After getting a terrible trim himself, Andres Valdiri came up with the concept for an app to ensure a good haircut. The app would use artificial intelligence to measure facial proportions and head shape to suggest the best haircut and how to scout barbers by specialty.
“I just regretted giving that guy money,” the first-year student from Wilmington remembered, laughing.
In the end, Valdiri made money from the ordeal. When he was a senior at Isaac Bear Early College High School at UNC Wilmington, his idea won the $1,500 first-place prize in a regional youth entrepreneurship competition.
Now Valdiri is excited about studying business and computer science at Carolina, already expressing interest in the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship.
“The school overall is the No. 5 public school in the nation,” Valdiri said of Carolina. “It was basically a no-brainer to go to UNC. It’s just a phenomenal school — not to mention the student life.”
A drive to help others
In high school, Valdiri excelled at Science Olympiad and interned at UNC Wilmington as a research assistant. He used 3D printing to help predict ocean wave behavior during hurricanes to limit the damage from storm surge.
As president of the Science Fair Academy club, he led efforts to guide and mentor younger students in New Hanover County, creating a video series explaining the scientific method. The club also sponsored a school supply donation drive and a STEM night at UNC Wilmington.
Another school was supposed to host the STEM event but “they didn’t have enough funding, staff and volunteers,” Valdiri said. “And so, I thought, ‘They can’t do it. I’ll do it.’ So we held it at UNCW. It was phenomenal.”
Valdiri’s “I’ll do it” attitude has served him well. “My dad always told me that if you want to be a part of the top 1%, you got to do what 99% aren’t willing to do,” he said.
He’s paying forward the help he got from others who aided him through his difficult early years in school. As a first-generation American born to Colombian parents, he didn’t always feel welcome.
“When I was younger, Spanish was my native language,” Valdiri recalled. “I’d totally struggle through math and science because there was no one really bilingual to help me except for my friend, and he could only do so much. And then I’d get teased all the time.”
Nobody should have to go through that, Valdiri said. He wants to make sure there are no limitations placed on others’ ability to succeed.
This summer, Valdiri interned with the Bank of America Student Leader program at the Harrelson Center, a nonprofit hub addressing community needs. He also was a Fintech Focus Fellow, sharpening his computer science skills in a two-week program run by software development company Giant Machines.
At Carolina, Valdiri would like to expand his business consulting company for student-led startups to the Triangle. He also wants to join the Carolina Male Empowerment Network and clubs for pickleball or sailing.
Sailing, like computer science, has shown Valdiri the importance of attention to detail and being willing to dive headfirst into unfamiliarity.
“There’s no margin for self-doubt,” he said.