Think Audacious 

Session 112 WWDC 2015

When Debbie Sterling heard from Steve Jobs at her Stanford graduation that she should “never settle” until she found her true passion, she took this to heart. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design, she had firsthand knowledge of how significantly men outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math. Debbie then became obsessed with the notion of “disrupting the pink aisle” with a toy that would introduce girls to the joy of engineering at a young age. Industry leaders told her the idea would fail, but less than three years after launching GoldieBlox on Kickstarter, she has made significant strides in her quest to bridge the gender gap in STEM: she has launched massively successful viral videos, a Superbowl ad that brought mainstream awareness to her mission, an award-winning iOS app and GoldieBlox presence in more than 6,000 retail stores worldwide. Debbie has also recently been selected to join the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, a select group ‘committed to helping develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world.’ Hear Debbie’s story of challenging the status quo, achieving audacious goals, and igniting a national conversation about breaking gender stereotypes.

A toy company called GoldieBlox, to get little girls to love engineering as much as I do.


We went from Kickstarter to Toys R Us nationwide in only about six months.

GoldieBlox just scored a free 30-second Super Bowl ad.

A [inaudible] Thanksgiving Day float, are you kidding me?

The toy of the decade, there’s no doubt about it.


[ Applause ]

Hi, everybody.

I’m Debbie Sterling, and I’m on a mission to get more girls into engineering.


[ Applause ]

So it probably sounds kind of corny, but this mission is really what gets me up every morning.

It’s what makes me tick.

This mission has led me to accomplish things that I never thought were possible before, like standing up here right now onstage at the most important developers conference in the world.

Can you believe it?

[ Applause ]

And this moment, this is just one of many crazy, outrageous, audacious goals that I’ve set for myself, all in the name of this mission.

So I’m going to share my story with you today, and this is really a story of audacious goals.

When you dare to be audacious, amazing, unbelievable things happen, like a Super Bowl victory, a legal battle with the Beastie Boys, and a trip to the tattoo parlor, just to name a few.

This GoldieBlox has been a really wild ride, and I’ve had a lot of hard-earned lessons along the way.

But I hope that this story today that I’m sharing with you will inspire all of you to be audacious for the things that you believe in.

So I’m going to start my story right at the beginning.

This is me when I was a little girl.

Come on, you can say it awwwwwww.

So I grew up in a small town, went to public school, small-town U.S.A., Lincoln, Rhode Island, to be exact.

Any Rhode Islanders in here?

Oh, there’s like one, yes.

So growing up in Lincoln, Rhode Island, I remember when I had my first big break, and this was I got accepted into Stanford University.

And this was a really huge deal for me.

No one from my high school had ever gotten into Stanford.

They announced it on the loudspeaker, and everyone in the cafeteria clapped.

It was a huge deal, and that day my math teacher, she was my favorite teacher, pulled me aside and she said, Debbie, what do you plan on majoring in at Stanford?

And I said I didn’t know.

She said, how about engineering?

I think you would love engineering.

And I swear to God at that moment I looked at her and I pictured an old man train driver.


And I really, you know, it’s so funny and it’s embarrassing to admit it, but I really had no idea what engineering was and I was too ashamed of asking her.

So I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and smiled and said, sure, Mrs. Verlay, engineering sounds cool.

So I went off to Stanford, my freshman year, and like most typical college freshman I had no idea what I wanted to major in.

And her voice stuck in my head, that you would excel in engineering.

So I signed up for Mechanical Engineering 101, and to my surprise I really fell in love with that class.

And so for the first time in my life I set myself out with an audacious goal: be an engineer.

Now most of you in this room are probably engineers so this probably doesn’t sound audacious to you whatsoever, but for me this was an unexpected path.

Once I got to Stanford, it was really only a handful of women in my classes, and only 14 percent of women in the U.S. are engineers, so it’s a huge problem.

And I felt that.

Being one of the only girls in my classes, it would tend to mean that the professors, when they split us up into group projects, I’d be the only girl in the group.

And I could see the look on the guys’ faces when they got stuck with the girl.

And in our group projects, I always felt like my ideas were ignored.

I felt like I’d compare myself to the guys in my classes and they just seemed so much smarter than me, like they’d been programming calculators since they were three.

Many of you in here probably did do that.

And I really, I never felt good enough or that I belonged.

I remember the one day that I almost gave it up entirely.

I had signed up to take an engineering drawing class.

