Bin Feng prides himself on being an out-of-the-box thinker. After spending years of his career in sales and product support roles, he came up with the idea for stackable, electronic building blocks while checking on a server room.
“I was monitoring a server room’s temperature, but getting tired of going to the room every single time,” Feng said.
He tried to use Arduino, an open-source microcontroller platform for hardware design, to create a device that would do the job for him remotely. “However, it involved messy wiring, dangerous soldering and complicated coding. And so my idea was born. I wanted to create something that anyone could use to imagine a product and immediately just build it,” he said.
After some time developing his idea to miniaturize and streamline the process of creating circuits, he opened Microduino Inc. in Westlake Village in 2012.
The company, which creates build-it-yourself electronic wiring, circuit and programming kits for students in STEM and coding courses, partners with local school districts to provide hands-on activities and lesson plans involving product design, computer science and engineering background.
The starter mPuzzle kits, designed for children 5 and up, include snap-together magnetic circuits that teach basic electronic concepts. More intricate kits such as the 5-in-1 Itty Bitty Buggy allow older kids to build robots that respond to voice or remote app control using Scratch and Arduino C++ programming. The activities are progressive, allowing students to scale up the difficulty from drag-and-drop coding through independently writing advanced, text-based commands to control their buggies. Full design kits range from $69.99 to $149.99, depending on the complexity of the activities.
“The very first set of Microduino modules was designed to lower the barriers to creativity for everyone. We’re giving people the freedom to give shape to their ideas,” Feng said.
As an Asian American entrepreneur, Feng feels his passion for his business is shaped by his hope of achieving the American dream of success. Over the last few years, the business has been steadily growing, which Feng said has been one of the best aspects of running his own company.
But since most schools have been closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Feng said the business has been heavily impacted. He had to pivot to primarily online sales for Microduino products and he has felt the pressure of being his own boss.
“I like being more flexible and turning my ideas into a reality,” Feng said. “But the worst part of running your own business is that you have to handle everything yourself.”
Through the tumultuous last year, Feng has felt the difficulty and pride of navigating his business during unexpected challenges, but he still loves being his own boss.
For those considering creating their own businesses, he encouraged them to do it, with a few words of wisdom gleaned from his own experience.
“Follow your heart, find your passion,” Feng said. “It is important to be truthful to your own beliefs and always remember: be thorough, be tactful.”
– Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert