Startup Stories: A Summer Internship at Sandboxx

This past summer, Michael Khizgilov ’20 received a stipend to work at a startup through our Kathryn Stewart Fellowship Program. The Dingman Center asked him about his experience to give other students a preview of the benefits a startup internship has to offer.

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Tell us about Sandboxx. What is the company’s mission and core competencies?

SANDBOXX simplifies the military lifestyle. Its mission is to keep the military community connected—and it does that in a number of ways. It helps people send letters to their loved ones who are off the grid at boot camp. It also helps parents find great travel deals and helps active duty members stay connected with their community. This all centers around the free SANDBOXX app. SANDBOXX was founded by vets and is leveraging tech to improve the military community—to serve those who serve us.

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Tell us about your responsibilities over the summer at Sandboxx?

My responsibilities were focused on operations as well as marketing. I helped ensure that the operations process was running smoothly, with a focus on quality and efficiency. In addition, I was responsible for analyzing various stages of the operations process and finding ways to improve the quality and efficiency of the system, with great success. This type of thinking and focus on constant innovation is ingrained into the company culture, and I often find myself analyzing ways to improve my own daily workflow since completing the internship. On the marketing side, I was also responsible for writing blog posts and creating social media content. This process required me to truly understand Sandboxx’s mission and the expectations of its users. I feel that my marketing experience had a strong connection to the process of launching a startup as I had to emphasize with the end-user and understand their needs and pain-points. For example, in the case of Sandboxx’s Letters platform, I needed to fully understand the challenge that loving family and friends face in staying connected to their future service member during boot camp. As someone with limited prior exposure to the military, I had to truly immerse myself in the culture and history to effectively fulfill my role.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Elana Fine

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Elana Fine, Executive Director

Elana Fine is the fearless leader of the Dingman Center, a position that demands she wear many different hats: professor, podcast co-host, traveling panelist, thought leader, three-time “Tech Titan” and last but certainly not least, the manager of our team. Even during the Center’s busiest, most stressful times, Elana’s unwavering energy and tenacity serve as a beacon for her team to follow. Her “Monday morning meetings” are a weekly fixture that even those who would never call themselves “morning people” have come to look forward to. In these meetings, and on a daily basis, every member of the team is encouraged to contribute their thoughts on how we can best express the Dingman Center’s appeal and execute on its mission. In the face of adversity, we can press forward with confidence knowing Elana will fight for her team like a tiger protecting her cubs. Maybe that sort of maternal fierceness comes easily to her, as in addition to being a full-time executive director, she’s a full-time mom to twin 10-year olds. It’s unclear where she finds the time or energy for all of this, but some mysteries are better left unsolved. Not all heroes wear capes, after all.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Holly DeArmond

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Holly DeArmond, Associate Director

Holly DeArmond is effectively the Dingman Center’s COO—she is instrumental in the strategy and planning necessary to execute on our mission, and does so with aplomb. Holly’s tenure at the Dingman Center began in 2012, before any of our other current staff, giving her a unique perspective on how the Center’s identity and mission have evolved. Formerly an organizer of the much-celebrated Maryland Day, her well-established events, marketing and branding expertise have been crucial to the Center’s success as we know it today. Under her direction, Pitch Dingman Competition Finals expanded to Stamp’s Colony Ballroom, “Fearless Founders” and “Dingman Fridays” became common Smith School buzzwords, and University of Maryland saw its first startup weekend, spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start. In addition to her Dingman Center credits, Holly is currently working to complete the Smith School’s part-time MBA program. Every curve-ball thrown her way she knocks out of the park, and inspires those who work with her to do the same.

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Learning to Appreciate Life in Pulingui, Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

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by: Chris Wolfe

While Cuenca was little different than a typical city in America, Ñamarin began to show us what it was like to live without the luxuries we enjoy in the States on a daily basis. There was little wifi or cell service, a lack of hot water, and a lack of temperature control within buildings. I did not see any of these things as great hardships because I was still able to live fairly comfortably. Little did I know what I was about to face in our last village: Pulingui.

