Limor Fried, Founder & CEO, Adafruit Industries
Electronics. Companies. Movements. Limor Fried can build anything. In fact, the MIT graduate loves sharing her ideas and the tools for creating them so much she created Adafruit Industries, a top-20 U.S. manufacturing firm and a global online community that follows her every machine-making move.
LIMOR FRIED: is just saying I've got a problem, and I've got all these techniques and tools in my head, we're going to solve this problem together. Engineering is making solutions for people.
I grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, which is right outside of Boston. When I was a young girl, actually one of my favorite memories is I would watch "Mr. Wizard's World" with my dad. And it was awesome. There was building your own record player.
- There's the needle on the amplifier.
- Oh, wow.
LIMOR FRIED: At the time, it was totally OK to set up explosives, as long as you called the fire department ahead of time.
LIMOR FRIED: I just loved being creative, and I loved science. I loved building things, like taking things apart, understanding how they worked.
I was actually having just a lot of, fun because I'd been gaining all these skills in building, and in microcontrollers, and LEDs, and art, and technology. And I'd post these projects online and send them to people, and say, hey, here's a cool project I built. In Boston, Cambridge at MIT, there's a strong open source culture. It was just soaking in this idea of if you are creating new technology, new capabilities, you have to give it away. Otherwise, you're kind of being selfish.
So I took that approach, which is called open source software, and applied it to the projects I was building to make open source hardware. I'd post up these projects and I'd get a lot of emails that said, hey, you know, this project is really cool, I want to learn how to build this too. But I have to buy all these parts, can you just sell me a kit, something that's an all-in-one box, and when I open it, all the parts are in it, and then I'll be able to follow along.
I was living in a condemned apartment. But eventually, that actually got torn down, and then we ran out of space. And so we got another apartment in the same building. And we would shuffle storage back and forth. I was taught engineering, but you don't really know how to run a business, how to manage people, how to create a community. I think having started it when I was 25, I just had to prove everyone wrong. And I was just like I know I can do better than everyone, and I'll show you.
Hey everybody, it's me, Lady Ada, and this is our Internet of Things box. Electronics engineering for me is my art form. What I'm trying to do is inspire people to become curious and practice using technology, learn electronics so that I can build that thing that is in my heart and make it real. At AdaFruit we share everything. I share all the plans, the schematics, the design, the files, the code, it's all online.
And every week, we do show and tell. It's a live video, like hang out. Anyone with a webcam can show off what they're building. So we have people who are doing cosplay. We have people who are sewing. We have people who are mixing like clay, and metal, and glass with electronics to build sculptures.
When somebody who glass blows shows, hey, I embedded the electronics in the glass sculpture so it lights up, I'm inspired. I'm like, hmm, that's a good idea. What kind of technology would help you achieve your goal. And then we publish that online for free. And that can inspire the next engineer in waiting.
The traditional image of engineer is being changed. Right, now the people who are building electronics in my community, they're not what people would traditionally look at as an engineer. And that's good. That means that we're getting more brains, more experience, more people that have new exciting problems to solve.
The most heartfelt moment I've had running AdaFruit is we got an email from a parent, and he'd been watching the show and tell with his young daughter. The daughter turned to him and said, wow, this is so cool, can boys be engineers too? And it was really inspiring, because it's like, one down.