SANDBOX - Startup program by DTEC


We're not only one of the most founder-centric programs. We're also the most transparent. From questions about investments to program structure, it's all covered below in our extensive list of FAQs. We encourage applicants to read all FAQs before applying.

APPLY NOW applications close 14th July 2024, 23:59

Jump to section:

Application Process & General Questions Expand all

What is the relationship between Oraseya Capital and SANDBOX?

Oraseya Capital is the Venture Capital fund of Dubai Integrated Economic Zones. Oraseya Capital invests in technology startups across sectors from pre-Seed to Series-B stage, that have a nexus to Dubai and the UAE. SANDBOX is the landmark startup accelerator program from Oraseya Capital, designed for ambitious pre-Seed to Seed stage technology entrepreneurs. SANDBOX enables Oraseya Capital to identify high-potential founders then make investments into early-stage startups. The SANDBOX program consists of 2 phases. Startups shortlisted to Phase 2 of SANDBOX will receive $150,000 investment from Oraseya Capital via Safe Note Agreement ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee).

When is the next cohort?

The next cohort commences September 2024

Where is the program located? Is it online or onsite?

The program is located in Dtec, Dubai. All workshops, community sessions, exclusive founder events, VC meetings and networking opportunities all happen onsite. The 1:1s can be arranged at your convenience with our vetted experts and mentors; these can be hosted online or in-person.

What are the selection criteria?

We are looking for exceptional & ambitious founders, working full-time on their startup. We welcome tech startups from MVP to Seed stage. The team must be UAE-based as the program takes place in Dubai. Your business model must be scalable, and your tech must be defendable.

What is the selection process?

Step 1: Submit your application form via the Apply Now button below
Step 2: At this point we want to get to know you better. You'll be invited to a call with the SANDBOX team
Step 3: The final stage is pitching to our Selection Committee

Does SANDBOX only accept tech companies?

Yes, we specialise in Pre-seed to Seed-stage tech startups. Applicants must at least have an MVP (it does not yet have to be commercially live), at least 1 founder working full-time on the startup, and be based in UAE (or have strategic reason to expand to UAE). Other than that, we are sector agnostic!

Is it required for all co-founders to be present in UAE?

Yes, we require the main founders to be based in the UAE since the SANDBOX program takes place in-person, in Dubai.

We are based outside of the UAE, can we apply?

We will look at international applications on a case-by-case basis. There must be strategic relevance for you to be expanding to UAE. In the instance you are accepted, the founders will have to relocate to Dubai for the duration of the program, at least.

Is it required for all team members to be working full-time on the startup?

We require minimum of 1 founder (ideally the CEO) to be working full-time but we have a strong preference for having at least 2 founders fully committed to their venture and the SANDBOX program. A team of co-founders are likely to get more out of the SANDBOX program too.

Can we join an accelerator while being part of SANDBOX?

Yes, you are of course free to join another startup program, such as Techstars, YCombinator etc. We invite you to consider the real value of being part of multiple programs consecutively as the content may overlap, and time commitments may mean you spread yourself too thinly.

I already raised a Seed round, can I apply?

First, congratulations! Of course, you are entitled to apply to the program. SANDBOX is dedicated to startups in the early stages and some of them have already raised from friends & family, angel investors and/or early-stage VCs.

My application has been accepted for a screening call, what should I expect?

If your application form is shortlisted, you will be invited for a video call with the SANDBOX team. Here you can pitch your startup, build upon your application form, and introduce your founding team. This call should take approximately 30 minutes, so please have your pitch presentation ready as we will kindly ask you to share your screen.

How do I know if I was accepted?

In the final round of the application process, you will present your startup to the SANDBOX Selection Committee. If shortlisted by the Selection Committee, you will then receive an email from our team, officially inviting you to join SANDBOX.

What are next steps if my startup is accepted?

To accept the offer, we will send you a simple agreement to sign via docusign. This secures your enrollment in SANDBOX. You will then be invited to the next Introductory Week and will officially be part of SANDBOX!

What is the Introductory Week?

This first week is essential to get you started. It’s a tough week, packed with workshops designed to make you level-up. The cadence is high, and the intensity is higher. You’ll meet key people as well as all of your mentors. You’ll learn how to avail $1m+ worth of in-kind credits from partners, and establish a solid foundation for the year ahead. You’ll learn the intimacies of SANDBOX from the program team (sure, we’re transparent, but we can’t be sharing our secret sauces here!), and get to know the ins-and-outs of the resources available to you. But most importantly, you’ll meet your fellow startup founders. Over the duration of the program, these comrades will be more valuable than you can imagine.

