Founder of the Sandbox Program Enriches MIT’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Apri, 26, 2021 – The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship is pleased to honor  Jinane Abounadi with the 2021 Adolf F. Monosson Prize for Entrepreneurship Mentoring. This award recognizes her leadership in supporting entrepreneurship at MIT, and specifically mentoring students on their entrepreneurial journeys.

Abounadi is Executive Director of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, which provides seed funding for student-initiated entrepreneurial ideas, mentorship from both within MIT as well as a broad network of committed partners, and delivers tailored educational experiences for students. She started Sandbox as a pilot in 2016 with 47 teams and a year-round program of courses, workshops, events, mentoring, and advising. In the five years since it launched, Sandbox has grown to over 1,000 teams across all the schools at MIT. It now leverages 107 mentors and 15 fellows, and delivered over 950 hours of mentoring sessions in the fall of 2020. Abounadi has forged a strong partnership between Sandbox and the Trust Center in the areas of content, mentorship, and support of startup teams.

Student entrepreneurs recognize the impact that Jinane Abounadi’s mentoring at the Sandbox Innovation Fund has had on their startups:

  • “Jinane has been an incredible mentor who really helped us grow and mature from students to serious entrepreneurs. The foundation of our mentors’ advice will be extremely advantageous as we move forward.”
    – Anne Kim, EECS ’18, MEng, Co-founder & CEO, Secure AI Labs
  • “Jinane has been instrumental to my entrepreneurial journey at MIT. From day one, she provided clear and constructive feedback, offered mentorship, guidance, and secured advisors that allowed me to iterate on my idea until it turned into a scalable foundation. She truly believed in us, and her mentorship and support has played a big role in making AirWorks a success story.”
    David Morczinek, MBA ’18, Co-founder & CEO, AirWorks

Student learning is at the core of Abounadi’s interactions. She developed Sandbox to give students guidance and mentoring support as they evolve their ideas. Abounadi brings a unique combination of experiences to her role, from academic research to senior operational and strategic roles in startup companies and large businesses. She has first-hand experience in two significant local Boston area start-ups, ITA Software and Kayak, where she gained deep knowledge about not just the travel technology sector, but also about the entrepreneurial process. She combines this with extraordinary academic achievements that brought her to MIT. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, a BS in electrical engineering from Caltech, and a BA from Bryn Mawr College. In addition, she has several publications in the fields of machine learning and communication networks and is passionate about teaching and working with college students.

The Monosson Award is a tribute to the memory of Adolf F. “Sonny” Monosson ’48, and recognizes entrepreneurship mentors who have committed their time, energy, and/or capital toward future generations of entrepreneurs. Established at the MIT Sloan School of Management and made possible by Mr. and Mrs. William S. Grinker ’56 and the Monosson family, the prize continues Sonny Monosson’s mission of providing mentoring to student entrepreneurs. Prior Monosson Award recipients include Kirk Arnold, Bob Metcalfe, Trish Cotter, Shari Loessberg, and organizations such as the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, the MIT Enterprise Forum, and the MIT Venture Mentoring Service.

Bill Aulet, managing director of the Trust Center added, “Jinane has been a wonderful partner with the Trust Center and students across MIT. Her energetic and empathetic focus on mentoring students makes her a deserving recipient of the Monosson. I have had the pleasure to see first-hand her effective mentorship and, even more importantly, heard about it from the students when she was not in the room.”

Ed Roberts, the Trust Center’s founder and chair, concurred, “The ecosystem is strengthened the earlier we can work with students. Jinane’s deft touch, in providing initial grants along with mentorship, has created a strong foundation for student learning and an even fuller landscape of options for the students than we have ever had before. We are pleased to honor Jinane for her wonderful contributions to MIT entrepreneurship.”

When notified of being honored, Jinane shared, “This is so unexpected and appreciated, and the timing is wonderful as I just spent the entire morning mentoring a number of students and teams, and have more of these meetings scheduled for the rest of my day. It is a distinct pleasure to be recognized for work that I so enjoy doing with students who are as intelligent, driven, and focused as MIT students are. Thank you to the Trust Center for this wonderful honor.”


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