Recently, Jennifer Flanagan, CEO of Actua, tweeted a question: “who are your favourite moms in STEM and why?” That was an easy one to answer. For me, hands-down it's Lyssa Neel. I've had a chance to work closely with Lyssa, CEO of Linkitz, after she won our N100 Startup Competition in 2014 and secured a $100,000 early-stage investment for her new wearable technology. Linkitz are modular electronic toys that introduce girls age four and up to coding and STEM. They feature a simple visual programming interface and multiple interchangeable "links" that can be uniquely customized for all kinds of creative light and sound effects. As Sean O’Sullivan of SOSVentures/HAXLR8R put it, it’s a “friendship bracelet for the digital age.”
In a world where girls often drop off and lose interest in science and technology sadly as early as the age of eight, Linkitz promises to restore their natural confidence and interest in science and engineering. In fact, as a mom and PhD—the tenth women in MIT's history to receive a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science—Lyssa built Linkitz with her own children in mind. "It was the toy I always wished I could give them,” she explains. Looking back on her own childhood in a recent on-stage discussion with wearable tech expert Tom Emrich, Lyssa recalled being discouraged from pursuing engineering at MIT despite her early interest in coding. "My father wouldn't even let me play with the train set in our house, because it was 'for boys'.”
One of the members of our N100 Power Panel, Jodi Glover (CEO & Co-Founder of Real Tech Inc.) in a recent interview with MaRS, spoke about how she, too was discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering. “I was a girl, and girls were directed into more traditionally female career choices. Breaking down these gender stereotypes with career choices will help more young girls choose engineering and other male-dominated professions that will help bring about stronger advancement of women.” Linkitz aims to be a part of this change by empowering girls from an early age and maintaining their interest in science and technology into the future.
On May fifth, with an enthusiastic response from Toronto's massive We Are Wearables community, Linkitz launched their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Linkitz is a really awesome Canadian wearables startup, a company that believes in a world where technology can be an extension of the fun ways that girls create, play and interact with their friends. By backing the Linkitz Kickstarter we can make a difference in the lives of girls and support one of our favourite #MomsinSTEM.
Happy Mother's Day Everyone!
This post was written by John Hayden, Manager of Enterprise Programs at the N100 an annual $100,000 startup competition for early-stage technology-driven ventures. Past winners of N100 are Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (with Ubi the ubiquitous computer) and Linkitz (a modular wearable programmable electronic toy designed to get children into coding, electronics and STEM). Find out more and apply at www.n100.ca.