AN O’REILLY SUMMIT
November 12–13, 2015  •  San Francisco, CA
Limor Fried

Limor Fried
hacker, slacker, code cracker, Adafruit Industries

Website | @adafruit

If anyone is the new face of American manufacturing, it might well be Limor Fried. Visiting her combination design studio/manufacturing floor/warehouse in Manhattan’s SOHO district is an eye-opening tour of what becomes possible when a brilliant engineer has access to on demand prototyping and manufacturing, easy access to a rich supply chain and logistics, and a powerful media platform that uses education to create demand for her products. Adafruit Industries shows what small business can look like in the 21st century: open, networked, committed to improving the lives of its customers, with value-add based on design, personality, and community.

— Tim O’Reilly

Quotes from Limor

I like to skip to the end of the story, all hardware is copyable. There are trademarks for logos and names and patents for some things, but if it’s made out of physical bits and it’s interesting, someone is going to copy it. So I’ve always worked back from that, if someone is going to copy something of mine I should do my best to make it educational, fun and help society. In a world where companies like Apple and Samsung are suing each other it’s pretty clear that progress stops when you think you can stop copying. One way to look at it is recipes, we can all make any dish we like at home, but we go to restaurants for an experience. That’s how I look at hardware, you’re not just buying the physical bits from Adafruit, you’re getting the service, support and community of makers. In the future every hardware company will need to be a cause and a business.

Running your own company isn’t for everyone, I wasn’t even sure it was for me at first, but the freedom and flexibility to pursue whatever you want and work on the important things is seductive and rewarding. There’s a ton of risk of course, but the biggest risk is regret later if you don’t at least try. There’s never been a better time to run a company that celebrates smart people, smart communities and learning.

A parent of a kid emailed us to say that they watch the show, ‘Ask an Engineer,’ with their daughter each week, and because she’s only seen women talking about engineering on the show she recently asked her parents, ‘Do boys do engineering too?’

One of the challenges of getting more young people into engineering and computer programming is that we’re collectively competing with the high profile status that becoming a famous, professional athlete or musician, or reality show star, promises. I don’t expect the mass media to change, because change happens from small groups of motivated people. And, this is where the maker, hacker, and open source software and hardware communities are making great progress… What an interesting world we can create together where perceptions can change just by celebrating each others work, by sharing and putting value back in, and through open software and open hardware. We are what we celebrate.

Oh really? There’s debate about open source hardware? I’m going to keep shipping open source hardware while you all argue about it.

Biography

Adafruit was founded in 2005 by MIT engineer Limor “Ladyada” Fried. Her goal was to create the best place online for learning electronics, and making the best-designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. Adafruit has expanded offerings to include tools, equipment, and electronics that Limor personally selects, tests, and approves before going in to the Adafruit store. Limor was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine, and was recently awarded Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Ladyada is on the NYC Industrial Business Advisory Council. In 2014 Adafruit was ranked #11 in the Top 20 USA manufacturing companies, and #1 in New York City by Inc. 5000 “fastest growing private companies.”

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