Entrepreneur.com named Limor Fried one of their top entrepreneurs of 2012, and for good reason. The pink-haired founder has built a multi-million dollar company that’s based on tweaking existing technology to create new stuff; DIY technology if you will. This is Limor’s awesome startup story.
Limor started building technology in her dorm as a electrical engineering Master’s student at MIT. (Phew, say that 10x fast.) Anyway, she got a kick out of applying what she learned in class and building objects that worked like light toys and MP3 players. She would post her DIY instructions on her personal site so others could learn how to build what she was building.
Interest started to grow, and so did orders for the parts she used to build her homemade gadgets. With $10,00 from her parent’s tuition fund, she bought a bulk of parts, assembled her kits, and sold them for around $10 per unit.
And thus her humble dorm-room beginnings turned into a multi-million dollar venture.
Founded in 2005, Limor’s New York-based company Adafruit Industries now has over 35 employees and grossed $4 million in 2011. The MIT engineer wanted to create a place online for anyone, regardless of age or skill level, to learn how to build electronics and technology. Limor personally selects, tests and approves all electronics, tools and equipment built before it goes into the Adafruit store, so you know it’s quality.
Awesome products include:
- MintyBoost – This is a small battery-powered USB charger that has sold over 50,000 devices. It’s made out of an Altoids tin, Macgyver style.
- iNecklace – This is an Apple product-inspired necklace that lights up with a small LED, made for the “women who celebrate art, science, engineering and great design.”
- MakeyMakey – This amazing invention allows you to turn electricity-conducting objects (anything from a cat to a banana) into a keyboard or touchpad. Seriously, check this one out.
The Electric Feel
Limor says the company is based on the “culture of sharing” where customers can be inspired by other’s inventions, improve on them or create their own. The awesome ‘trep wants everyone to have a chance to learn about building technology and says not to be intimidated by the perceived complication. Instead, she says to think about IKEA furniture assembly: you painstakingly read the instructions, put the pieces together and come out satisfied (hopefully) with what you’ve created. This is the same way her 200,000+ customers feel about Adafruit electronic-building. Everyone, she says, “are makers at heart.”