LOWELL, Mass. – The Merrimack Valley Sandbox recently launched the Sandbox IdeaLaunch, a new initiative aimed to give entrepreneurs a greater chance at success through pitch contests, workshops and intensive programs.  Throughout the next six months, the Sandbox IdeaLaunch will hold five pitch contests where people can pitch their ideas. In the fall of this year, a small number of entrepreneurs will be selected to enter a business-plan competition with a prize pool of nearly $50,000. Next year, the program will grow with more entrepreneurs selected and a prize pool of nearly $100,000.

“It takes courage to solicit feedback on an idea, and it takes determination, flexibility, and experimentation to turn an idea into an enterprise.  Successful companies of all sizes from Sandbox IdeaLaunch will bring positive social and economic change to the cities and towns of the Merrimack Valley,” says Desh Deshpande , co-founder of the Deshpande Foundation and co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

On May 30, the Sandbox IdeaLaunch will be holding the first pitch contest. This contest will be focused on technology, web, applications and software ideas. Future contests will revolve around arts, environment, education and other types of ideas.  During these contests, entrepreneurs will receive feedback about their ideas, network with experienced entrepreneurs and can win thousands of dollars in cash prizes.

More than 30 organizations and institutions are participating in the Sandbox IdeaLaunch including the city of Lowell, the city of Lawrence, Enterprise Bank, Merrimack Valley YMCA and the University of Massachusetts Lowell (full list of partners: www.sandboxidealaunch.org).

“Events such as Sandbox IdeaLaunch are important in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in the Merrimack Valley. Our partnership with the Sandbox and the participation of our students and faculty in these events is one of the ways UMass Lowell serves as an engine for innovation in the region.” says Marty Meehan, Chancellor of UMass Lowell.

Nelson Butten, co-executive director of Lawrence CommunityWorks, says that “Lawrence is full of hardworking residents that wake up every day with great business ideas and an amazing drive to implement them. I think the Sandbox IdeaLaunch is a promising innovative piece of the puzzle to make Lawrence fertile soil for new and socially responsible entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

For the May 30 pitch contest, the deadline for idea submission is May 15. The event will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at Northern Essex Community College-Riverwalk, 360 Merrimack Street, Building 9, Lawrence.

For full schedule of contests and more information, please visit: www.sandboxidealaunch.org  

About the Merrimack Valley Sandbox:

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox is an initiative based at UMass Lowell that strengthens the ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and leadership in Lowell and Lawrence in Massachusetts.

About UMass Lowell:

UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu

About the Deshpande Foundation:

Gururaj (Desh) and Jaishree Deshpande have encouraged the use of entrepreneurship and innovation as catalysts for sustainable change in the United States, India and Canada since 1996. The Foundation supports organizations that strengthen local ecosystems, build leaders and entrepreneurs and catalyze innovative thinking, to accelerate creation of sustainable, scalable enterprises that have significant social or market impact.

About Lawrence CommunityWorks:

Lawrence CommunityWorks (LCW) is a nonprofit community development corporation working to transform and revitalize the physical, economic, and social landscape of Lawrence.