Fashioning the Future With: Limor Fried
Levitating linguine, Ladyada is on the blog today, and we could not be more elated! Limor "Ladyada" Fried is a fierce force in the electronics and making world—and a badass businesswoman to boot. As the founder and CEO of open-source hardware company Adafruit Industries, Limor's influence on DIY and tech is immeasurably massive.
In fact, it's impossible discuss hardware or the open-source community without talking about Adafruit Industries and the woman who created it, and trust us, by the end of this interview, you'll be dreaming up a new project to build—all thanks to Limor Fried!
Limor founded Adafruit Industries in 2005. Prior to that, she'd been selling kits she built from her website while studying at MIT. Now, the NYC-based company offers nearly 4,000 products along with over 1500 guides as well as many other resources including the Adafruit Blog. Limor's company employs over 100 people, and it's important to note that Adafruit is also 100% owned by women.
Watch this rad vid about Adafruit and Limor:
Limor Fried and Adafruit have been profiled in a ton of prestigious publications (for example: The New Yorker and Forbes to name just a couple), and she has graced the covers of tech mags like Make: and Wired. (Notably, she was the first female engineer on Wired's cover.) In 2012, Entrepreneur featured Limor as Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016, Limor was named a Whitehouse Champion of Change. Those are just some examples of her accolades.
We were ridiculously excited to interview Limor Fried and ask her some of our pressing questions about her own journey with making, her advice on some great starter kits, and her favorite part about running Adafruit, and more.
What sparked your very first interest in tech?
I've just always loved computers, they really are a "bicycle for the mind"—ideas can become reality with modern technology.
What was the first project you ever built as a kid?
I had a Capsela kit when I was a kid, and I loved building things with it. I remember building a bubble-blowing machine. We just put a guide out last week that shows how to build the same thing: https://learn.adafruit.com/make-it-bubble
Flash forward! What was the first DIY electronics kit you ever made?
Our first electronics kit was the MiniPOV 2; it was originally designed as a workshop to teach incoming freshman at school how to solder. After making a few hundred workshop kits, I put the rest up on a website with a PayPal buy button. It's still visible on adafruit at https://www.adafruit.com/product/1
What have you enjoyed the most about running Adafruit Industries?
Our favorite half-hour of the week is our 7:30 PM ET Show & Tell, where people from around the world come by to our video hangout and show off what they've made.
What does it mean to you to create/manufacture all of your products in New York City?
Manufacturing in NYC means we get to work fast: not only can we get things made the day we have parts in stock (instead of having to wait 4-6 weeks for outsource manufacture), it also means we iterate designs quickly and improve manufacturability.
What is a day in the life of Limor Fried like?
I spend a ton of my day researching new sensors, motors, microcontrollers, LEDs and other fun technologies. I take the coolest stuff, and design it into new products that we make or carry in the shop.
What does the open-source community mean to you personally?
The open-source community is all about sharing the best ideas you've got with the world and being inspired by how others build on that idea. Amazing things can happen when we work together to solve problems!
What does Ada Lovelace mean to you?
Ada Lovelace saw something others couldn't—not just a single-purpose machine, but a way of making any kind of machine.
Your pink hair is iconic. How did you come to find your personal style and what does it mean to you?
Owning your own company means you get to look the way you want—you're your own boss! Engineers tend not to have dress codes, so if you love having colorful hair, engineering is a great place to be :)
What advice do you have for younger girls (middle and high school) who want to go into STEM?
Find a project online that you are inspired by and figure out what you have to learn in order to build it—or a product in a store and re-make it so you can make it better. If you spend time taking stuff apart, you'll get to learn what the best engineers do, and then you can take that know-how and make your projects better.
What are some great kits for beginners to get started with?
We recommend all beginners and even not-so-beginners start with a Circuit Playground Express—it has everything built in and can be used with MakeCode block-based programming, CircuitPython, or even Arduino. There's no soldering or wiring or breadboards, and it's wearable!
What is a project that you’ve always wanted to build?
I wish I had more time to make awesome cosplay—but I'll just have to be satisfied with seeing the amazing wearables other people make!
Do you have any favorite fictional STEM characters in books/movies/other art forms?
Shuri from Black Panther is awesome—she's smart, funny, and can solder up anything!
If you were a superhero, what would your go-to wearable tech device be?
I would have an invisibility suit, maybe it would be a wearable that would use light guides to make it look like I'm not there. With that stealth, I could sneak into the EvilCorp lair and ruin their plans for world domination!
To keep up with Limor Fried and to learn more about all the cool things happening at Adafruit Industries, head over to adafruit.com. It's a fabulous resource for inspiration, a perfect place to find all the coolest parts, and a welcoming community full of makers.