Pree Walia, CEO and co-founder of tech company Preemadonna, took some time out of her busy schedule to meet with DMA’s Made By Girls students at Stanford University last week.
Much like our Made By Girls initiative, Preemadonna is also a virtual community of likeminded women that focuses on technology relevant to the lifestyles of girls and women. Walia, a passionate advocate for girls in STEM, shared her story – from building the Nailbot to successfully pitching the product at Tech Crunch Disrupt in San Francisco last summer.
She and the Preemadonna team know that being smart and feeling beautiful are not mutually exclusive, so they created the Nailbot – a robot that uses a smartphone to print art directly onto users’ fingernails!
The Preemadonna team brought prototypes, delivered a PowerPoint presentation tutorial and offered a sneak peek of the DIY Printer Kit to our students enrolled in the Made By Girls App Development for iPhone & iPad and wearable tech & fashion design courses.
“The first prototype is never the end-all-be-all.”
“Our first prototype was kind of a disaster. Your first version is not necessarily something you want to show people,” Walia told the students.
Using Arduino software inside the housing of an old inkjet printer that was hacked by her team, the first Nailbot prototype was built.
The images were blurry, didn’t always take and weren’t always on target. But ultimately, the team was able to manifest something that had previously only been an idea.
“We had to keep evolving. The first prototype is never the end-all-be-all.”
“Sometimes what you think is going to be your product may be your future product,” Walia said, showing early concept designs of the Nailbot at our Stanford University location.
“Always test your products.”
Without a final product or capital to hire a test group, Walia and her team turned to grassroots methods of product-testing. “We hosted Nail Parties,” she said, reaching out to friends and other coworkers who had daughters.
“We had our conceptions of what was going right or wrong, but we needed to see girls using it in action.”
The prototypes were missing the target, not going fast enough, and were a little challenging on some of the girls’ nails. The team knew they had to keep working.
“You should always test your products. Test them early, test them often and test them with potential customers.”
“Time your market.”
Walia and co-founder Casey Schulz were accepted into an accelerator program, Hax, and moved to the hardware capital of the world: Shenzhen, China.
Neither Walia nor Schulz had ever lived in China, or Asia for that matter. Neither spoke Mandarin. But they lived there for six months crafting the next version of the Nailbot. “It was kind of an adventure!” Walia said.
Working with potential customers as well as industrial designers and engineers, they received a lot of feedback, which got their prototypes into much better shape.
“It’s important to time your market. Any time you show the world what you have, someone can copy you and get it to market quickly.”
The Preemadonna Nailbot utilizes a smartphone app, with a new design feature coming soon!
“No product comes together overnight.”
Walia stressed that “no product comes together overnight. We’ve gone through so many iterations and we’ll continue to iterate. This company and this product have been so near and dear to my heart, and that’s why I’ve been working on it for so long,” she said.
“Sometimes what you think is going to be your product may be your future product, and you just don’t know until you show it to the marketplace.”
Because of that, “we didn’t just build one device, we built a whole family of products,” she said.
“If you think about what facial recognition technology is today, like Snapchat filters, they do a very good job of mapping your face. But nails, they don’t work in quite the same way. There isn’t a huge data set, and that’s where all of you come in,” she told the students.
“We are going to create the largest data set of fingernails that’s ever existed. Every single person who who uses our app, is going to make each device we have better,” she said.
“We’ll know exactly the edges, the curvature, the skin from the cuticle from the nail. At the end of the day, we’re creating a mobile art marketplace.”
“Know your numbers.”
“Know your numbers. There are 21 million girls between the ages of 8-18 in the United States. Ninety-two percent of girls in that age range decorate their nails regularly, and 14 percent decorate their nails at least once a day. It’s the most popular form of cosmetic.”
And because of fantastic publicity, Preemadonna spends no money on their marketing, and yet they still have 22,000 people on our wait list.
“Our cartridge will last for 5,000 manicures. You’re not going to run out of ink any time soon, because it’s a very small amount of ink that’s being put on your fingernail.”
Walia presented the Preemadonna Nailbot at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last year! (See the full presentation above.)
Proud Partnership With Preemadonna
Made By Girls is proud to partner with Preemadonna. Its vision and message aligns with ours, as our camps are designed to give girls a supportive community to learn computer science and other tech-related subjects, with female role models and instructors.
One such role model this year is Made By Girls Teaching Assistant (and returning staff alum) Kyra Wayne. As a Design Engineering Intern at Preemadonna, Wayne helped connect Walia with DMA’s Made By Girls.
We’re also happy to work with Preemadonna because of its incredible multifaceted Ambassadors Program. The program allows young students to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit Walia has nurtured in creating her company, even after the summer is over, with Wayne leading the Artist Ambassadors.
And Walia isn’t just stopping at Stanford. She’ll be visiting our Made By Girls Students later this season at our Northwestern University location. This event will be hosted at The Garage, a cross-disciplinary entrepreneurship space for Northwestern students to experiment, collaborate and launch their ideas.
Additionally, Walia will hold a private session with our students after the event all about pitching their ideas as innovative products.
That’s right, our Made By Girls students will have the opportunity to bounce their ideas off of the female CEO of a tech company that specializes in building inventions and empowering young women. How incredibly cool is that?!