Born in Montreal, Quebec in 1982 and raised in Beirut, entrepreneur, inventor, and interactive artist Ayah Bdeir reportedly credits her late father entrepreneur Saadi Bdeir and her mother banker Randa Bdeir for the inspiration behind every business venture she delves into.
Raised by her parents to love math, science, and design, Bdeir says her parents encouraged her and her sisters to pursue their passions in the field of their choosing. Bdeir would reportedly take things apart, break them open to see what was inside. She was given chemistry sets and programming lessons on Commodore 64 when she was just twelve years old.
Her parents championed their girls to be scientists and engineers and pushed them to be career women. Bdeir earned a Master of Science degree from the MIT Media Lab and undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and Sociology from the American University of Beirut.
In 2008, she was awarded a fellowship at Eyebeam in New York City. She has also taught graduate classes at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and Parsons The New School for Design.
In 2010, Bdeir served as a design mentor on the reality TV show, Stars of Science, one of the Arab World’s leading innovation and edutainment shows.
In September 2011, she founded littleBits Electronics, a New York City-based startup that makes an open-source library of modular electronics that snap together with small magnets for prototyping and learning.
The company’s goal is to democratize hardware the way software and printing have been democratized. The littleBits mission is to “put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, and to break down complex technologies so that anyone can build, prototype, and invent.”
Today, LittleBits units are available in more than 70 countries and used in more than 2,000 schools. The company was named among CNN’s 10 Startups to Watch for 2013, and currently boasts investors such as True Ventures, Foundry Group, and Two Sigma. Ayah Bdeir also made it this year to BBC’s 100 Influential Women List 2019.
In 2016, littleBits joined the Disney Accelerator program. It has also partnered with Pearson, one of the leading curriculum companies in the world to co-create curriculum to support their Science and Engineering program.
Bdeir was named to the Popular Mechanics’ 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream in 2014, and she has spoken on multiple international platforms on the importance of democratizing technology.
Bdeir is also a proponent of the Open Hardware Movement, an initiative aimed at ensuring that technological knowledge is accessible to everyone, and co-founded the Open Hardware Summit, an annual conference organized by the Open Source Hardware Association.
Prior to littleBits, Bdeir worked as an interactive artist. She has exhibited work around the world at the Peacock Visual Arts gallery (Aberdeen), the New Museum (New York), Ars Electronica (Linz) and the Royal College of Art (London).