WoW Woman in Wearable Tech | Annie Lywood, Founder of Bonnie Binary

Interview by Michelle Hua (@Madewithglove)

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Bonnie Binary is an e-textile consultancy offering prototyping for e-textile and associated wearable technology (WT) products. Their collaborative network of expertise encompasses textiles, technology and programming. They manage projects for industry, offering cutting-edge knowledge and prototyping expertise to bring your vision to life.

As e-textile specialists they use their design and making skills to create bespoke costumes integrating functionality in creative ways.

They like to share their enthusiasm for e-textiles by running introductory courses.

What is Bonnie Binary?

Bonnie Binary Ltd is an e-textile makery and consultancy. We are the friendly face of Wearable Tech (WT) and  e-textiles. We create interactive, Wearable Tech (WT) and e-textile fashion, home and lifestyle products, that feature beautiful designs and are fun-to-use. As a champion of British innovation and industry, we have great commercial opportunities for our products in an emerging sector. Our revenue generation streams include: own-brand products, licensing, consultancy and prototyping. We have key technology and creative partnerships in place, and are laser-focused on becoming experts in e-textiles and WT.

What is your background and how did you decide to get into textiles?

I have a degree in Design, a Postgraduate Diploma in Textiles and several years experience in teaching. A few years ago I decided to update my digital making skills and took part in MIT’s “How To Make Almost Anything” course, which opened my eyes to the transformative technological revolution and introduced me to e-textiles. Fab Academy instruction is based on MIT’s popular rapid-prototyping course taught by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld. This wonderfully challenging and inspiring experience changed my life. I learnt so much, not just the practical skills of digital making but also about the magic that happens when you collaborate with 160 awe-inspiring makers from all over the world. I learnt to collaborate across disciplines, ask questions, cope with a lot of challenges, keep an enquiring mind, and problem-solve technical issues under tight time constraints. I loved it. It unlocked my passion for invention.  I went on to complete an MA Design, specialising in Wearable Technology/E-textiles, in January 2016, and was then inspired to launch my own company Bonnie Binary Ltd(www.bonniebinary.co.uk) to exploit the potential of my research.

My aim is to be in the right place, with the right technology and skills, at the right time – at the heart of an emerging industry that requires a team with know-how in electronics, textiles and digital making.

When did you start and do you have other members of the team?

Bonnie Binary Ltd started in March 2016 so we are very new! and building our team of go to experts and industry partners right now. We are a team of freelance associates across several disciplines who enjoy working together. Get in touch if you think you’d like to join the team.  

Why is Women in Tech movement important to you?

The Women in Tech movement has the opportunity to be game changing and I hope give tech a new perspective resulting in many exciting useful applications which would otherwise not have been imagined!

How long did it take you to be where you are now?

The last 4 years I have been particularly focused on building my knowledge and skills in WT.

What was the biggest obstacle?

My personal daily experience of innovation is closely linked with my own re-education. I collaborate and problem-solve across many disciplines – with digital crafters, industrial-manufacturers, electronic and software engineers, user-experience designers, gaming and fashion designers, pattern cutters, embroiderers and 3D printing experts. By dint of the area of interest, Bonnie Binary has necessarily had to become familiar with new human behaviours, to think in new ways, to see the product creation process from different perspectives so that innovation can flourish. My personal biggest obstacle - communicating and problem solving across disciplines has now become my greatest strength.

What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How are about being a female founder in the country you live in?

The challenges are in finding investment for early stage innovative products in an emerging market. Especially as it is such a fast changing sector with new making processes in development that will transform the experience of making and wearing tech in the next few years. I think its hard being an entrepreneuer in the UK as there is so much creative talent and not enough investment for early stage innovation.  I do come from a family where all the women own and run their own business.

What are the biggest achievements to date?

  • Just getting started felt like quite an achievement at the time!

  • Having an R&D project in place with leading University research centre and industry partners.

  • Creating our Fashion Tech collection POP prototypes.

  • Starting a WT community meet up and connecting up with other UK hubs of expertise.

  • Preparing for Crowdfunding and putting in place the foundations for a successful business.

What will be the key trends in the wearable tech, e-textiles and IOT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?

Very hard to tell!  It is such an exciting market full of opportunity. We will be working on fashion tech accessories with social interaction for tech savvy fashion savvy youngsters and home & life style products that enable the control of functions within the home and connect you up with the IOT.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?

Support each other, build a great team, share your knowledge and skills, collaborate, ask for help and give help.