Sandbox Industries isn’t easy to describe in a few words. The Chicago-based company has its hands in quite a few pots; it’s both a startup foundry and a venture capital firm focused on building and investing in seed-stage software and consumer tech startups. But, as the founder and primary investor in Excelerate, a summer startup bootcamp program, it’s also an accelerator. Not to mention that it manages a corporate venture fund for Blue Cross Blue Shield to invest in tech-enabled healthcare companies, or that, in partnership with BCBS Venture Partners, it recently launched Healthbox, an accelerator focused on kickstarting healthtech startups.
But ask Sandbox how it defines its company, and it will tell you that it is neither an accelerator, nor a venture fund. That’s because the company is attempting to bring a new approach to the traditional incubator, following the lead of New York-based betaworks, the home of bit.ly, SocialFlow, Chartbeat and more. Betaworks, too, eschews “accelerator” and “venture fund” labels, opting instead to be a hybrid, building and investing in its own companies. Today, Sandbox is announcing that it is bringing the betaworks model to San Francisco, and is in turn refocusing its energy on its startup foundry.
This means that, unlike traditional accelerators which have become trendy of late, Sandbox will look to bring in individual entrepreneurs, not teams of startups, to generate, research, and build ideas internally. Initially, projects will be funded internally by the foundry, and once they hit maturity, the teams will be encouraged to seek funding from outside VCs and angels — with help from Sandbox’s venture funds.
The company has opened a brand new office in SOMA in San Francisco, which will house 10 entrepreneurs by summer, Sandbox Venture Fund Managing Director Millie Tadewaldt tells us. (Tadewaldt will also be lead Sandbox’s operations in San Francisco.) Sandbox will continue focusing on first-time entrepreneurs, who will become “founders-in-residence” in San Francisco, working in tandem with the Sandbox team there and in Chicago to germinate ideas, do market research, talk to customers, and, if things look promising, build a prototype. The entrepreneurs will then have access to Sandbox’s team of developers, writers, designers, and marketers to continue growing and iterating on their idea.
To date, Sandbox has developed a number of startups, including a flash sale site for dog owners, called doggyloot, a social media research firm Lab42, CakeStyle, a subscription personal fashion styling service, and Lost Crates, which delivers crates of designer goods to subscribers. These companies are each, in some way, tied to eCommerce, something that Tadewaldt says is important to Sandbox’s approach.
The team tends to brainstorm multiple ideas within a particular space at once, diving into market research and building prototypes for multiple startups that are developed in tandem. As the companies move forward, their success (or lack thereof) provides validation for particular concepts. And that’s what’s cool about Sandbox’s startup foundry, as Tadewaldt was adamant about the fact that its entrepreneurs have to be comfortable with failure, flexible, and objective. As multiple projects move forward at once, the point is to test the market and be ready to shift resources and attention to those that find validation.
Sandbox’s founders-in-residence get to participate actively in selecting the ideas that the team collectively turns into companies, and receive salaries and equity stakes in the companies they decide to focus on. As long as the failure of a particular company isn’t the result of obvious mistakes made by the entrepreneurs, they can return to Sandbox to start a new company or join another in development.
It’s an interesting model, and one that should benefit from the growing talent pool available in San Francisco. What do you think?
For more on Sandbox, check ‘em out at home here.
Sandbox Industries is a startup foundry and early-stage venture capital firm located in Chicago and San Francisco. Sandbox, which was founded in 2003, launches new businesses and invests in seed-stage software and tech-enabled businesses. Sandbox is also one of the founders and investors in Excelerate, a summer-long boot camp to help entrepreneurs build great companies by providing them with mentors, customers, and investors. The firm also has an exclusive relationship with Blue Cross and Blue Shield to manage a corporate...
The Chinese are voting again. Having lost their chance to determine the outcome of Happy Girls, an audience-participation talent show that has mysteriously vanished from next year’s schedules, they are voting instead for Ai Weiwei, the artist and thorn in Beijing’s side.
Mr Ai was recently slapped with a tax bill of $2.4m, a financial summons that followed several months’ imprisonment earlier this year. But Chinese people in their thousands are offering to help the controversial artist pay. The BBC reports that, according to Liu Yanping, a volunteer at the artist’s studio in Beijing, nearly 20,000 people have donated a total of $790,000, and counting.
Most have done so by electronic transfer. Some – presumably technophobes – have simply lobbed money over the wall and into the artist’s compound. A few notes, folded into paper planes, have sailed over the wall too.
Last week, Mr Ai, whose release from prison was conditional on his not talking to the press, told the FT: “When Chinese people have no other way to express themselves, this is the way they feel they can vote to express their dissatisfaction.” That probably constituted talking to the press. In fact, he has done several recent interviews in defiance of the ban.
Whether Mr Ai will have the last laugh is not yet clear. The Global Times, an English-language tabloid owned by the People’s Daily, wrote: “This event has been interpreted by some foreign media as the Chinese people donating to Ai’s cause. The action has also been regarded as a special protest by the artist.” But it cautioned: “Since he’s borrowing from the public…. some experts have pointed out this could be an example of illegal fundraising.”
So China’s most famous artist, known for his humorous, provocative and occasionally puzzling art, may be damned if he pays his taxes and damned if he doesn’t. Now that’s just surreal.
The sudden downturn in China’s property market is bad news for many global companies, but luxury German carmakers stand to benefit, at least in one city.
In Wenzhou, where house prices have fallen sharply, a real estate developer said that from Wednesday it would throw in the keys to a BMW with each apartment at a new residential complex for the first 150 buyers.
