 jobs