The Innovators

10 Up and Coming Leaders to Watch

The Innovators


Innovators push the boundaries of the known world. They're change agents who are relentless in making things happen and bringing ideas to execution.

Ayah Bdeir, littleBits
Photo (C) Ewan Burns

Engineering Growth

Ayah Bdeir, littleBits

Founded in 2011, littleBits--dubbed "Legos for the iPad generation"--has sold its kits in 60 countries. Bdeir, considered one of the leaders in the open-source-hardware movement, says her engineering background has had a strong influence on how she manages her staff of 31.Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits, a line of magnetic modules that let kids make their own electronic creations, never stops asking herself how she can make things better. "Leadership is hard work. You have to be continuously questioning yourself and your methods and evaluating what's working and what's not working," she says. "You have to think about something 24/7, obsess over why a problem is the way it is and obsess over different hypotheses, because the first 30 don't work and the 31st is the one that works."

"Everything is a problem that can be solved. It's about identifying a problem, coming up with a hypothesis on why it's happening and then testing out the hypothesis," she says. "It's the classic engineering problem-solving cycle I go through, whether it's a marketing campaign that didn't get as many hits or a hire in the company that's not working out."

Bdeir has built littleBits with this mindset. "There's never any shame in pointing out any problem, and there is no ego in the company, so anybody should and can point out something," she says. "We want to put it out there and solve it, and as a result our team is very strong, cohesive and collaborative." --M.J.

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This article was originally published in the March 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 10 Up and Coming Leaders.

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