On this story
- China factories eye cheaper labour overseas
- China imposes curbs on buying property
- Opinion China needs a long-term solution to its property woes
- FT series China shapes the world
- Lex China property
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The deal is a sign of the desperation felt by developers in China’s once-booming property market, which has been pounded by government measures aimed at heading off a bubble. The slowdown is a matter of international concern, with Chinese house construction driving demand for commodities and propping up growth in the sputtering global economy.
Chinese developers have been reluctant to cut prices as transactions have slowed this year, but some are finally capitulating after dreadful sales in October. Others, afraid of the stigma of slashing prices, are offering giveaways such as extra garden plots, Louis Vuitton handbags, cruise vacations and now cars.
“Whoever signs a contract and makes the downpayment will be able to drive away in a BMW,” said the sales assistant at Central Mansions, a cluster of brown towers with 868 apartments that have just come on to the Wenzhou market.
“No, it doesn’t mean that sales are bad. It’s just that we’re trying to attract customers,” she said.
Home to legions of entrepreneurs and speculators, Wenzhou’s economy soared when China was flush with cash. But it has been hit harder than most cities by the government’s shift to a much tighter monetary policy to control inflation, as well as the property clampdown.
Wenzhou’s housing sector is now the weakest in the country, with prices falling 1.4 per cent in September month on month. Its smaller firms have suffered from a lack of bank credit, triggering dozens of bankruptcies and prompting the government to
But while Wenzhou is an extreme case of the stress in China’s property market, it is certainly not alone. Housing prices have started to fall nationwide, according to the China Real Estate Index System.
That has been tough to digest for many Chinese who had come to believe that house values could only rise. When several developers in Shanghai cut their asking prices last month, homeowners protested, ransacking showrooms and demanding refunds.
Fearing similar fallout, many developers are trying to entice buyers with special deals instead of discounts. The BMWs in Wenzhou cost Rmb300,000 locally, equivalent to about 10 per cent of the price for an apartment, the sales assistant said.
Xiaoyunli No. 8, a development in Beijing that has sent workers to leaflet cars at busy intersections, said there would be no discount and no car for buyers.
“But you’ll get a deal and it will be no problem for it to amount to the tens of thousands. It will be like giving you a car,” the receptionist said.
NantWorks, the newly christened digital incubator Soon-Shiong has launched in “Silicon Beach”, announced a strategic partnership with Vodafone Xone, the carrier’s new Silicon Valley incubator, to provide the companies and technologies in the NantWork’s ecosystem access to the Vodafone’s global and domestic 2G/3G/LTE networks.
Vodafone is basically the largest mobile carrier in the world. They are the top carrier by revenue and second only to China Mobile by subscribers, not to mention owners of a 45-percent stake in Verizon. The Vodafone Xone is intended to identify and qualify innovative technologies from startups, R&D labs, universities and VC portfolios with the potential to deliver new and innovative products and services to Vodafone’s global customer base. Vodafone Ventures, the company’s investment arm, intends to use the facility to identify potential investments in middle to late stage deals.
Read below to see how this could change the landscape of mHealth R&D among the wireless carriers.
Dr Soon-Shiong in a press release announced: “We are delighted to be working with Vodafone. With Vodafone’s global mobile network, and its partner Verizon Wireless here in the United States, Vodafone is truly a global mobile powerhouse. It is the ideal partner for NantWorks to work with as we develop the technologies that will bring the digital revolution to more aspects of people’s lives, including healthcare and education. I welcome the opening of Vodafone Xone here in California and I look forward to a great partnership between NantWorks in Silicon Beach and Vodafone Xone in Silicon Valley.”
Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: “NantWorks is an exciting and visionary company — exactly the kind of partner that we have come to Silicon Valley to work with.”Vodafone seems to view this deal with NantWorks as a partnership that will provide them access to the best US mobile health technologies and startups, a wise and foresighted assessment. For his part, Dr Soon-Shiong has secured himself two very important assets with this deal; (1) access to a virtual lab with global scale and subscriber base, and (2) the first unofficial limited partner in his new hybrid incubator to state publicly they will likely be putting capital to work alongside NantWorks.
Prior to this deal, almost all of Soon-Shiong’s investments have been structured either as hybrid mini-LBOs (leveraged buyouts) or as venture acquisitions conducted in phases and managed under his Executive Chairmanship. One example of a clever hybrid LBO was the recent acquisition of the National LambdaRail by assuming the networks debt obligations and putting the project under the administrative guidance of the Institute for Advanced Health (iAH) at his $200M data center in Phoenix.
NantWorks also launched its website recently under the tag line “building the world the way da Vinci saw it”. Despite its bold moniker, the website offers few details on precisely how NantWorks plans on realizing its bold mission, other than a collection of videos embedded from Vimio which are more of a highlight reel of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s previous accomplishments than a clear vision for why he fancies himself a modern da Vinci.
I still think Soon-Shiong is riding the wave of his previous successes (note the pluralization), but today I must confess I am impressed with both his vision and execution. The partnership with Vodafone takes NantWorks instantly to the next level and beyond, providing companies affiliated with the hybrid incubator access to two major cellular providers (Vodafone and Verizon) and established a crucial link between his Silicon Beach and the heart of Silicon Valley, thus stretching literally from Europe to the developing world.
This is a genius deal with major implications for the mHealth startup ecosystem.
(Author note: Since I foresee my self writing about Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong’s exploits quite regularly, it’s possible I will take the liberty of putting myself on a first name basis with the doctor from time to time because. frankly, it’s easier/faster to think, type and read Patrick, as opposed to Dr Soon-Shiong, and I just wanted to clarify preemptively I mean no disrespect
Cross posted from iMedicalApps.com.