At the end of the Introductory Week, we will run a series of 360° diagnostics on your venture. This is an opportunity your set your KPIs and milestones for subsequent sprints!

I applied, but haven’t heard back yet. How long should I expect to wait before receiving a response to my application?

We review all applications on a rolling basis. If the status of your application changes, you will be notified by email.

Unfortunately I was rejected, can I reapply?

Yes. We would welcome you to reapply after at least 4 months. If you do reapply, please emphasise your motives for joining SANDBOX, your traction to date, the progress you have made since last applying, how defendable your technology is, why now is the right time, and why your team are the rockstars to make it happen.

Is SANDBOX featured in the press?

Yes, often. SANDBOX has been featured by the likes of Arabian Business, Gulf News, Entrepreneur Middle East, MAGNiTT, The National, Gulf Business, Dubai Media Office, and more.

I would like to support the program as a partner, how can I get involved?

Great, thanks! We are always open to expanding our partner network. If your software/tool/skill/service can benefit the SANDBOX founders, feel free to contact us on

I would like to support the program as a mentor, how can I get involved?

Thanks for your interest in supporting SANDBOX as a mentor. All mentors are vetted by the SANDBOX team. If you are interested in supporting SANDBOX as a mentor, please leave us your details here.

Joining fees & license Expand all

Does it cost me anything to join the program?

No. SANDBOX is a startup investment program. We identify high-potential startups, invite them into the program, then invest in the best of them.

Will you help us incorporate our startup?

If you require a business license or visas, we will educate you on the various options available and can then connect you with the relevant team to incorporate. You will also have access to SANDBOX lawyers to guide you on the best legal structure and considerations.

Do I have to work full-time from the SANDBOX office space?

It is your business; you can work from wherever. However, we strongly encourage you to make the most of working from the SANDBOX offices provided. We host all of our content, workshops, office hours, guest breakfasts etc in-person, so you will certainly benefit from being physically in the SANDBOX offices for the duration of the program.

How many people in my team can benefit from SANDBOX?

At the very least, we'd expect the (co)founders of each startup to attend the SANDBOX program. Where applicable, other senior team members are welcome to attend too.

Are visas included?

Visas are not included as part of the SANDBOX program. However, should you require purchasing visas for your startup, we can connect you to the relevant team who can accommodate accordingly.

Is housing and/or accommodation included?

No. However the SANDBOX program is hosted in Dtec (Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus) which is located in Dubai Silicon Oasis; boasting villas, apartments, schools, a world-class hospital, a global university, supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, thousands of businesses, and more.

If I join SANDBOX, do I need to transfer my visa or apply for one?

If you already have a valid UAE residency visa, there is no need to change or transfer it. If you require a UAE visa or business license, we can connect you to the relevant team who can assist. You will also have access to SANDBOX lawyers to guide you on the best legal structure and considerations.

Program structure Expand all

How is the program structured?

Throughout SANDBOX, founders can expect a flexible curriculum of content and a series of sprints focusing on growth and fundraising. SANDBOX is uniquely structured around 9 pillars to cover all bases:

  • Product Development
  • Investor Relations
  • Traction
  • Scaling
  • Financial Diagnostics
  • Legal Support
  • Commercial Viability
  • Growth Marketing
  • Wellness

The program sees founders develop a habit of feedback and accountability; rewarding those that make significant progress. SANDBOX is uniquely structured into 2 phases:

Phase 1 - "Diagnostics": Deep-dive 2-months focusing on diagnostics, product-market-fit, and positioning.

Internal "Pitch": All startups pitch to the SANDBOX Investment Team. Those shortlisted are invited to Phase 2 and will receive a $150,000 investment from Oraseya Capital via SAFE Note Agreement ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee).

Phase 2 - "Sprints": Intensive 3-months focusing on investor-readiness, commercialisation, and growth.

At the end of Phase 2, the program wraps up with the SANDBOX Demo Day whereby founders pitch to investors from around the region and around the world.

What does a typical week look like?

Each week varies at SANDBOX, depending upon the phase of the program. Phase 1 is all about determining product-market-fit, split-testing, and building. Expect to meet more seasoned entrepreneurs, attend workshops from experts, and host many deep-dive diagnostics sessions. Phase 2, is largely focused on making you become "investor-ready" by optimising revenue streams, maximising commercial returns, and bolstering your positioning. Expect interactions with investors, weekly 1:1s with practitioners, and intensive sprints. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 require a serious commitment to experimentation. At the end of the day, you get out what you put in, so it is worth engaging with as much of the content as possible.

What are the 1:1 credits?

