SANDBOX - Startup program by DTEC


We’re not just MENA’s largest tech hub. We’re also the most transparent. When building SANDBOX, we studied the world’s best startup programs to understand what makes them tick, and spoke to countless founders to understand where the gaps are.

Below is an extensive list of questions that serve as the backbone to SANDBOX.

We’ve left no stone unturned. Of course, if there’s anything else you’d like to know, get in touch via contact us form.

Ready to apply? Submit your application at the link below.

Ready to apply? Submit your application, Click here

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Application Process & General Questions Expand all

When is the next cohort?

We do not have cohorts; we accept applications on a rolling basis.

When is the next starting date?

We have designed SANDBOX to be rolling, meaning we accept startups based upon quality, not based on arbitrary “starting dates.” This is advantageous to you, as founders, since it enables you to apply whenever it’s the right time for you, your team, and your business.

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, mentors and suppliers, either online or in Dtec.

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. The more comprehensive your application, the better.
Step 2 - If shortlisted, you will be invited for a video call with the Dtec Ventures team.
Step 3 - If you make it to the final stage, you will be invited to pitch to our SANDBOX selection committee. This is usually in-person.

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 before their official enrollment.

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 our Dtec Ventures team. This is round 2/3 in the application process. 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 presentation ready as we will kindly ask you to share your screen.

How do I know if I was accepted?

In round 3 of 3 you will present your startup to the SANDBOX Selection Committee. This is usually hosted in-person. 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?

After accepting the offer through email, we will send you an agreement to sign via docusign. This secures your enrollment in SANDBOX. Immediately thereafter, you will go through the business setup process with the Dtec licensing team. This includes establishing a new business license at Dtec or transferring your existing one to Dtec. Once your license is issued, you will then be invited to the next introduction week and will officially be part of SANDBOX!

What is the introduction 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 all our suppliers. And all our 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 subsequent 12 months, these comrades will be more valuable than you can imagine.

At the end of the introduction week, we will run the first 360° diagnostic of 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 Dtec Ventures 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?

If you are accepted into SANDBOX, the joining fee is AED 9,500 + AED 1,000 refundable security deposit. This is heavily subsidised exclusively for startups enrolled in SANDBOX. The fee includes:

  1. The 12-month SANDBOX program (200+hrs workshops, 100+hrs 1:1 with expert practitioners, USD $1m+ in-kind credits from partners, and more)
  2. Desk space for < 4 people for 12 months
  3. 1x business license established in Dtec
  4. Access to Dtec community and space

Will you help us incorporate our business in Dtec?

Yes! We have a dedicated team at Dtec that will guide you with the process for your license & visas.

Is it mandatory to get a license from Dtec?

Yes, it is mandatory that you register your business license at Dtec or transfer your existing one. Our team will help you with the process. 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 Dtec offices?

No. It is your business; you can work from wherever. Perhaps you work 3 days from Dtec, and 2 days from home. However, we host all of our content, workshops, office hours, breakfasts etc in-person, so you will certainly benefit from being physically in the Dtec offices.

How many people in my team can benefit from SANDBOX?

Each startup enrolled in SANDBOX is entitled to < 4 named people benefiting from the program. These 4 people will have 24/7 access to the Dtec facilities and can purchase a visa if required. If your team is larger than 4 people, and you want your full team to be relocated to Dtec, in addition to your application form, please kindly get in touch with us:

How many visas can I avail?

You can avail up to 4 visas if enrolled in SANDBOX. Visas incur their own expense as they are excluded from the AED 9,500 fee mentioned above. Should you require more visas, we can accommodate accordingly.

Are visas included?

The visa fees are not included in the joining fee. Should you require visas, we 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.

Do I need to transfer my visa or apply for one?

If you already have a valid UAE residency visa, you can indeed transfer it under your new Dtec business license. This is optional.

I am not able to pay the license fee, is there an alternative?

The feed to enroll is heavily subsidised and is mandatory.

I recently renewed my license elsewhere. Can I still apply?

Yes. If you are accepted into SANDBOX, we would then help initiate the process of establishing a business license in Dtec, or transferring your existing license.

Program structure Expand all

How is the program structured?

