2014 Hot 20: Debbie Sterling, the Barbie Challenger

By

CEO of GoldieBlox / age 31


Goldie, the fictional heroine of GoldieBlox toys, is a suitable alter ego for creator Debbie Sterling. Both use their wits to solve problems when faced with obstruction or rejection: When her dog refuses to take a bath, Goldie builds a dunking machine; when she couldn’t get funding from traditional toy manufacturers, Sterling took to Kickstarter to fund her set of books and construction kits aimed at girls, which teach and reinforce STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). In less than a year, GoldieBlox was on the shelves at Toys “R” Us.

And Sterling has moxie. Her TEDx talk, in which she recounts the humiliations involved in being only one of five woman in an 85-student engineering class at Stanford, went viral for its wry send-up of brogrammer culture. Her small company (23 employees) proved its might, airing a Rube Goldberg-esque commercial set to the Beastie Boys song “Girls.” Turning the lyrics on their head (“Girls to build the spaceship / Girls to code the new app”), the spot was an instant sensation on YouTube, garnering a slot during the 2014 Super Bowl for their second ad set to Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize" (Come on take your toys, Girls make some noise! More than pink, pink, pink; We want to think.).

CL: What’s your current obsession?

DB: I am a karaoke fanatic. The Mint is my local spot. I’m not a good singer at all. But you don’t have to be a great singer. You just really have to own it. I sing 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up!” I also do Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” I think I like angry-woman-belter ballads.

Each October, we’re presented with the biggest quandary of the year: Narrowing down the Bay Area’s abundance of stellar luminaries to an exclusive selection of trailblazers for our annual Hot 20 list. After weeks of review and all-out debate among our editors, this year’s round-up comprises the most energizing influencers of our time. You’ll meet a pioneer of electric cars, a branding prophet, a major league all-star, and a Stanford dropout-turned-biotech virtuoso. Best of all, there’s more awesomeness where these came from. See them all here

This article was published in 7x7's October 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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