Founders Parade

Ayah Bdeir – Founder & CEO of littleBits


Ayah Bdeir – Founder & CEO of littleBits (image source)

LittleBits is a product collection and open-source library of electronic technology “building blocks” for design prototyping, education and play. The product offers several different kits at varying price-points and expertise levels for rapid building an iteration, as well as individual blocks/modules for expansion. Coupled with a an online community for peer collaboration and support, users can download and share plans, project ideas and suggestions for littleBits future module developments. The original value of the venture appears to be an innovative combination of: electronics accessibility (empowers people); the rapidly iterative self-replicating/free development nature of open-source (empowers the community as well as continuing product design); and, the different types of affinity spaces and makerspaces it fosters.


Ayah is a Canadian born innovator who holds a BSC in Computer Engineering and Sociology from American University of Beirut (Lebanon) and completed her Master’s in Computing Culture at the MIT Media Lab (Massachusetts) in 2006. An artist, engineer and interaction designer whose background merges technology and interaction, Ayah has a unique understanding of contemporary design and technology cultures. She became a Senior fellow at the Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in New York and later taught classes in technology and interaction at NYU and Parson’s The New School for Design. It appears she has been actively making connections and networking between the technologies and design communities, she later founded Beirut’s first nonprofit lab for experimental arts, architecture and technology and organized the first “Opening Hardware” workshop at Eyebeam in 2010, giving rise to the the CERN Open Hardware License. Ayah conceived of and founded littleBits in 2011, and has been championing its growth ever since: lecturing, teaching, spurning new open-technology initiatives, and also appearing at TED conferences. She was named a Creative Commons Fellow in 2010, a TED2012 fellow, and also a senior TED2013 Fellow. LittleBits was awarded “Educator’s Choice Award 2013” by MakerFaire SF, and has been inducted into MoMA’s permanent collection. She appears to have found an interesting hybrid approach to both remix and reinvent the closed/expert expert arena of electronics to give rise to a new emergence of products to put the complicated nature of electronics in the hands of everyday people. The open-source nature of the development adds a social cause/imperative and interestingly also aids to speed continual product/bit development. Ayah appears highly motivated, and a strong entrepreneurial role model. The size and varying roles of her team (which is quite large) indicate that she has surrounded herself with relevant expertise. The team however consists primarily of designers, engineers, developers, marketing and program directors and could perhaps benefit by adding or integrating additional market leadership figures or partnerships?


As a MET student with a background in design, this helps me to understand that a great “disruptive” venture must be successful in many different ways along the path to success. Original value or innovation on it’s own may not be enough. For example, value in regards to ventures that have social aspects must also be positioned strategically at the crux of supporting social and cultural movements, otherwise they may fail due to a lack of timing and social response. There also needs to be the right kind of expertise in place all the way along the path, or a venture can experience a “failure-to-launch” or can go awry at any juncture.


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