TechSandBox Targets Unusual Demographic of Entrepreneurs with the Techubator

Hopkinton may soon be the home to a new start-up program for entrepreneurs, inviting not at the expected demographic of up-and-coming Millennials, but rather their parents, to join the startup revolution. This bucolic haven, snuggled in a collection of small communities and serene lakes, might not seem like a likely place for business innovation— but it is already home to one of the area’s biggest tech companies, EMC, and start-up accelerator program, TechSandbox. Barb Finer, founder of TechSandbox, is currently in talks with angel investors to gather together the $1 million necessary to get the newest program up and running.

The new program, called Techubator, would target entrepreneurs in their 40s and 50s, rather than the usual crowd of recent college graduates. The structure is loosely based on a similar company, Techstars of Boulder, Colorado. In exchange for a 6% equity, eight startups would be given 3 to 4 months of training, a co-working space, and an investment of $18,000. Employees for each venture are provided with educational programs and mentorship opportunities.

TechSandBox understands the difficulties facing new business creators. Their Piranha Pond concept has already made strides in helping entrepreneurs from the Metrowest area over the past three years. The new Techubator initiative would specifically target middle-aged entrepreneurs in the process developing prototypes for tech products.

Techubator will be designated to help a demographic that may not have the same advantages as the Millennial crowd when it comes to growing up in an entrepreneurial environment. Younger entrepreneurs have the advantage of being more at home with a typically younger crowd of business investors.  Some of the older entrepreneurs Techubator will target are launching start-ups late in life because they lost a job in another industry. Some are “reluctant entrepreneurs,”; people who have ideas but delayed pursuing investors because they don’t feel that they “fit in” with the typical innovation crowd. Serial entrepreneurs who have been around the block, but may need that little extra help to get initial momentum are also the perfect candidates for this program.

TechSandBox is working hard to make this exciting idea a reality. The company has set a fundraising goal of $1 million to support its new program, as well as an additional $500,000 to expand Techsandbox’s “makerspace” where entrepreneurs can work on prototypes and hardware. Estimated launch time for the Hopkinton Techubator program is  January 2016.

Piranha Pond Investing Opportunity—Entrepreneurs Latch On

Hopeful entrepreneurs and established businesses are always looking for more money to develop and expand. Finding investors through pitching to “angels” has become a popular way to make the connections necessary to learn the ropes and get the money necessary to make it big with a great idea.

When it comes to finding investors, television has brought the idea of sharks to the forefront of the entrepreneurial mind, but it can be very hard to find the people in everyday life that have that kind of influence and backing. That is where the Piranha Pond investing opportunity comes in. It is a program developed to encourage new entrepreneurs and help them meet with the movers and shakers who have the power to make their dreams come true.

Bringing Entrepreneurs and Sharks Together with a “Pitch Party”

For the third time, the annual “Pitch Party” gives hopeful entrepreneurs the ability to talk with investors. For a $50 application fee, worthy business owners can submit a resume for their business online for the chance to connect with venture capitalists with the money to finance start ups and business expansions.

The TechSandBox CEO, Barb Finer, worked with her team to create the Piranha Pond. Every year the program gets up to 40 applications from a nationwide pool of entrepreneurs. They are filtered through an approval process that determines eight finalists who will then have the opportunity to face a panel of five angel investors who, if their interest is peaked, compete to finance the business.  This year, the numbers were strong enough that there were nine companies chosen: Femme Forte, Enflux, SmartDiet, Intagora, Innoblative Technologies, ThinkInsite, Fremont Scientific, Rumi Spice and Ridgewing.

How the Piranha Pond Works

Applications are submitted via an online application form that allows entrepreneurs only a  one paragraph description of their idea to grab the interests of the investors reviewing the applications. The finalists are chosen from that pool of applicants. Prior to the entrepreneur’s official pitch to the Piranha Pond’s panel of investors, there is a Pitch Practice Session. This allows the presenters to practice their full presentation and receive feedback from a panel of experts about how to make their pitch more effective and successful. Though participating in the practice session is not a requirement for the process, it is highly recommended that applicants take the opportunity to fine tune their presentations.

The next step is just like the famous television show “Shark Tank.” The finalists from the TechSandBox applicants face the panel of investors, the entrepreneur has five minutes to pitch their idea or developing business. After which, the investors let the presenters know if they are interested in backing the idea or not. If the investors chose to back an idea, then the presenters are given the opportunity to meet with potential stakeholders at the end of the pitch session.

Learning Business Methods

One of the most difficult parts of getting funding can be gathering the courage to approach investors. Piranha Pond investing helps by providing feedback and experience. The Piranha Pond pitch meeting is open to the public with tickets ranging from $28 for TechSandbox members and $35 for the general public.