Lyssa Neel, an MIT PhD who developed a wearable toy for kids, has won the 2014 N100 Startup Competition.
Her invention- called Linkitz– is a wearable electronic toy that actually teaches children how to program in a fun way. Designed for children, it’s modular and snaps together, allowing users to modify and expand the device. The toy doesn’t require any knowledge of programming and reassembling the blocks will change how they behave. Anyone can program Linkitz, said the startup, they just don’t know it yet.
“Girls are big on accessories and Linkitz will give them a chance to get programming chops as they make toys their own,” said Neel. “Making technology playful at an early age can go a long way.”
Neel’s CTO Andrew Macrae added that “Wearables are the new black, and kids want their own. Linkitz makes smart and modular wearable toys that blink and buzz and will help kids learn programming too.”
Last year’s winner for the Cobourg, Ontario-based N100 competition was UCIC’s “Ubi,” a new ubiquitous, voice-activated computing device that offers instant access to information and control of home automation devices.
Neel and Macrae now have $100,000 in early-stage investment from Northumberland CFDC to finalize, test and market their product. “Linkitz is already working with the prototyping and engineering team at a local Cobourg manufacturer,” said George Harvey, Chairman of the business development corporation that runs N100. “They will be establishing their headquarters and operations here in Northumberland where they will be able to leverage local innovation infrastructure and value-added partnerships.”
Neel called it a social toy and fashion item can motivate kids to learn more about technology. “Building this type of confidence can help kids get comfortable with technology and grow from mere consumers to active creators.”
Wendy Curtis, the executive director of Northumberland CFDC went as far as saying that “Lyssa Neel is creating a pathway of possibilities for a generation of young women, who is helping to “close the gender gap for women in tech.”
Forty-one other startups from several countries applied to the competition.
The next call for applications for the annual N100 Startup Competition will go out again in January, 2015 with a registration deadline in March.
N100 is an annual startup competition led by Northumberland CFDC in partnership with Spark Centre. Startups compete for $100,000 in early-stage investment capital through a series of three Rounds: the Pitch, Business Planning and Negotiation. The winner of the inaugural year of the competition in 2013 was Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation (UCIC) who went on from their win to launch an expansive beta program for their ubiquitous computing device (dubbed the “Ubi”) and to secure a $635,000 angel round led by Maple Leaf Angels.