Limor “ladyada” Fried, founder of open hardware company Adafruit Industries, is Entrepreneur Magazine‘s Entrepreneur of 2012. Fried founded Adafruit while in college, and has grown it to a firm of more than 30 employees shipping hundreds of electronic products a day. They also provide extensive electronics tutorials. Fried is an open hardware pioneer, having contributed to the authoring of the Open Source Hardware definition and she has keynoted the Open Source Hardware summit. She’s previously been recognised by Fast Company as among The Most Influential Women in Technology and been profiled in Wired.
We asked Fried a few questions about her career, and whether open hardware is a community where other women could build a career:
Q. How has the open in open hardware contributed to Adafruit’s success?
Adafruit was built on the idea you can be a great cause and a great business, from the start we’ve given away the “recipe” of how make things. From the actual files to publishing code on how our open-source shopping cart system works. We’ve found the more you give, the more you get back. Our customers and community have a lot of choices where they can get electronics and more, they choose Adafruit because they know they’re part of something more than a sale of physical goods. Because we’ve put value in, we get a lot of value back.
Q. Has starting your own business let you accomplish things that wouldn’t have been possible as an employee?
Running your own business allows you to take risks that you usually cannot take if you’re an employee. Not too long ago we decided to
hack the Kinect. We wanted everyone to be able to use Microsoft’s Kinect on any hardware they wanted, and to be able to create amazing projects. One of my favorite projects is a sign language translator, it’s amazing to see what the open source community had done with Kinect now that it’s been made more open. There was a lot of talk of Microsoft suing us, they eventually backed down and embraced the maker/hacker community – but if I were an employee I would not have been able to take on Microsoft.
Q. Have you found the maker community welcoming to a woman leader? How would you recommend women get involved?
The maker community has from the start celebrated woman leaders, the open source hardware summits to littleBits are all led by women. It’s one of the best examples of women in tech leading and doing amazing things. To get involved, look to your local hackerspaces/makerspace and join in, participate on forums and mailing lists — my favorite quote is from Dean Kamen “We are what we celebrate” — we still still have a lot of work to do to get more women celebrated in many tech fields, everyone can help get some amazing women in the spotlight more and more.
In this video, Fried introduces her company and explains how the principles of open hardware contribute to Adafruit’s business and educational goals:
One of the really interesting things about the way we do business here at Adafruit is that not only do I design and manufacture electronics but then I give away the recipe of how it’s done. And I do this because I think it’s really important for people to not only understand how we make stuff but how they can make stuff themselves at home… I give away all this information so that people can learn, share and build their own businesses from it… I’ve found that the more we help people by teaching them and showing them how to be creative on their own the more they rewarded us by being great customers and also being part of our fun community.
Entrepreneur Magazine writes:
Limor’s and Adafruit’s efforts have shown it’s possible to not only have a goal of education, and to share knowledge freely, but how it’s possible to run a business doing so. There are hundreds of people and companies that have been empowered by Limor and Adafruit’s designs – they’ve gone on to make and share their own designs and start their own businesses, all using the hardware and software from Adafruit.
Limor’s goal is to make the world a better place by creating great products and showing how they’re made so others can learn and share. Adafruit has discovered the more we all give and share, the more we all get back.