He gained the attention of former U.S. President Barack Obama which landed him at the White House, where he received an honorary presidential scholar award.
Sandu, 21, lives in Los Angeles. He is the unconventional tech guru who has accomplished many incredible achievements, including being responsible for systems that have made Uber, Instagram and Snapchat what they are today.
He considers himself a cultural architect and aims to “level the playing field” between Silicon Valley and young communities of colour.
Iddris Sandu was born and raised in Harbor City, California with parents from Ghana.
He recollected a harrowing experience he had when he was eight. According to him, his father took him on a trip to Ghana.
On the fourth day of the trip, his father abandoned him in a village, took his passport and went back to the States.
He added that he was abandoned for almost nine months before getting into contact with an NGO which helped him travel back home.
He got back to the U.S. when the first-ever iPhone was unveiled, and this started his journey into the tech world.
Sandu’s encounter with technology
At age 10, Sandu started learning how to programme on his own for the next two years at a public library and this was where he got spotted by a designer from Google, who offered him an internship opportunity at the company’s headquarters.
He said, “I just got super inspired. I thought this device is going to change the world. The reason why the iPhone was so important was because it was the first time when regular consumers could develop for other regular consumers. Before, you really had to work at a tech company for multiple years to be able to offer any sort of input or to create an app. But Apple made it so mainstream. I knew it was the future.”
Sanda got his first experience with programming and worked on many projects such as the initial Google blogger, Google Plus, among others when he turned 13.
With determination, Sanda, 15, designed an app for his high school that gave students turn by turn directions to navigate their classrooms.
His school being the only school in California that had an app made by a student, Sandu received wide acclaim that would later afford him a meeting with former President Obama.
Sandu wrote an algorithm that he sold to Instagram and by the age of 18, he was already a consultant for Snapchat before landing at Uber, where he created a software christened the Autonomous Collision Detection Interface for its self-driving cars.
He then encouraged the study of STEM subjects in schools and at higher levels.
In 2017, Sandu met rapper Nipsey Hussle at local Starbucks, and in three weeks, they had transformed an abandoned storefront in Los Angeles into the Marathon Clothing Store.
The store leveraged Iddris’ tech and design background and Nipsey’s cultural influences, sparking the interests of many journalists as well as hip hop and cultural icons like Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others.
The tech wizard has since partnered with Kanye West and Jaden Smith on some future businesses, clothing lines and disaster relief projects that are set to launch in 2019.