SANDBOX provides 200+hrs of workshops, 100+hrs of 1:1 mentoring with expert practitioners, weekly legal support, weekly access to accountants, USD $1m+ in-kind credits from partners, exposure at multiple exhibitions such as GITEX and Step Conference, tens of community events, access to renowned keynote speakers, and much more.

On average, we host 10 workshops per month, covering 6 key pillars:

  • Product development
  • Traction
  • Scaling
  • Finance & fundraising
  • Legal
  • Wellbeing

What does a typical week look like?

Expect to kickoff the week with a founder-to-founder breakfast speaking to a notable guest (such as a VC or a serial entrepreneur). You’ll have the opportunity to attend at least 3 workshops throughout the week spanning across the 6 key pillars, plus benefit from an array of drop-in office hours. Perhaps you schedule a couple of strategy sessions with mentors, whilst benefiting from practitioners working in your business for a few hours too. Almost everything is optional so you can pick-and-choose what to attend, based upon your priorities and challenges. 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?

Your startup can avail < 8 hours’ worth of 1:1 credits per month with our pre-vetted list of practitioners covering any of the 6 key pillars. This time can be used for the practitioners to work in your business.

For example, if in a month you require 2 hours with an iOS developer, 4 hours with a Google Ads specialist, 1 hour with a copywriter, and 1 hour 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 of workshops?

We strongly encourage you to attend as many workshops as you see fit. However, in order not to overload your weekly agenda, almost everything in SANDBOX is optional. Whilst we host a wealth of content each week, this allows you the flexibility to prioritise building your business. On average, we expect you to attend at least 40% of the content hosted throughout the 12-month period.

Your presence is mandatory during the induction week. We also host 3x diagnostic sessions per year where your presence is also mandatory.

Are the workshops 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 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 be featured at ecosystem events including GITEX and Step Conference. We have regular features 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 a program run by Dtec (Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus). Dtec is the largest tech hub and coworking space in the MENA region wholly owned by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA). DSOA is a Free Zone within the Dubai Government, so startups enrolled in SANDBOX have reach to an extensive network of experts across the UAE.

Equity warrant & investments Expand all

Do you take equity in my company?

Upon joining SANDBOX you will sign an Equity Warrant with Dtec Ventures that grants Dtec a right to invest in your company in the future. In summary, Dtec will have the right to invest $50,000 and take a 2.5% stake in your company during either your Seed or Series-A round.

In addition, the investment team will monitor your progress and potentially participate to your next funding round(s). We traditionally invest between $100K and $500K at Seed/Series-A.

When will you exercise the equity warrant?

We will decide to exercise our warrant, or not, during any qualifying round before it expires. This means we will most likely exercise the warrant during your next qualifying equity round.

What happens if you don’t exercise the warrant?

Nothing! Dtec Ventures has the right but not the obligation to exercise the warrant. If we don’t exercise before the maturity date for whatever reason, then we won’t take any equity in your company.

I have specific questions about this equity warrant, who should I talk to?

You can email us your questions to

Will Dtec Ventures invest in my startup during or after the program?

Upon joining SANDBOX, you naturally become part of our deal flow. We will work closely with you over the course of the program and assess a potential investment opportunity when you start fundraising, whether you are still a participant or an alumni of SANDBOX.

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, and invest in the ventures that fit our mandate and clearly demonstrate a capacity to execute and scale. Your commitment and discipline throughout the program is particularly important to our investment team.

How much does Dtec Ventures invest at Seed stage?

Dtec Ventures invest from $100K to $500K at Seed stage.

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 have scheduled multiple events:

  • VC breakfasts: we are regularly inviting prominent early-stage investors, to join us for an informal breakfast in which they will present their fund and scope of investments. This will be an opportunity to get to know them without the stress of pitching them (yet!)
  • Entrepreneur days: every year Dtec organises events dedicated to our startups. This will be the opportunity to pitch in front of a panel of investors in Dtec.
  • Online pitch: you will be able to record a video of your pitch, that we will share to our trusted network of early-stage investors on a secured platform
  • Demo day: one of the landmark events of the year is our SANDBOX demo day
  • …and more!