Student Spotlight: Samuel Osei Afriyie
Samuel Osei Afriyie, Information Science and Entrepreneurship student, is on a mission to make a positive impact on a global scale.
This level of drive and determination isn’t new for Samuel. Growing up in Ghana, his grandparents owned and operated a grocery store and a printing press, both of which he helped operate starting at just 12 years old.
“I started helping out with bookkeeping after school. In the summers, I helped manage the store and actually learned how to do some basic graphic design and did some of the work. It was very hands-on.”
In 2010, Samuel and his family moved to New York City. He finished high school in the Bronx, then completed his undergraduate career in upstate New York, where he earned a degree in international business and development studies. Upon graduating, he actually wasn’t interested in working in tech.
“Honestly, the family business I spoke of was my earlier intro into tech, but I kind of steered away a little bit because I didn’t see a lot of representation when I was in undergrad … I felt like I was strongly suited in other roles like sales marketing and strategy.”
He worked a few internships with international development orgs, but ultimately found his way back to tech when he got in contact with the I3 Institute, a research program at the University of Pittsburgh.
“They bring students from all over the country from sophomore to senior year … While you’re there, admissions teams come and talk to you about the possibilities of careers in technology that don’t have to be technical. All of that exposure kind of gave me a lot of tools.”
With his passion for tech rekindled, Samuel felt the drive to use the power of technology and innovation to make a positive impact on the world.
“The possibility of having folks that are also interested in social impact use it for good, that really excites me. For my own entrepreneurial venture, I want to do something in technology for good. I’m still doing some research, but I also had a few startups I was a part of. Those experiences and what I’ve been able to learn in corporate – just mix all of those together and start something.”
During undergrad, Samuel and a partner founded a startup in Ghana that focused on providing technical education.
“We built a data science and software engineering center in Ghana … I decided to part ways, but the business is very successful. They’re doing data science training in person.”
Samuel’s entrepreneurial journey didn’t end there. After graduating college, Samuel worked in tech sales and consulting for a few years before entering the School of Information in 2020 to continue his education. There, he learned about the Center for Entrepreneurship’s graduate certificate program.
“I came in with an idea and kind of going through these classes I was able to funnel my idea through it. My biggest takeaway was learning from actual entrepreneurs who went through the motions. They tell us about their mistakes and what we should do better. The tools and matrices they gave us are super, super helpful.”
When asked about his biggest takeaway from his ENTR courses so far, Samuel described the Intro to Venture Capital course as foundational for helping him frame his next business venture.
“My biggest takeaway is that not every idea makes sense to raise for. Also, relationships are everything. A lot of times, people raise the money before they even start building anything. Definitely know when to raise and keep building relationships .. Getting the tools and experience was really major.”
Samuel’s business idea has the potential to change the gig economy for the better. Through research and interviews with freelancers, Samuel hopes to create a centralized community for freelancers that empowers them to take control of their rates.
“Freelancing and gig economy is very big in the American world. A lot of the platforms they’re using today are all American or European based companies. My next idea is to build a platform that ensures the maximum payout for freelancers within other parts of the world … Vendors shouldn’t try to lowball them just because they’re in a different continent.”
While Samuel continues to study at the School of Information, he is also currently conducting market research and interviewing freelancers around the world. After graduation, he plans to stay around the startup scene.
“I’ll probably work for an incubator or a VC fund, getting my feed grounded while saving up capital. As I continue researching and solidifying my business plan, I’ll continue to work on that.”
When asked if he has any advice for current U-M students who are hoping to get involved with entrepreneurship, he said the following:
“Michigan is a great place to learn and collaborate. My last words would be for students to not just think within their schools. Try to meet students within other schools and programs. The CFE is doing a great job of bringing in people from all backgrounds into that collaborative environment.”
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