Interview With Aniyia Williams, Founder of Tinsel

We spoke to Aniyia about the wearable tech market, raising seed funding, building your founding team and where Tinsel is going.

by The Editor & Aniyia Williams on October 14th, 2015

This week, we sat down with Aniyia Williams, the founder and CEO of Tinsel — an exciting new wearable technology company focused on women. Tinsel’s first product, The Dipper, integrates headphones with luxurious, modern jewelry for a better listening and fashion experience. Tinsel is running an IndieGoGo campaign where you can pre-order a Dipper and support their launch, and they are already making waves all over the internet. 

Photo of Aniyia.

MVC: Tell us a bit about the Dipper and Tinsel’s focus on women and wearables. What inspired the Dipper concept, and what do you hope your company will achieve in the wearables space?

This all started from my personal pain with headphones. I use them every day, but hate digging around for them in my black hole of a purse, untangling them, losing them, breaking them… I realized that these problems are solved by wearing your headphones on the body, but don’t care for the wannabe-DJ look or the look of white wires hanging around my neck. I put too much effort choosing an outfit in the morning to have it downgraded by earbuds.

That’s how Tinsel was born. I wanted to take something that people know is a necessity today and transform it into something stylish that also makes their lives easier. And once I started on the journey, I realized that there’s a huge missing opportunity in consumer tech. Very few products are designed with women in mind, and I think this needs to be addressed. Now I’m beating a big drum, screaming that the “make it pink” mentality won’t cut it anymore.

Close-up of the Dipper in use: a stylish necklace shaped like three gleaming, luxurious interlocking chevrons which can enclose audio earbuds and cords for a hassle-free and stylish experience.

MVC: You started Tinsel in only the past year, and were able to raise a round of seed funding to get the team and idea off the ground. What advice would you have for other entrepreneurs about how to get their startup going?

The key to getting this going was knowing the right person who had seen what I am capable of and had the funds to invest. When I decided to start Tinsel, I was running the marketing team at Voxer but knew that I was ready for a new challenge after being there for over 3 years. I actually went to Tom Katis (who was CEO at the time) and told him that I had this idea and wanted to see if it had legs, and got him to invest.

In the alternate scenario where I don’t know someone like Tom, I have no doubt that it would have been much more difficult. I’ve come to learn that endeavors like this are made possible by network and relationships, above all else. You need connections to money, to skills and knowledge, and to influencers.

I hate that most women and minority founders simply don’t have access to these networks. I’m still building my network, but have already started sharing with others when I can because I know it’s how I’ve made it this far.

MVC: One of the things we’re so excited about with Tinsel is you’ve already been able to build a really diverse early team – can you tell us a bit about the team, what works about it and how it formed so far?

In some ways, it was an extension of the mission — to adequately design products for women, you need women involved. That said, I still feel lucky. It took months to assemble the team, but I really couldn’t have asked to be paired with better people for the job.

My co-founder, the product designer, and product development lead are all women with years of experience doing what they do. My co-founder, Monia Santinello, and I were friends before she teamed up with me on Tinsel. Lynda, who’s behind the product, came to me through a referral from our advisor, and she brought in our designer Phnam. There are also other contributors on the team, but I think what makes us all work so well together is trust.

A model using the Dipper while talking on the phone.

MVC: Wearable tech is such an explosive and rapidly-changing market right now. What are the major trends you’re seeing, particularly from a consumer perspective?  

Wearables are still in their infancy, which makes it really exciting to be part of. There’s so much to explore, but right now it seems like almost everything out there is about collecting data from people. I question if that’s what people really want or need. I think the unity of making something useful AND beautiful is imperative.

MVC: Finally, you’re running an IndieGoGo campaign now, and so far it’s already over 50% funded! Can you tell us about the campaign, what the next steps are and how people can support you?

Running this campaign is a serious whirlwind. We’ve been preparing for it for weeks, but I think some chaos is still inevitable! We’re thrilled to at this point be over 70% funded, but still need a show of support to cross the finish line. For us, the two big goals behind this are (1) to get the funds we need to start manufacturing The Dipper and (2) get the public’s feedback about whether we’re on the right track with this product and company.

You can support Aniyia, Tinsel and get your own Dipper or other great perks by being part of their IndieGoGo campaign.