Each startup enrolled in SANDBOX can avail 1:1 credit hours with our pre-vetted list of experts covering any of the 9 key pillars. These experts can use that time to advise founders, or deliver work to the founders.

For example, if a startup requires a designer to design for 30 minutes, 3 hours for a Google Ads specialist to run campaigns, 45 minutes for a copywriter to draft text, and 1 hour to speak with an accountant, we’ve got you covered!

What legal support can I avail?

Upon joining SANDBOX, you also receive USD $3,000 worth of credit with our partner law firm, specialising in startups. They can help you with any legal matters such as drafting of term sheet or convertible notes, reviewing shareholders agreement, drafting employee contracts, drafting IP assignment agreement, and much more.

Our legal partner will also host regular workshops on key topics and offer weekly drop-in office hours to address your questions. You will also have access to a range of customisable templates.

Do I need to attend a minimum number of SANDBOX sessions?

We actively keep an eye on startups that we may consider investing into in the future. As such, we strongly encourage you to attend as many SANDBOX sessions as you see fit. The more you put in, the more you'll get out. Introductory Week is mandatory, as are the diagnostics in Phase 1. All of Phase 2 is mandatory.

Are the SANDBOX sessions only for founders or can members of my team also attend?

Our sessions are highly curated toward founders, however if there is a technical session that could be of value for members of your team, they are welcome to attend of course.

You state “$1m+ worth of credits from partners”…what exactly does it mean and how can I avail the credits?

We have partnered with the likes of AWS, Stripe, Hubspot, Microsoft, and many more (it is growing every week!). These partners are offering perks, discounts and software to startups enrolled in SANDBOX. All partner offers are listed and updated on our internal platform. Most offers can be availed on a self-serve basis whenever you require them. To date, we have negotiated $1m+ worth of in-kind credit from partners.

How does SANDBOX support founders from a PR perspective?

Startups enrolled in SANDBOX will benefit from being featured at ecosystem events including the likes of GITEX and Step Conference. We have regular coverage by media houses such as MAGNiTT and Entrepreneur Middle East, as well as the support of our in-house communication team.

Why else should I consider SANDBOX?

SANDBOX is Dubai's only VC-backed startup investment program. Not only can founders receive funding, but they can also have the opportunity connect with an extensive network of experts.

Investment Expand all

Do you take equity in my company?

SANDBOX is split into 2 phases. Startups are invited into Phase 1 which lasts 8 weeks. Phase 1 is equity-free.

At the end of Phase 1, all startups pitch to the SANDBOX Investment Committee. Those shortlisted are invited into Phase 2. Not all startups from Phase 1 are shortlisted into Phase 2.

Phase 2 is much more intensive, and lasts 12 weeks. At the beginning of Phase 2 - and only for the startups that are shortlisted into Phase 2 - Oraseya Capital will invest $150,000 into each startup via SAFE Note Agreement ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee). This capital is expected to be used to propel the startups' growth and also help attract further investment. At the end of Phase 2, startups will be invited to pitch at the SANDBOX Demo Day.

Is investment from SANDBOX guaranteed?

For each startup shortlisted into Phase 2 of the program, Oraseya Capital will make a $150,000 investment via SAFE Note Agreement ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee). Read the question above for more information.

Will SANDBOX also invest in my startup after the program?

Upon joining SANDBOX, you become part of our deal flow. Oraseya Capital will invest $150,000 into each startup shortlisted into Phase 2 of the program via SAFE Note Agreement ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee). The program concludes with a Demo Day whereby startups will present to investors from around the region. Naturally, as an alumni of SANDBOX we will continue to support you and consider follow-on funding as part of your growth journey; particularly if you can demonstrate a capacity to execute and scale.

Nevertheless, your commitment and discipline throughout the program is particularly important.

Is there a program fee?

For those startups shortlisted into Phase 2 of the program, Oraseya Capital will invest $150,000 via SAFE Note Agreement. This consists of $110,000 cash plus $40,000 program fee.

Does SANDBOX invest in all startups admitted in the program?

It is unlikely that we will invest in every startup. We will closely monitor your progress then invest in the ventures that are shortlisted in Phase 2 of the program.

Is there a Demo Day?

In short, yes. But we take it one step further. To help you connect with local, regional and international investors, we host VC breakfasts, we make investor introductions, we exhibit you at startup events, and more!

My startup is post-Seed stage. What are my options?

Great to hear you have already raised funding. For startups edging closer to their Series-A round (or beyond), feel free to pitch to Oraseya Capital directly, for investment consideration. For startups in pre-Seed to Seed stage, consider applying to SANDBOX for the opportunity to receive $150,000 investment from Oraseya Capital ($110,000 cash + $40,000 program fee).