The Highs (and Lows) of Starting Your Own Company

Ayah Bdeir describes how she created littleBits, a toy company that makes electronics accessible to everyone. 

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Ayah Bdeir was "always a maker, a tinkerer," she explains. "I was also a breaker! I broke a lot of stuff." This creative spirit led her to study computer engineering and sociology in Lebanon before finding her way to the MIT Media Lab, where her work explored the intersection of technology, art, and social commentary. Along the way she discovered a need to make engineering more accessible to nonexperts like artists, designers, and kids. 

Fast forward a few years and the company she created, littleBits, allows anyone to make (and break) electronic circuits with a grab bag of interchangeable, candy-colored components that snap together magnetically. The company now consists of a team of technologists based in SoHo ant the open-source toys have been featured in a TED talk by Bdeir. In 2011, the Museum of Modern Art acquired littleBits for their permanent collection.

But getting here wasn't easy, Bdeir says in this interview for Atlantic Video's Advice to a Younger Me series. "There are a lot of challenges with starting a company," she explains. "It eats away at every single second of your day, at every single fiber of your being ... so it has to be something that you are just obsessed with!" Her advice to young entrepreneurs is somewhat counterintuitive, as a result: "naiveté is important" when you're starting a company.

To see what the latest littleBits Exploration Kits look like in action, check out the video below.

 

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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