It was a class where you had to try and draw things in 3D, in perspective.

And this class I was actually excited about because I’d always loved art and I figured, I’m totally going to ace this, but when I started getting into the coursework I struggled with the material.

For some reason, for the life of me I couldn’t draw in 3D.

I tried really hard, and I remember our final day of class we had to put all of our drawings up on the wall for critique.

And the TAs went around and they got up to my drawing and they looked out to the room, the entire class, almost all guys, and they said, raise your hand if you think Debbie should pass this class.

And everyone just kind of stood there, so awkward, not knowing what to do.

And the teachers asked again, and I turned beet red.

Everyone is kind of shuffling their feet, not knowing what to say.

And, finally, my friend, Micah got up and he stood up for me, and he told those TAs that they were humiliating me and it was unnecessary.

That it was their job to teach me, not to make fun of me.

Well, I ran out of that room and I burst out into tears, and I’m not much of a crier.

And at that moment I knew what they were trying to do.

I knew they were trying to weed me out of the major.

And the worst part was I felt like I deserved it.

But luckily Micah came to my side and he told me not to give up, he told me to stick with it.

He actually became an Apple employee, so he’s a pretty smart guy, right?

[ Applause ]

And so I followed his advice and I did work harder, harder than I’d ever worked in my life, and I earned my engineering degree.

And on the day that I graduated …

[ Applause ]

… it was really the proudest day of my life because I had set an audacious goal for myself and I had achieved it.

And what made it so much more meaningful is that it wasn’t easy for me, and once I hit it, once I climbed that mountain and I achieved it, I learned something about myself.

I learned that I really was capable all along.

On the day of my graduation, it was the same day that Steve Jobs gave his infamous 2005 commencement speech, and that speech really changed my life.

He told us all to never settle, to keep pushing, to keep going until you find your true passion, until you can follow your heart.

And I sat there on that day deciding: I’m going to find my passion and I’m going to follow it, I just don’t really know what it is.

So I started going out there trying to find it.

I had a bunch of different jobs.

I traveled the world.

I did volunteer work in India.

I was searching and searching, I’ve got to follow my heart, I just, again, don’t know what that is.

Until finally one day it hit me.

I’ve got to get more girls into engineering.

The lack of women in engineering is a joke, literally.

There are memes about it all over the Internet, and everyone here knows, and I know, that there are millions of girls out there in the world who are just like me, who have it in them but probably won’t get lucky enough to have a math teacher pull them aside and encourage them, right?

So I started becoming obsessed with why there are so few girls and women in engineering and what I could do to change that.

I started talking about it with everyone I could, and asking them, how did you get into engineering, and why are there so few women and girls?

And I started to hear the same response over and over again: you can’t fight nature.

Seriously, smart, educated people would tell me, you know, there are just biological differences between men and women.

And they told me, you know, men just are naturally inclined toward building and engineering, they’re just good at it, you know?

They’ve got spatial skills, they’re born to be engineers.

Well, this really pissed me off.

[ Applause ]

It did, I mean I got into engineering, does that make me a freak of nature or something?

So this pissed me off so much I decided to set out with my next audacious goal: I’m going to fight nature.

You say you can’t fight nature, well, I’m going to fight nature.

And what I started to do was I wanted to get smart on it.

Is there any validity to what these people are saying?

I’m going to do my homework.

So I started doing research and read every study I could on gender differences.

I wanted to know the difference between the sexes, those biological drivers between men and women.

So I read research articles.

I talked to neuroscientists.

I studied cognitive development in children.

I met with engineers, and parents, and teachers, everybody I could.

And I learned some really interesting things.

First, I learned that, yes, there are differences between men and women.

There are differences between boys and girls.

For example, I learned if you give a boy a stick, he will most likely turn it into a gun and shoot it at you.

This is true, actually, my three-year-old cousin literally did this to me the other day with my own toys.

I also learned that girls are naturally inclined toward nurturing, in case they become a mother someday.

This is why baby dolls and soft cuddly pets are so popular with girls.

I learned that in preschool classrooms, boys like to compete mano a mano, man against man, winner takes all.

Whereas girls like situations where everybody works together toward a common goal, where everybody wins.

And the way that girls tend to compete is by excluding others.

It’s called cliques, and I have been in a few cliques in my life.

And I learned so many things, but I’ll jump ahead to really I think the most important study.

It was done recently.

There was a global test.

Around the world they tested boys and girls on the same exact science test.

