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22 Year Old Iddris Sandu From Ghana Featured On Forbes for Merging Hip-Hop Culture With The Tech World

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At just 22, Iddris Sandu has had gigs at some of the biggest names in tech.

Born in Accra, Ghana, and raised in Compton, California, Sandu taught himself computer programming when he was only 11, and says that he scored a coding internship at Google two years later. This experience served as the launchpad for his career.

“I saw how a concept could go from ideation to a prototype, and then from a prototype to the actual product,” Sandu says. “That opportunity allowed me to see not only how an engine ran but how it sounded, how it worked and most importantly, how it was built.”

He notes that by the time he was 20, he had consulted for Twitter, worked on Snapchat’s user interface design, and helped build software used in autonomous vehicles at Uber. But Sandu’s true passion lies in bringing together the worlds of innovation, creation and black culture.

“Making technology is the easy part,” he says. “Relating it to the culture is the hard part.”

In 2017, Sandu met the late rapper Nipsey Hussle in a coffee shop and helped turn Hussle’s Los Angeles clothing store into a smart store. On entering the retail outlet, customers could download exclusive music and video content from the artist through an app.

He explains that he has since worked with hip-hop heavy hitters like Jaden Smith and Kanye West to leverage technology and augmented reality on projects from both stars. Sandu worked on designing West’s still-unreleased Yandhi album cover and conceived stage design concepts for upcoming tours. Sandu is currently working with Smith and other celebrities to motivate Generation-Z voters in the leadup to the 2020 presidential election.

Sandu immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana with his parents when he was 3, and the family had limited resources during his childhood, he says:

“We didn’t have cable TV or anything, so I started utilizing the internet.” When he was 10, he stumbled across a video presentation by Steve Jobs and quickly became enamored of technology and software development. “I started reading and reading because I wanted to become the best algorithm writer and programmer,” he recalls.

Despite being accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after graduating from high school, Sandu didn’t take the traditional four-year college route. “The way I can leave the most impact, and the way that I can really just change the lives of those around me, was to learn immediately through exposure,” he says.

Sandu’s latest project brings him back to his birthplace, which he believes will be responsible for cultivating the next wave of tech entrepreneurs and business leaders. In 2018, he purchased more than 10 acres of land in Accra, where he plans to build a state-of-the-art learning resource hub for adolescents that focuses on STEM, mental health and wellness, design and sustainability.

“It’s now time for the world to look at Africa for its human capital value,” Sandu says. “Not just that it has the best land, the best food, the best vegetation—but also that it has the most intellectual minds that can create the best businesses.”

[Credit: Ruth Umoh – Forbes.com]

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