We often think of the entrepreneurs behind technology start-ups, but what about the innovators who work away in the background, helping to get new ventures up and running, and who often end up branching out to become entrepreneurs themselves?
This week, the Sandbox Network, an organisation to connect young leaders from around the globe, is launching its Dublin hub. Sandbox itself was co-founded three years ago by a diverse group of young achievers who wanted to create a community for young leaders under the age of 30 as a type of incubator to help them achieve their visions.
Since its 2008 beginnings, the network has morphed dramatically and now has a headcount of more than 600 members who hail from 48 countries.
So what do these Sandboxers get up to? John Egan, who heads up the not-for-profit Archipelago, is the Dublin ambassador for the Sandbox Network.
He says that being part of Sandbox was part of the inspiration to set up Archipelago, as it gave him access to a large worldwide network of investors and entrepreneurs.
Egan has also started running events in Ireland known as Archie Talks. The aim of the events is to promote entrepreneurship among those under the age of 35.
Sandbox will be having its official Dublin launch at the Mansion House this evening in the presence of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD.
Its members organise events and get senior leaders and CEOs from large corporations to speak at them. Another aim of Sandbox is simply to connect its members with entrepreneurs, government officials or venture capitalists.
Sandbox Dublin launch attendees
Among those who are in Ireland for the launch of Sandbox in Dublin are DJ Saulm, director of open innovation at iStrategyLabs in Washington, DC; Tia Kansara, founder of Kansarahackney in London; Melissa Morris, founder and CEO of Network Locum in the UK; and Keyun Ruan, co-founder of the New York-based not-for-profit Xensix, which centres on cloud forensics and cybercrime.
Ahead of their arrival in Dublin, I got to speak with two young innovators from Sandbox: Irish woman Niamh Hughes, who is head of business development at a new start-up based in New York called Folio; and Brazilian Bel Pesce Mattos, who is head of business development at the Palo Alto, California, start-up Lemon.com.
Twenty-four-year-old Mattos hails from Sao Paulo and is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Already she has a few start-ups under her belt. Just recently she was made a TED fellow.
While at MIT, Mattos co-founded two start-ups: Talenj and Tisk-Task, with the latter being a task-management tool for communities, especially for college students.
I met Mattos a few months ago while she was in Dublin and her passion for entrepreneurship is infectious. Before she arrived from Brazil to attend MIT at the age of 17 in 2005, she didn’t speak English. But that quickly changed. And as well as getting a scholarship to help pay the high MIT fees, she worked her way through college. Mattos also got internships at Microsoft, Google and Deutsche Bank, and even had the opportunity to meet Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at his Washington home in 2007 while working as a Microsoft intern.
Now she is in Silicon Valley with Lemon.com, the new cloud-based site that gleaned $10m in funding back in 2011, despite only being in operation for a couple of months. Mattos was part of the founding team. The site, which went into beta mode last August, has quickly caught on with people in these recessionary times.
Lemon.com itself is aiming to be a game-changer for the way people store their receipts via the cloud. For instance, via Lemon’s app, you can take a snap of a receipt on Android and iOS devices and then store the receipt digitally alongside all of your other receipts.
This week, Mattos shared her entrepreneurial insights at Archie Talks in Dublin, as did Hughes.
Hughes, who hails from Castleblaney in Co Monaghan, heads up the business development side of things at Folio, a new marketplace for digital goods that has been co-founded and bootstrapped by Irish men Cillian Kieran and Simon Keane.
Kieran and Keane also co-founded the digital agency CKSK in 2006. Hughes, who has a BA in European business and German from Dublin City University, has been a Sandboxer since 2008 after meeting Fabian Pfortmüller, one of the co-founders of the network.
In New York, she is a co-ambassador of Sandbox, where she manages networking events for the group. She also spoke recently at Science Gallery in Dublin as part of an event concerning female social entrepreneurs.
That’s because Hughes co-founded the social enterprise called So What’s on Your Plate. She said she founded the social venture because she was frustrated by how difficult it was to meet females in New York in order to network.
The group comprises females of all ages and ethnicities who share their stories, as well as offer advice on everything from connecting with entrepreneurs to thrashing out ideas about achieving positive development in their local communities.
The organisation now has a presence in LA, Paris and Phoenix, as well as New York.