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Who is Iddris Sandu? The digital architect changing the landscape of tech

Iddris Sandu is the 23-year-old digital architect changing the landscape of tech through innovation, a deep understanding of diverse infrastructure, and a spiritual focus on community.

You may know him for creating the world’s first “smart-store” with the late Nipsey Hussle. But there’s so much more to Sandu beyond The Marathon store.

The Origins of a Gift

Iddris Sandu often tells the story of being a young boy messing with remote controls and electronics. Often breaking them to his mother’s dismay, Sandu would spend time taking them apart to see how they worked.


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For years Sandu would go to the library every day to read books about operating systems and coding languages. He was inspired by Steve Job’s presentation on the first iPhone and foresaw the future of building iOS apps. At 13, he landed an internship at Google to learn coding after a chance encounter with a Google employee at Harbor City library.

He told the Google employee who at the time was looking for the very book Iddris was reading that “I’m just learning programming, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it but I just wanna solve some of the largest problems in the world.”

After Google, Iddris went on to consult for several major Tech companies including Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. He’s also worked with tech giants on self-driving cars.

After designing software for a sensor that could detect 3D hand space movement, he recognized that he could use this software to create 3D hand-controlled music software. This was an attempt at connecting with black and brown youth.

Meeting Nipsey

Similarly to his Google encounter, Iddris met Nipsey by chance in a Starbucks where he was working on that same sensor-based music software. Iddris and Nipsey’s visions of uplifting Black and Brown youth aligned and they set out to effect change in the community.

Together they revolutionized the way retail experiences occurred, making the Marathon store a place people wanted to actively visit because of the experience it provided that an online presence could not.

Building Better Systems

Iddris’ understanding of uplifting and supporting the community comes from a deep understanding of the limitations of simple “diversity hiring.”

“They [The Tech world] just think we could Salt Bae Black people here and Latinos here, but no that’s not enough.”

On the Angie Martinez show, Iddris explained that if a system is created without certain demographics being considered and assisting in the building of that structure, the system will be inherently biased. Diversity also goes beyond any single identifier.

“You could have people all the same color but still not think the same, diversity is also about addressing issues that a specific demographic goes through as well.”

Sandu emphasizes the need to create infrastructure and systems with diversity from the jump. This mindset is likely the one that Nipsey recognized in the tech genius.

The Marathon Continues

He’s also a design and tech consultant at Kanye West’s Yeezy clothing and has worked with Jaden Smith to create augmented-reality experiences around music and politics. Despite his great professional achievements at such a young age Sandu practices humility in a specific way.

“Humility is not just about how you present yourself to others but it’s also how you look at yourself through your reflection”

Sandu has also invested a great deal in education to create real opportunities for kids who lack them the most.

“Technology has a life cycle of about a month now,” he says. “But education and the curriculum remained the same.”

He has created mentoring and tutoring programs in L.A. as well as founded a new school for tech literacy in his native country of Ghana. He has consistently used his platform to reach his goal of creating equal access to information for everyone.

Sandu is also a recent 2019 recipient of a $100,000 fellowship grant from Paypal founder Peter Thiel’s foundation aimed at promoting sustainable design and tech ideas amongst Africa’s youth. This focus is a facet of Iddris Sandu’s deep spirituality and understanding of his gift.

“Stay true to your cause, once you abuse the relationship the universe starts to take you out of your path”

2020 Vision

Iddris Sandu also created in collaboration with Facebook the Black Mural Project. The project is an immersive experience for students to explore and learn about Black history as it was launched in February 2020.

Facebook described the event stating, “Students used AR technology to unlock short videos tied to each of the faces on the mural, designed to inspire viewers to use the power of technology to make a difference in their communities.”


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this moment has been years in the making. (Link in bio) . excited to finally announce my partnership with Facebook ; through way of our first project together : The Black Mural Project! . big thank you to @marsaimartin and @shameikmoore for being a part of this important cultural moment. . big thank you to @mayaesperanza as this wouldn’t have been possible without your guidance and brilliance. . thank you @mavcarter and @ipromiseschool for allowing us the space and entrusting us to inspire your youth ; preparing them for the future of technology. . lastly @chasebenjamin, you saw the vision when no one saw it. . excited for everyone to experience the greatness of what we have planned next! . #phase1 #theblackmural . @facebookapp @facebookedu

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For Sandu however, the project not only focuses on the past but also the future.

“I can never visualize Black history without envisioning Black future.”

Iddris Sandu is the CEO of ethosDNA a for-purpose company focused on empowering the world through infrastructural related design nature and access. Sandu is also the founder and creative director at spatiaLABS, an immersive visual studio with futuristic spatial-visual manipulation via hologram.

The technology brings to life surfaces such as “volumetric album covers” and builds on the sensor-based tech Sandu worked on with self-driving cars.


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“volumetric album cover” . created by @spatial_labs for @cactusjack. #ganggang

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Sandu is also launching an app called “Exposure” to promote learning via “book playlists” curated by selected influencers. Through it all Iddris Sandu shares his gifts for a much larger purpose, advancing the culture.