And what the results showed was that girls actually outperformed the boys on that test in most parts of the world, but not in the U.S. What this study showed, and many others that have been done just like it, is that there’s actually no innate intellectual difference between boys and girls in the math and science fields.

What the study suggests is that the problem isn’t nature, the problem is actually culture.

And from a young age, girls and boys when they look at the world they see engineering as a boys’ club.

You’ve got Handy Manny; Bob the Builder; Sid the Science Kid; Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius; Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

From a young age this is what kids believe, these are the builders, right?

And what’s even worse is when you look at the world through the eyes of a kid it’s very clear that dolls are for girls and building is for boys.

Take a walk down the pink aisle and there’s princesses, Barbie Dolls, fashion, literally ironing boards today in 2015.

It’s like we’re back in the 1950s, and all the products and characters for girls tell girls that beauty above all is what’s important.

Meanwhile, the blue aisle for boys has the awesome super heroes and action figures and brainteasers and construction sets.

Those things really help develop an interest in science and technology, engineering and math, develop spatial skills, tinkering.

So I was in this very pink aisle four years ago and I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

And at that instant I just knew in my gut that this was my opportunity to change it.

So I came up with an obsession.

I’m going to invent an engineering toy for girls.

I left the store that day, filled up a cart with as many toys as I could and I decided, all right, I’m going to start doing research, get to the bottom of this.

How can I get girls into building and construction?

I went around, begged my friends, please, please, please let me babysit your kids.

They were like, all right.

But I needed even more kids, people I didn’t know.

I was searching and searching, how do I find kids to test on?

I even posted I posted an ad on Craigslist.

I did. It said free childcare for girls four to nine.

And I didn’t realize it sounded so creepy, right?

My husband was like, thank God you’re not trying to start a babysitting company, what’s wrong with you?

And only one person replied, this French woman, who I think it got lost in translation or something.

She must have been like, America, the greatest place in the world!

But I actually went to her house and I babysat her daughter.

And through all of this time I spent with kids I started to notice some patterns.

I noticed that boys would build for the sake of building all day long.

They would build it up and smash it down and do it again and again.

I noticed that the girls really liked stories and characters, they liked narrative.

They didn’t just want to build, but they’d want to build something for a purpose, like, why are we building it and who is it for, and who is it going to help, and where is it, and what’s the story behind it?

And so all of this research kind of led me to an “aha” way to engage girls in building.

It was a really simple idea, but I thought, what if I combined building with a story?

I came up with this character that I invented, named GoldieBlox, and she would be the girl builder, a girl engineer.

And she’d go on adventures and have to solve problems by building contraptions.

And I thought if girls thought she was cool and they wanted to be like her and do what she does, then maybe that would get them to build, too, and maybe the little machines that they build can teach them engineering principles and help solve problems, give that context that girls were looking for.

So this was my genius idea, this engineering toy for girls.

And I became so obsessed with it, it led me to my next audacious goal: build a startup.

So at the time when I came up with this engineering toy for girls, I was working at a pretty cushy nine-to-five job, steady paycheck.

And, in fact, ever since I was old enough to work I always had a job, so the thought of actually leaving it and starting out on my own, it was pretty terrifying.

But it got to the point where I was so obsessed with GoldieBlox it was all I could think about, all I could talk about, it got to the point where it didn’t feel like a choice, it felt like it was just what I had to do.

So I decided to give myself one year, I’m going to go for it.

I have enough money in my bank account that if by the end of one year this doesn’t work out, then I can always just go and get another job, right?

And even if I fail at the end of the year, am I ever going to be ashamed for telling people that I tried to get girls into engineering?

No, so I went for it.

This is a picture of me on the first day of starting my dream job on the floor of my apartment, and I spent hours and hours.

I had this image in my head.

And I needed to be like the mad scientist, and I needed to labor away until I came up with this brilliant masterpiece invention.

I was so paranoid that somebody might steal my idea that I made anyone who came anywhere near my prototype sign an NDA.

I even made my mom sign an NDA.

And I worked and worked on this.

I was drawing pictures of Goldie, what she might look like building machines, using thread spools and clay, stuff around the house, the hardware store, until finally I had a working prototype.

And it was the ugliest thing you have ever seen, but it worked and I was excited.

And so I finally decided I’m going to take this prototype to the New York Toy Fair and I’m going to see what the industry has to say.

