Sandbox Industries: Creating, Developing and Funding Chicago Startup Businesses

May 11, 2010

12:59 pm

In their lofty, bright office space in the West Loop of Chicago, I recently got a chance to visit Sandbox Industries, a Chicago-based venture firm since 2003 investing in businesses a number of different ways in the Midwest. While attending a community building “lunch with a friend” meetup, I got to meet members of the Sandbox team and some of the people behind the companies it has invested in, or incubated, since many of the startups work from the Sandbox office. So what does Sandbox do exactly? Sandbox Industries currently has three distinct types of investments which includes portfolio management, new business development and incubation and seed funding.

First, Sandbox engages in portfolio management activities as the exclusive manager of the BlueCross BlueShield Venture Fund. As a fund manager for BlueCross BlueShield Venture Fund, Sandbox has invested in such companies as Initiate. Initiate is an IBM company that delivers multi-domain master data management solutions for interoperability, information sharing and data governance.

Secondly, Sandbox Industries develops its own new ventures through support from its Venture Fund. The following companies have been developed internally:

  • Morgan Street Document Management – a web-based software solution to help people manage their life’s essential information and documents.
  • Marbles: The Brain Store – a one-of-a-kind retail store and on-line store with an array of carefully-selected products that stimulate and strengthen the brain.
  • Orggit – a web-based software solution that offers individuals and families the ability to securely store their information and access it anytime, anywhere.
  • A Fresh Squeeze – an e-newsletter and website that provides simple, local, green living tips and information for those wishing to live a greener life in Chicago.
  • Defy – a specially formulated, all-natural enhanced water.
  • Embodi – a specially formulated non-alcoholic health beverage that delivers the benefits of two glasses of red wine in one 8 oz bottle.

Externally, Sandbox Industries has also invested in:

  • Readeo – brings story time online where users can see, hear, read and interact with grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and others—just as you would if you were in the same room.

Finally, Sandbox Industries is involved in seed funding startups as a partner in the newly formed Excelerate, Chicago’s startup incubator as well as seed funding other companies it finds interesting along the way.

Sandbox Industries is a sponsor at the upcoming TECH cocktail Chicago 13 mixer event on May 13th at John Barleycorn Wrigleyville and will be on hand to connect with local entrepreneurs.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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