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Leveling the Playing Field for Cybersecurity with Terp Startup Dark Sonar

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the eight student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

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Dark Sonar

Representing cybersecurity startup Dark Sonar in Terp Startup this summer is COO and co-founder Brian Freeman, a rising mechanical engineering junior at University of Maryland. He joined the founding team after CEO George Lee, a rising senior finance major, and CTO Simon Schlegel, a rising senior computer science major, began developing cybersecurity software that is both simple to integrate and affordable for businesses of all sizes. Dark Sonar’s competitors are primarily focused on fraudulent transactions for large corporations, and charge an appropriately large amount for the privilege. The founders of Dark Sonar are looking to focus on the needs of a target market that has been largely ignored by the cybersecurity industry—small and medium sized businesses. The customizable and adaptable subscription model of Dark Sonar will make it easier for any business, big or small, to combat identity fraud.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Megan McPherson

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Megan McPherson, Events & Marketing Coordinator

I, Megan McPherson, have been your humble narrator for this blog all along, so allow me to abandon the third-person pretense. Hello, dear readers! I joined the Dingman Center in January 2016 to bring a fresh creative energy to the Center’s events and marketing activities. My duties include coordinating logistics for events like spark: Where Fearless Ideas Start, Pitch Dingman Competition and the Rudy Awards; running social media and the blog; creating and supervising the creation of print and digital marketing materials; drafting and sending e-vites and newsletters (subscribe to The Pitch!); and more. As the staff’s resident quirky nerd, I take pride in my work when I can let my personality show through while telling the Center’s story. Through revealing myself, I want to encourage entrepreneurs to strive for honesty within themselves and what they want to achieve, and to portray the Dingman Center as an inclusive space where Terps are encouraged to get their hands dirty and explore both the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

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Terp Startup 2B Gives Children a Vision for Adult Success

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the nine student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

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2B

Former elementary school teacher Nina Silverstein MBA ’17 is the founder of social venture 2B, a children’s book and clothing company that aims to inspire children by giving them a means to envision what they want to be when they grow up. The t-shirts would be printed with representations of what, for example, a doctor would wear when doing his/her job, and the books would contain a kid-friendly overview of what a doctor does and how a child can prepare to become one when they grow up. These sets of t-shirts and books would be available in a wide variety of professions, some that many children, especially in underprivileged circumstances, may never have considered or even been aware of. Nina hopes that 2B will break down barriers and broaden horizons for children of all backgrounds, encouraging them to believe that with hard work, they can achieve anything they set their minds to.

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Learning with Children in the Dominican Republic

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

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by: Shelby Pittman

The past few weeks I have immersed myself with Dominican culture, something that is brand new to me. I am only halfway through this journey, but along the way I try to act as a sponge, soaking up the mannerisms, problems and the language of the people. During this eight week program with the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps there are 22 students which are split between two cities, Ojeda and Los Blancos. I was placed in Ojeda, where I mostly spend time with my welcoming host family and their friends.

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Get to Know the Dingman Center: Seth Shuldiner

This summer we will be featuring our current Dingman Center staff in a special blog series. Read along and get to know a little more about each member of our team!

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Seth Shuldiner, Venture Investment Manager

Although Seth Shuldiner is the newest member of the Dingman Center, having arrived in January 2017, he’s quickly proven himself invaluable to the team. Seth’s role is threefold: he manages and sources deals for the Dingman Center Angels network, works with the UM System on their new Momentum Fund and shares his experiences with students as part of a new experiential learning course on Venture Capital at the Smith School of Business. Having previously worked as an analyst at the Maryland Venture Fund, Seth brings valuable experience in venture capital investing as well as startup company operations and strategy. If you haven’t met him yet, it’s probably because he’s out and about in the DMV startup ecosystem meeting new and promising entrepreneurs.

What excites you most about your job?

The most exciting aspect of my job is without a doubt the people with whom I get to work. It’s a privilege to be able to partner with extremely bright and ambitious entrepreneurs building the latest technologies and businesses. It’s always a learning experience that I find enjoyable and challenging.

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Discovering Degrees of Separation and Connection in Ecuador

This summer, we will feature guest posts from students who received a Dingman Center scholarship to participate in the Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps (MSEC). They will share their experiences learning about social entrepreneurship while consulting with local businesses in Latin America. Learn more about MSEC here.

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by: Adam Sarsony

I hate to sound cliché, but being here in Ecuador has taught me that it really is a small world after all. Not only has the internet brought people together in new and incredible ways, allowing my homestay brother in Pulingui to watch the same Facebook videos that I’ve watched in the states, but we also just really aren’t as separated as it seems.

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