So I went to the show with my prototype and a badge I managed to finagle, pretty much snuck in, and a giant stack of NDAs, of course.

And started walking around booth to booth, talking with everyone I could, toy store owners, toy executives, other toy inventors to try to get their feedback on what they thought of my genius idea, the engineering toy for girls.

Well, the response was pretty unanimous, you can’t fight nature.

Again, these people, they told me that girls like dolls and boys like building, that a construction toy for girls won’t sell.

They actually took me by the arm and walked me down the pink aisle of the trade show where we had the ironing boards and the fashion dolls and the tea sets.

They said this is what girls want, girls want to be princesses, they don’t want to be engineers.

They said maybe if you’re lucky you can license your idea to some little educational toy reseller who maybe can convince a school to put it in, but starting your own company, trying to make this go mainstream, it’s an uphill battle and you’re never going to win it.

So I left the show pretty dejected because at this point I’d quit my job, I was going off my life’s savings, and I was worried, what if they’re right, am I crazy?

So after the show was over, I signed up to go to this social entrepreneur conference called Starting Block.

It was a group of 100 young people who wanted to change the world.

Now I was feeling pretty dejected after Toy Fair and, honestly, I wasn’t really in the mood to go and do more networking, but I had already signed up, I already paid, so I went anyway.

And in that session, one of the first exercises they had us do was make all of us go up in front of the entire room and tell people what we were working on, what we were passionate about.

Well, I was still so paranoid I asked the conference organizers if I could have all 100 attendees sign an NDA.

And they’re like, no, no, no, that’s not possible, you just get up there and do it anyway for God’s sake.

So I went up in front of the room and for the first time ever, I told the story and the idea of GoldieBlox publicly, and the room exploded.

People got to their feet in standing ovation.

They formed a line around me and everybody wanted to be a part of it.

They wanted to know how they could help.

At that conference I learned a bunch of things about entrepreneurship, but two lessons really stand out.

The first one that I learned was this idea called creating your own luck.

One of the conference organizers got up and told his story about how he went after his dream job.

He knew what organization he wanted to work at, but he didn’t have any connections there.

So he started cold emailing, coming up with every first and last name combination he possibly could of someone at the company, like B.

Smith at company dot com, Brandon S.

at company dot com, emailing every combination he could, got no response.

So he did it again a week later, every combo he could possibly think of, no response.

Did it again a week later.

Finally, a woman wrote him back begging him to stopmailing everyone, and she said, fine, I will meet you at a coffee shop for an informal interview.

He got the job.

He didn’t just sit around waiting for luck to come to him.

He went out and got it, even as shamelessly as he did so.

The next lesson I learned was about the difference between being an inventor and an entrepreneur.

I learned that an inventor is somebody who holes up, working on their ideas all alone in isolation, trying to perfect something all by themselves, but an entrepreneur is somebody who really puts themselves out there, tells as many people as they can about what they’re passionate about, what they’re working on, and builds a community around them to be a part of it.

And I realized that all along I’d been acting like an inventor, I was a total hermit, and that was lonely, too.

And now I had this whole group of people who believed in me and believed in GoldieBlox, who wanted to be a part of it, and not only that could actually help make it better.

So from that day forward my whole view shifted.

After I left the conference, the people there started showing up in my apartment every day, and they started bringing their friends, and their friends brought their friends.

And this group of passionate people gave me the energy that I needed to get excited again, and we started building prototypes and encouraging each other.

We even started a blog where we’d write stories about what we were learning and the challenges that we were facing, and we’d share it with all our friends and family and find more people to help.

And with the help of this crew of people, we built GoldieBlox prototypes and took them all around the Bay area, into people’s homes and schools, to Maker Faire to test it on kids.

It was a process of rapid prototyping, and the great thing about it is since we had no money we didn’t get too married to any one idea, we just put it out in front of kids and see what they thought.

We just really wanted to know what was going to work with the girls, what they wanted.

And, finally, after months and months of testing we had a product that I really believed in.

This was our first toy, it’s called GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.

In it we have our story, a book about Goldie and her dog, Nacho, who is always chasing his tail.

So Goldie decides, I’m going to spin Nacho.

By using a wheel and an axle, she builds a spinning machine.

But soon her other animal friends want to spin, too.

So Goldie invents a belt drive where she gets everybody spinning all at once.

This product, you know, as simple as it sounds, really did engage the little girls.

I had girls in tutus pounding their fists on the table, we have to have everybody spin!

So it works.

