About a year ago, I was developing the concept for Invest2Innovate, attending conferences, and talking to everyone and anyone possible. I’d come back to Washington, D.C. after a trip buzzing and inspired, feeling just that much closer to turning this idea into a reality. But as much as being an entrepreneur can be exciting, it’s also a path riddled with self-doubt and loneliness. It sometimes feels like it’s you against the world.
When I first heard about Sandbox, I realized it didn’t have to be that way.
Sandbox is a global network of selected innovators under 30, a community of over 600 people in 48 countries and 23 hub cities, including Cairo, New York, Nairobi, Singapore, Mexico City, Bangalore, and San Francisco. Intrigued by the idea of being part of a tribe rather than traversing this entrepreneurial journey alone, I reached out to the ambassadors in DC, and found out there was a DC hub breakfast the very next day. Months later, I’m now a member of the network and a co-ambassador for the hub. This past weekend, I attended the first Sandbox Global Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.
Over the course of three days in Lisbon, I met people who wowed me with their intelligence, ingenuity, and generosity. Almost everyone was doing something crazy and awe-spiring in their respective fields. But if that were all it took to be a member, then Sandbox would be just another network. Instead, Sandboxers are (more often than not), deeply collaborative and giving, using the community to not only help achieve their own goals, but to help other members do the same. Because of the peer-to-peer emphasis, Sandbox has the semblance of a family – complete with warm hugs, inside jokes, and endearing oddities.
After spending the past month working on the ground in Pakistan for i2i, the Global Summit gave me an opportunity to breathe, process, and reflect on our work and my own journey as an entrepreneur. Much of this transpired during the multitude of skills workshops taught by fellow Sandboxers and other leaders with topics ranging from serendipity to martial arts to productivity. But I also had many incredible & inspiring conversations with other members about life beyond work. I sometimes realized I didn’t know what people did (the quintessential DC question) because I was more interested in who they were.
I walked away from the Summit not only completely in love with Lisbon, but also enamored by the many friends I made, who were much, much more than just “connections” I could leverage in the future. Because of the Summit, I discovered John E.’s overpowering sweet tooth and Rand’s hilarious aversion to sarcasm. I want to keep mini versions of Tara and Nirav in my pocket. I know if I ever were in trouble, Niamh and Rahaf would be my scary heroines in shining armor. I love my Diva roommates a ridiculous amount. And I’ll never be able to hear the song, “Barbara Streisand” without thinking of Nico raising his hand, frantically (and sometimes unsuccessfully) trying to get everyone’s attention.
During one workshop, we discussed how serendipity involves being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mindset. Serendipity is a happy accident, one that not only explains my journey to launching i2i, but also my amazing experience playing in the Sandbox.
Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate, based in Washington, D.C. She loves traveling, pretending to be a foodie, Jeopardy, and inane discussions about morality in mainstream television shows. If you watch mainstream television shows, you know this amounts to very little discussion.