Sidhant Bendre —Sid — is a UR senior majoring in Computer Science. You may have seen him drifting along campus on his white hoverboard. But there is much more to him than his awesome ride. Sid is an international student from Nigeria and India and found himself drawn to computer science and the tech industry because of its potential for highly leveraged impact. As part of his longer-term aspirations, he plans to utilize his network and capital to become a venture capitalist in Nigeria, playing an important role in shaping the nation’s narrative and helping it transition from a vulnerable petroleum-based economy into a service-oriented economy.
Sid has worked hard towards his goal, wracking up a variety of impressive accolades in his field and snatching up loads of internships along the way. He has previously worked at Microsoft, Slack and Zendesk, and is currently working part-time at a startup hedge fund in Rochester as a quantitative machine learning research engineer. Upon graduation, he’s set to move to NYC to join Palantir Technologies, a company that’s notoriously known for its selectivity and hard interviews.
He is a Neo Scholar, which is connected to Neo – a selective startup accelerator, venture capital fund, and an impressive network. The Neo Scholars only accepts around 30-50 students from North America per cohort. Neo Scholars are invited to join the ultimate technical founder community, giving them access to exclusive events, mentors, and online connections with a diverse group of tech veterans and founders, and are prioritized for admission into Neo Accelerator. As a Neo Scholar, Sid said that he “is a part of a network that includes the CTO of Microsoft, the first employee of Google, and the ex-CTO of Facebook.”
He is also a Z Fellow, which markets itself as a “fast track into Silicon Valley.” This is another selective program, with a less than 1% acceptance rate, that gives fellows $10,000 to work on their projects and ideas, at a valuation cap of $1 billion dollars as well as access to a network of mentors including Marc Randolph (Netflix), Naval Ravikant (AngelList), Keith Rabois (Founders Fund), Dylan Field (Figma), and many more. In addition, Sid is a GGV NextGen Fellow at GGV Capital ($9.2B in AUM). He was a part of their inaugural cohort that had an acceptance rate of less than 3%.
Sid was accepted to attend TreeHacks 2023, Stanford University’s annual hackathon. TreeHacks is one of the largest hackathons in the nation. It attracts over 1600+ hackers that fly in from all over the globe. In groups of four, they hack for 36 hours straight. They are all attempting to build the future, to create the next big thing. TreeHacks is a notoriously selective program with a 7.5% acceptance rate.
Prior to TreeHacks, Sid won the prize for the “Hack for Good” category (1 of the 6 prizes) at Twitter’s global hackathon, Codechella. He and his teammates built TwitterForWomen which worked to address domestic violence. They created a bot that could be reached via Twitter DMs to nearby resources that help women suffering from domestic violence. Sid worked on the backend, building the Twitter bot and ensuring that it would respond effectively with accurate information.
At TreeHacks, from February 17th to February 19th, Sid and his team worked on a program that allowed people to control their drone by just giving it an objective to accomplish in plain English! Using GPT-3, he created a tool that makes drones perform a variety of complex tasks such as long-running tasks, multimodal, etc, without needing to write a line of code themselves. The idea for this project came to him after reading the Toolformer paper that was published by Meta AI Research just eight8 days before the hackathon — a paper that demonstrated the ability of large language models like GPT-3 to learn how to use a particular tool or system of tools.
“For example, you could tell the drone to ‘find a bottle’ or ‘find the person in a red shirt’ and it will take off, search the room for the target, and once found will fly to the target,” Sid said, “dDoing all this without you needing to write a line of code.”
This project won Sid TreeHack’s main event prize, the Moonshot prize, which is awarded to the “craziest, most out-of-this-world project.” Sid won a Segway – G30Max Electric Kick Scooter which he intends to sell. After all, a prize like that is not very useful for the hoverboard guy.
Here’s a video demo to check it out in action: DroneFormer | Devpost.