And it was back to all of the research that I had done, creating the scenarios where everybody wins, engaging with story, having nurturing, having pets and characters.

I knew it worked, but the problem was I knew not a single toy store was going to buy it because they didn’t think that girls like building.

Also, I only had $2,000 left in my bank account so that was not good either, and in order to actually produce GoldieBlox I needed $150,000 for a first manufacturing run.

So I had to set out with my next audacious goal, Kickstart a movement.

I decided if the toy store owners weren’t going to buy it, I was going to need to crowdfund it and prove that there was market demand.

So as everyone knows with Kickstarter, in order to crush it you need an amazing video, and so I got to work plotting out the perfect video plan.

First, I convinced a friend to let me use his beautiful workshop, you know, make it seem really cool.

Then I convinced my husband, who owned a video production company, to use all of their best I know it’s like kind of a helpful think I know, I know, I know but convince him to film this video with the best equipment, lighting, camera people.

And I memorized this perfect script, the whole thing memorized.

Got my hair done, my makeup, went out and bought a new dress.

I was all set, ready to go, and brought in all of these people to come help.

We filmed the video and we were right on time, we were about to launch the campaign in a week, everything was set.

And then the film crew sent me the first cut of the video and my heart sank, it was too good, it felt staged, it just didn’t feel like me, it wasn’t genuine.

You see, when I tell people face to face about my passion for GoldieBlox, they get it and they believe it and they want to be a part of it, but this video was so overdone it just wasn’t reading, it didn’t feel natural.

And so even though we only had a couple days left before the Kickstarter was going to go live, and even though so many people had helped me make this video and I felt really bad, I had to scrap the whole thing, I had to reshoot it.

Literally, we had two days left, on the floor of my apartment.

And in order to get comfortable enough to be myself when a video camera was staring at me six inches away from my face I had to drink three-quarters of a bottle of wine.

[ Applause ]

Actually, I just did that backstage no, just kidding.

But finally after hundreds of takes, no script, I just spoke from the heart, and that was actually the footage that we used once we cut out all of the slurring parts.

Next order of business, we had the video and now we needed the support.

In true create your own luck form, we created this serial killer-style list of all of the people that we knew we had to let them know about GoldieBlox in hopes that they would share it celebrities, journalists, people with big audiences, everyone we could who we thought could help get the word out.

And then we started mapping them, who are these people, how can we get to them?

Does someone know someone who knows someone who can get to Hillary Clinton?

And we maniacally schemed and plotted.

One of the people on this list was Tim Schafer, and I’ll just tell the story of how I got a hold of him.

He was one of many examples of the people who we relentlessly stalked.

So after stalking Tim I found and Tim, for those of you who don’t know, legendary videogame designer and Kickstarter celebrity.

After stalking him, I found out that we used the same bank, so I emailed my banker and sat down with him for a cup of coffee and kind of just sort of brought it up, and he was like, oh, you should meet Tim.

I’m like, yes, yes, I’d love to meet Tim.

And before I knew it, I’m hanging out at the office of Double Fine.

And it turns out Tim had a daughter, and he was interested in what we were doing.

So I made the ask, I said, Tim, would you be willing to let me film you playing GoldieBlox with your daughter?

And he said, sure.

So we got them together, filmed them playing for the first time, and it was really magical because she loved it and it was so cute seeing them play it together.

It was really a genuine moment, and we actually put it in our video as a cameo.

And the day that the Kickstarter went live, it exploded.

First, Tim Schafer tweeted it to his 90,000 Kickstarter backers.

Then, as it turned out, reporters from TechCrunch and The Atlantic had been reading my blog the whole time, and so when our campaign went live they wrote articles about it.

Our goal of raising $150,000, we reached it in only four days.

A friend of mine who works at Facebook sent it to Sheryl Sandberg, and she became a backer.

My aunt knew someone who knew someone, who knew Craig Newmark of Craigslist, he backed it and he tweeted it.

So it just totally exploded, and the craziest thing is that Upworthy posted the video, and it went so viral online we ended up selling almost a million dollars of GoldieBlox in preorders.

It was overwhelming, to say the least.

[ Applause ]

And I finally had money in the bank.

I made my first hire, Lindsey, she left her job, took the leap, came onboard, and the next day we got an email from Toys R Us, which led us to our next audacious goal: disrupt the pink aisle.

So Toys R Us calls and they said, we’d like to meet with you.

