Iddris Sandu: A 23-year-old tech guru behind Instagram, Snapchat and Uber

by Duke Magazine

Iddris Sandu is a young software engineering guru, who grew up grooming his passion in the world of technology. The 23 year old Los Angeles-based young man has achieved great and astonishing feats, as he was the brain behind the algorithms that brought Instagram, Uber, and Snapchat to their present peak of enterprise. 

The software engineer described himself as a “cultural architect” and said he aims to “level the playing field” between Silicon Valley and young communities of color.

Sandu, born to Ghanaian parents, was born and grew in Harbor City, California, but he didn’t lose the touch of memory with a harrowing experience he had with his father when his father wanted to take him on a trip to Ghana at age 8. 

“But on the fourth day of the trip, he abandoned me in this village, took my passport and came back to the States,” Sandu told Oxford University’s Music and Style Magazine, adding that he got abandoned for about nine months before he was able to get help from a NGO that assisted him to travel back to the United States.

His arrival period back to the United States when at the time when the first-ever iPhone was unveiled, and this launched him to his career path in the world of technology. 

“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,” he said.

 Sandu, at age 10, started learning programming on his own for about two years at a public library, and it was at this period that he got spotted by a designer from Google, who offered him an internship opportunity at the company’s headquarters.

Iddris Sandu
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At age 13, he has gotten his first vast experience with programming, and was able to work on some projects like the initial Google blogger, Google Plus, among others.

With Sandu’s to always effect a change at anywhere he finds himself, while in high school at age 15, he designed an app for his school that gave students an accurate directory to navigate their classrooms. 

This brilliant app designed by Sandu got him appraised all over the United States, and up to the White House where former President Barack Obama scheduled a meeting with him. 

It was also at this time that Sandu wrote an algorithm that he went on to sell to Instagram, and by the age of 18, he was already a consultant for Snapchat before getting an appointment at Uber, where he created a software (Autonomous Collision Detection Interface) for its self-driving cars.

In a bid to bring a nexus between the informed and the uninformed, and to encourage young people like him in the area of invention and innovation, he decided to go down to the level of start-up tech companies.

“Information is one of the highest forms of class. And that is what keeps people divided. You should be able to think on a higher level, instead of being strictly consumers. And people of color in particular are more likely to be consumers than creators. It’s really hard to get out of poverty or to change the structure of economic power if you’re always going to be a consumer rather than creating. Shifting that narrative is what I’ve been trying to do. And thus far, it’s worked, it’s successful.”

In 2017, Sandu met Late rapper, Nipsey Hussle at local Starbucks, and their partnership was able to transform an abandoned storefront in Los Angeles into the Marathon Clothing Store. 

The smart store offers exclusive music and other content to customers who have downloaded an app, said The New York Times.

The store leveraged on the synergy between Sandu being a savvy in technology and Nipsey’s cultural influences, igniting the broad interests journalists, hiphop stars, and cultural icons like Russell Westbrook, Vegas Jones of Roc Nation, among others.

In an exclusive interview with the CNBC, Sandu said the store has helped him bridge the gap between culture and technology, and would love others to do same.

“We are living in the digital revolution,” he said. Although “we are all constantly exposing ourselves to content in real-time.” 

“We need to address the largest issues affecting communities and build infrastructure on that,” Sandu said.

The tech guru has had partnerships with Kanye West and Jaden Smith on some future businesses, clothing lines and disaster relief projects got launched in 2019, according to CNBC.

Being creative in technology, he was able to put together Sonics and instrumentals within three days to make an album.

Today, Sandu is a trailblazer in the world of technology, thereby influencing young people in the area of innovation and invention entrepreneurship across America. 

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