A new chapter in the Bitosphere

ayah bdeir
Aug 23 · 5 min read
littleBits first prototype, circa 2008

Today is my last day at littleBits.

When I first invented littleBits in 2008, I had the idea that the power of invention with technology should be accessible to everyone, no matter their age, gender and technical prowess. I believed that learning through play was the surest path to loving STEM. And I knew, deeply in my gut, that modularizing electronics into a new generation of building blocks had the potential to change education and making forever.

What I didn’t know is that the world would agree with me.

the first littleBits patent

I could never have imagined that one day littleBits would empower millions of kids to become inventors. I didn’t think we could create the largest modular hardware library in the world: a system where billions of circuit combinations would be possible, where every Bit works with every other Bit in the world, where our invention toolkit expanded to have hardware, software, curriculum, and all the intersections in between. I would not have believed that we would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. That we would win over 100 awards in education, tech, design and play. I never fathomed that we would invent a whole category and coin a term — electronic building blocks — that is now uttered daily by our industry. I certainly never thought we would be acquired by MoMA for the permanent collection, collaborate on curriculum with NASA, develop product with KORG, and launch campaigns with Star Wars.

the largest library of electronic building blocks, with over 70 Bits and billions of combinations

Today there are more than 20 million Bits in the world, littleBits is in 15,000 schools and makerspaces, and in the hands of over 2 million kids. The scale is not lost on me — I come from Lebanon, a country in the Middle East with a total population of 4 million people.

What I also didn’t know is how much littleBits would change me, or the addiction I would develop to our community of kids, teachers and parents. The infinite creativity of kids is infectious. The resilience of teachers is humbling. And the love from parents is something to aspire to.

As I reflect back, there are a few moments that stand out for me.

Like the day I received a letter from an 8 year old boy with the most convincing ask I’ve ever seen.

Note from a young Bitster

(of course we sent him many kits!)

Or the day I was invited to give the commencement speech at
one of our earliest school customers: Marymount School of New York. I
stood in front of 40 girls that were becoming young women full of confidence and excitement for STEM. The girls were incredibly inspiring. But I was in awe of their fearless teachers and their steadfast principal that embarked on one of the first formal making programs inside an elementary school because they wanted students to be the changemakers of tomorrow.

Commencement speech at Marymount School of New York in April 2019

Or the day I met Shireen Hafeez, founder of Deaf Kids Code who, fueled by the diagnosis of her own son, decided to dedicate her life to advocacy and activism to help kids that are deaf or hard of hearing rise above the national statistic – that 70% of them are unemployed or under employed because of difficulty communicating. Shireen travels around the world starting chapters, and leading invention workshops and 95% of kids that participate in her events want to keep learning.

There have been so many exhilarating moments when I have seen our impact in the world. So many that I created a slack channel in the office called «the moment» where we could all share these stories. These three moments were just from 2019. I could list hundreds of others that lifted me up, opened up my mind, and gave me conviction in what we were doing.

The mission continues….

I leave littleBits in incredibly talented hands. Today we announced that littleBits and Sphero, the leading educational technology company, are joining forces. Sphero shares our mission of inspiring the creators and inventors of tomorrow. Paul Berberian, CEO of Sphero has built a team that is crazy smart, dedicated to changing the world of learning, and deeply respectful of what we have built. With their amazing experience and operational excellence they will expand the reach of littleBits into every classroom, living room and after school program in the world.

I am even more proud that the General Manager of littleBits will be Diana Pincus. Diana is a tremendous leader. Under her cool and collected exterior, is a fire for solving big problems, mentoring a team to greatness, and carrying our mission forward to global proportions. She’s also a badass lady leader. I would not have had it any other way.

Thank you…

To my team of Bitsters, present and past, I say thank you. Thank you for your energy, your talent, thank you for jumping on this adventure when you could have done a thousand other things. I hope very much you share my surpassing pride. And thank you for continuing on in this next chapter of littleBits.

To our wider network of investors, advisors and friends who have helped us create products, supply chains, sales networks, marketing campaigns, teams, offices, strategies, funding rounds… thank you: this would not have been possible without your support in bringing
littleBits to the world.

As for me personally, for the past 8 years, littleBits has been everything for me. What I think about day and night. What I dream
about and talk about. But, after much reflection with my family, I’ve decided it’s time for me to focus on what’s next for me in this world and I will not continue on the littleBits journey day to day. I remain as passionate as ever about democratizing technology, about STEAM, and about eradicating the gap of girls in STEM.

I will forever be littleBits’ biggest supporter and champion…

ayah bdeir

Written by

Thoughts abt art, tech & incredible intersections within. Founder @littleBits, @TEDFellow, alum @medialab, @eyebeamnyc, @CreativeCommons.

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