So Lindsey and I get on a plane and we fly to Wayne, New Jersey, and we get into the meeting with these Toys R Us executives, these men in suits.

And in part of the Kickstarter video, I was skulking through the pink aisle holding up a picture of GoldieBlox next to Barbie, it was obviously like at Toys R Us.

And the Toys R Us guys were like, so what’s up with that part in your video where you’re making us look really bad?

I’m like, sorry.

And it turned out that the head construction toy buyer at Toys R Us had two daughters, and he said, you know, GoldieBlox is the kind of product that I want for my girls.

And sure enough, six months later we’re on the shelves of Toys R Us nationwide.

I remember going in there and looking at our products on the shelf for the first time, and I had tears in my eyes because we had set this audacious goal, yes, we’ll be in Toys R Us, and never thought it would happen so quickly, that all of that hard work and passion and belief could actually happen.

But at the same time it was pretty rough, we started to get sales reports in, and just because you’re in Toys R Us nationwide doesn’t mean that people are necessarily going to buy it.

And it wasn’t looking good, the toys weren’t selling.

So we asked the Toys R Us team, you know, what can we do, how do we get more people to buy GoldieBlox?

And they said, well, most brands in our store will do national TV advertising for a minimum of a $2 million buy, you know, you might be able to move the needle.

Two million dollars?

That was definitely not an option, right?

But we did have 5,000 Kickstarter backers and we had my husband, Beau, who knew how to make a video.

So we decided we’ve got to make our own commercial.

And maybe we can’t put it on TV, but you know what, we can put it up on YouTube.

So we’re going to disrupt the pink aisle ourselves.

We reached out to all of our Kickstarter backers and we came up with this idea, let’s shoot a video having girls rampaging through the pink aisle at Toys R Us, singing “We Are The Champions,” like this is awesome.

So we called up our Kickstarter backers, and we said meet us in the parking lot of Toys R Us, we’ve got an idea.

So about 50 kids and their parents showed up at the Toys R Us parking lot in the blazing heat.

And, by the way, we didn’t exactly have permission from Toys R Us to do this, so we were just trying to lay low, which definitely didn’t happen because within minutes the security vehicles started circling us.

And I’m like, oh, my God, we’re totally going to get arrested, we’re going to get busted, and these parents are going to be like, who are you people?

And then the manager of Toys R Us comes out with his clipboard, and now I know we’re doomed.

And he looks at me, he’s like, who is in charge here?

Like, what’s going on?

And I said, well, we’re the Ada Lovelace Girls Club, and we’re on a field trip to our favorite place in the world, Toys R Us.

Smiling. He kind of looks at me, raises and eyebrow, silence passes.

He says, why didn’t you tell me you were coming?

I don’t know if we have enough gift bags.

Turns around, runs back into the store, comes back out, there’s a guy dressed up as Geoffrey the Giraffe.

We bring all the girls in, they announce on the loudspeaker, welcome, the Ada Lovelace Girls Club!

And we set up our camera, we get the girls running down the aisle, we get the shot, and then we run out of there as fast as we possibly can.

[ Applause ]

We post the video on YouTube, and it went viral.

Forbes picked it up with the headline, GoldieBlox Wins Toys R Us and Quests to Redecorate Pink Aisle with Engineering Kits for Girls.

And Toys R Us, they were a little annoyed at us at first, but they saw what a great story it was and they got behind it and they shared it with their customers.

And before we knew it, finally our toys started to sell.

So this little video thing was working out for us, so much so in fact that my husband, Beau, actually left, sold his video company to come to GoldieBlox and take his video-making powers and use them for good.

And we decided, okay, what’s our next video going to be, we’ve got to come up with a video that’s going to make engineering so cool for girls.

So over a lunch of margaritas we started brainstorming, and we came up with this idea.

So we were all big fans of the OK Go Rube Goldberg-machine music video, we’re like Rube Goldberg machine, that makes engineering cool, right?

But how will we make it cool for girls?

So we came up with making a Rube Goldberg machine out of entirely stereotypical, sexist, pink-aisle toys.

And then we thought, what if we set the video to the Beastie Boys song “Girls,” but we flipped the lyrics, so instead of “girls to do the laundry,” it could be “girls to build the spaceship” or “girls to code the new app.”

Well, we were so excited about this idea after the end of the lunch we were all high fiving, we were like, yes, this is the best idea ever.

And then the crazy thing is we actually did it, so we created our own luck and we started serial killer-style stalking to find one of the engineers from the OK Go music video.

