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Tech guru overwhelmed by Draper University opportunity

Published:Wednesday | March 4, 2015 | 9:25 AMTamara Bailey
Samuels spending the day at Uber, the world’s fastest growing start up
Dwayne Samuels with Chris Anderson owner of 3d Robotics, Americas largest personal drone manufacturer.
Samuels takes a quick picture while touring the Google Mountain View campus with fellow Draper U cohort members in California.

Old England, Manchester:

He always had a knack for computer applications and software creations, but if 25-year-old Dwayne Samuels, from a humble community in suburban Manchester, were told a few years ago that he would be the first Jamaican to be accepted at Draper University of Heroes (Draper U) and travel to Silicon Valley, there's a possibility he would have laughed in disbelief.

Draper University is the brain child of world renowned Venture Capitalist Tim Draper, who led multiple rounds of funding for successful billion-dollar companies such as Skype, Hotmail, Tesla and SpaceX. Draper created Draper U to teach the most promising entrepreneurs around the world how to build great technology companies by bringing them to the Valley, to which Samuels is now a part, moving forward in an entrepreneurship programme.

But how did this young man secure such a life-changing opportunity?

"My startup, Grikly, which is an app that allows persons to share business cards via smartphones, is a part of the YouNoodle 1000 (YN1K) programme, which selects the top 1000 start-ups globally from a group of 60,000. I got short listed for Draper University by being a part of that programme. After filling out the application form online, I waited about two weeks before getting an email asking me to reserve a time for me to talk with the Draper Admissions team. I was elated. After the meeting, I was contacted a week later. I was so anxious. I was in a meeting with our legal team and my co-founder, Shawn McLean, when I heard a myriad emails coming through, but I ignored them until after the meeting. After scrolling through each message I saw one entitled, 'Welcome to Draper University'. I was so overjoyed!" expressed Samuels.

With the programme costing US$10,000, Samuels was able to get assistance from the National Commercial Bank.

"I have been blessed with this opportunity and I will be making the most of it. With the expansion of Grikly to Grikly Events, which allows event planners to execute events, this new arm will also allow event planners to gather information of users who 'check' into the location with their smart phones which will be available for private testing in May of this year. I hope to get a better understanding of the US market, widen our network here in Silicon Valley, so we can begin operations here later this," stated an enthused Samuels.

The Northern Caribbean University (NCU) graduate, who has experienced some amount of success and equally some amount of failure, said his drive to succeed and his parents are the reasons he has never given up.


Microsoft Imagine Cup


"Back in high school, I used to teach web design to my peers for a small fee. After high school I studied computer science at NCU and took part in the Microsoft Imagine Cup. The first year I entered, I only had one teammate - Shawn McLean. We entered and didn't qualify. A year later, in 2009, we added two more team members and qualified for the world finals in Cairo, Egypt, but we didn't win. In 2010, we entered again and won the Imagine Cup in Warsaw, Poland. After the Imagine Cup, Shawn and I wanted to turn our product into a company, but we had no idea of how to start up. So we started. We networked as much as we could: I took part in all the entrepreneurial programmes I could find and we both researched how to simplify business processes. During this phase, we found out that networking - event networking in particular - was so fragmented and we set out to solve this need that individual's face, which lead to us starting Grikly."

He continued, "My parents have sacrificed so much for me and I love them immensely. I couldn't ask for better parents, they are the main reason I am where I am today, I'm a part of the best programme of its nature in the world."

Only three months into the programme Samuels is anticipating greater things for himself and his peers.