And we actually found one, we told him about it, and he was pumped.

He said, yes, let’s do it.

We rented a house, an Airbnb in Pasadena, we actually removed all of the furniture from the house so that we could build a giant princess machine.

Going through every room of the house, out by the pool, in the garage, out the backdoor.

We got three of our original Kickstarter girls to star in the video, which started with them watching this ultra-sappy, girlie commercial on TV, not looking amused, so then they deploy the Rube Goldberg machine.

And it winds its way all through the house until finally coming back in through the living room, hitting a frying pan, going straight at the TV, turning the channel to GoldieBlox.

We posted the video online, and within a week it had over 12 million views.

It was on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Ellen is tweeting it, Chelsea Clinton is tweeting it, everyone is going insane.

It was unbelievable until we found out that the Beastie Boys were not very amused with this video.

And we went from literally the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in an instant and ended up having to face a really public lawsuit.

We worked as hard as we could to settle it, which we did, but in that low, low time we had to keep pushing forward.

What’s next?

How do we keep disrupting the pink aisle, staying on our mission, and making engineering cool for girls?

And then the opportunity of a lifetime came.

We found out that Intuit was running a program where one small business could win a free Super Bowl commercial.

And I couldn’t help but think, all of those old dinosaur toy people who said that GoldieBlox would never go mainstream, this was our chance, and this was our fate, right?

I knew we deserved to win, so our whole company got onboard, all 12 of us.

We made it our number one company priority, and every single day we begged our fans, we posted pictures Vote for GoldieBlox, Vote for GoldieBlox.

And the amazing thing was that when we went at it and we reached out to people, just like we had done back in the days of Kickstarter, people voted and they shared.

And we actually ended up winning.

So last year in the Super Bowl, which is traditionally one of the most sexist, male-dominated ad slots in the world, we had a pack of girls grabbing their pink-aisle toys, racing into a park where they built them into a rocket and shot them into outer space.

[ Applause ]

Well, we were on top of the world, but then my biggest fear became a reality.

We had a problem with the product.

We were making the toys so fast to meet the demand of all the viral videos and the Super Bowl commercial that we started facing quality issues, and the holes in our blocks were a little bit too loose, like 0.0001 millimeters too loose.

And even though that sounds really small, it had catastrophic results because what happened was that girls would get frustrated and they wouldn’t want to build, even though they were excited.

And so we had to set another audacious goal: replace every single block.

We decided we’ve got to tackle this head-on.

It was easy to fix the blocks, we began to do this right away, that wasn’t the issue.

It was that there were hundreds of thousands of these blocks out in the market, and how were we going to convince girls to give us a second try?

So we decided to reach out to every single customer that we possibly could and tell them that we would send them new blocks for free.

We made a huge investment.

We didn’t have to do it.

It wasn’t a product recall.

But it was the right thing to do.

And then we took it a step further.

We got the name of every single kid who had bought it and wrote them a personalized letter from Goldie explaining the engineering lesson of how we fixed the block, that we turned the holes from a circle shape into an octogon.

[ Applause ]

And it worked.

The girls thought Goldie was a real person, and they sent us letters back, thanking her for inspiring them to become inventors.

So after all this blocks debacle we were like, gosh, making hardware is really hard, and maybe we could reach more girls digitally, wouldn’t that be great?

And so we came up with a new audacious plan: we’re going to create an app and we’re going to use our great stories and engineering lessons and scale this digitally, reach even more girls faster.

And we can’t just make any app, we’ve got to put an audacious goal around it.

So we’re going to make an app that gets featured by Apple.

So we made our first hire on the mobile space, Kyle.

[ Applause ]

Hi, Kyle. Making an app was not easy, let me tell you.

What started as an ebook turned into a monster.

We had feature creep, is what they call it.

But Kyle was not going to give up, he’s like we’re going to get this featured by Apple, I promise, and if we do I will get a tattoo.

So to make a very long story short, including a drive to Cupertino, where we had to activate wireless tethering for Kyle’s cell phone so that he could download the build and code it in the car, demoing it to Apple, and none of us could believe it actually worked.

We launched this thing, and multiple hotfixes later we got featured by Apple and Kyle got his tattoo.

[ Applause ]

And so now without further ado, I’m going to walk you through this product that sent us to the tattoo parlor, and it’s our first product so I’m really proud of it’s called GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, and it blends digital and physical and story.

And so as we learned with all of our research, the way to really engage girls really starts with a great story.

So in our story we start with Goldie.

She’s not a princess and she’s not really a genius either, but she’s an inventor who loves building even if she gets it wrong half the time.

So one day Goldie finds out that the Bloxtown Film Festival is cancelled because the projector is broken.

So her and her friends decide, we’re going to save the festival with an invention.

After hours of brainstorming, Goldie comes up with the idea to build a zoetrope, it’s the first pre-cinema animation device.

Using the engineering and persistence of vision science principles, Goldie and her friends build a machine that creates a moving picture.

Once the machine actually works, Goldie’s friends kind of realize, hey, there, Goldie, there’s a problem, this movie is only a second long.

Another typical Goldie invention flop, but Goldie sees this as a golden opportunity.

Why don’t we create the first ever one-second Film Festival and we’ll make a million movies?

And this is how we open up the world of engineering to kids.

With our construction set kids can build a real working zoetrope with our pieces.

The pieces are inspired by common household objects, stuff from the hardware store, the arts and crafts section.

What helps with making these pieces feel like common household objects is it makes kids start to see the world as their toolbox, that they can really invent anything.

But then what really brings the experience to life is our mobile app, with drawing tools, stamps, stop motion photography and backgrounds, kids can make their own movies digitally, and then they can air print them if they want to play in their actual zoetrope movie machine device, they can email them, they can text them, or they can even send it to the Apple Watch.

[ Applause ]

And there, Mom and Dad can give them a star for a job well done.

What’s so cool is to see what this app has inspired, you never can guess what kids are going to make, and it’s pretty extraordinary.

Actually, kids have made over a million movies in this app that we launched.

And it’s so rewarding to see how girls can get excited to invent things and build cool stuff, and it’s awesome to be a part of that and give them the tools and encouragement to do that.

So where do we go next?

How do you go from here?

We’ve hit a lot of audacious goals, right?

Well, the thing about having audacious goals is once you hit one and you know it’s possible, you set out a bigger one and an even bigger one.

And that’s certainly what my team is doing.

We’ve got a ton of audacious goals that we want to hit next.

Now we probably won’t hit all of these, but we’re never going to stop shooting for the moon, like, literally, first doll on the moon is actually one of our goals.

And how can we be so audacious?

Well, it’s because at the end of the day, the mission is greater than our company, and I never feel embarrassed going and asking somebody for help or asking somebody to be a part of it because it’s bigger than all of us.

We really believe in it, and I’m reminded every day that it’s working because every day we see evidence of girls getting inspired by GoldieBlox.

Recently I got a letter from a mom, she was telling me that her daughter was not excited to go to science camp, that every morning her daughter would whine and whine and she’d have to drag her to camp.

Her daughter didn’t want to go because the camp was almost all boys.

And then her mom bought her GoldieBlox and they played it over the weekend together, they had a blast.

On Monday they were getting ready to go to camp, and her daughter wasn’t having her usual crying fit.

And her Mom asked her what’s going on with you, you know, what’s going on, and why aren’t you nervous about camp anymore?

And her daughter said, oh, Mom, I’m not nervous about camp, I’ve got GoldieBlox, I’m all set.

And I know it sounds like I’m making this story up, but I’m actually not, like, this really happened.

And it’s amazing because with GoldieBlox we’re starting to give these girls a role model, somebody who they can see themselves being.

And we’re not just teaching them some engineering lessons, but we’re actually giving them confidence.

And that’s what we, all of us here, have the opportunity to do.

We can help kids shape the way that they see the world, whether it’s the products that we build or just the things that we say to kids.

I mean think about it, every time you see a little girl and you tell her that she looks beautiful, imagine what a difference it would make if you said she looks capable?

Or every time you’re making a game or a movie and you’re choosing a hero and you automatically make it a boy, what if you made it a girl, you know?

Sometimes we propagate gender stereotypes and we don’t even realize it, but the cool thing is that we have the opportunity to change that.

There’s no pink or blue aisle in the App Store, and we get to put stuff out there that, you know, kids are so impressionable, we can put stuff out there that’s going to make them see the world in a whole new way.

And if we do that, and if you all join me on this mission, we can achieve my last and final audacious goal that sometime in our own lifetime 50 percent of WWDC is women.

Thank you.

[ Applause ]

Apple, Inc. AAPL
1 Infinite Loop Cupertino CA 95014 US