Hi! I am Liya. I am a designer and social entrepreneur, a big believer in humanity and magic.

I spent the last decade designing products and new businesses in the gaming, healthcare and finance sectors. I am now a San Francisco based independent design consultant working with social startups and design agencies around the globe.

My latest adventure is working on a social startup called Ola (In Hawaiian it means life and well being). We are working to raise the sustainability standards in the restaurant industry through consumer demand.

upcycleinstyle.com Just backed a project on Kickstarter  »

Cora - a mobile app for reuse and upcycle!

Ashoka Arab World: How to Become a Social Entrepreneur  »


Great article in Inc Magazine about “How To Become a Social Entrepreneur”. We met Bo Burlingham (Editor at Inc.) at Start Up Weekend at Cairo and talked about Social Entrepreneurship with him, so it’s cool to see Inc discussing this at length!!!!

Scott Harrison was 28 years old, sitting…

It just occurred to me that one of the highest paying jobs in the world pays you to pretend to be someone else really well. I’m going to think about that next time I criticize something isn’t working in “the system”.

A passage filled with simple truth from “Soul Without Shame” by Byron Brown. As I’m wondering if I should rush home to work on a design project or to sit in this sun until I get centered, I realized the process of becoming who are is not indulgence it’s life.

A passage filled with simple truth from “Soul Without Shame” by Byron Brown. As I’m wondering if I should rush home to work on a design project or to sit in this sun until I get centered, I realized the process of becoming who are is not indulgence it’s life.

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story

Social Good Day in Cairo!!!!!!!!



Can social media be used to make the world a better place? We believe it can. Mashable and (RED) invite you to join the social media for social good movement by taking part in Social Good Day on September 23. We want you to get involved by attending in Cairo to celebrate, share, educate and engage in a discussion on how social media can be used to tackle some of the world’s social challenges and issues. Here’s more information about the day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010
6:30 PM
Cilantro Downtown
Cairo, Egypt


Don’t forget to check out Ashoka Arab World in Cilantro Central Magazine while you are there!!!!!!!!



This “Nature by Numbers” video marks the the beginning of the Magical Moment Series: “Biomimicry and Building a Company”, brought to you by Nature’s patterns. Coming very soon.

I am not a half

I hear people say she or he is my other half and I don’t like it. I don’t want to be anyone’s half and I don’t want anyone to be my half — in friendship, business or love.  The word “half”, to me, implies something is lacking about you or that person and you hope that by being together you’d get a whole person out of the relationship. That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success to me. Whole beings can be mutually expansive together.


I prefer to think of people I choose to spend my time with—the most valuable and the only limited resource I have in life—as whole perfect beings who have something really unique to bring to the table and together we can help each other self expand (more about self-expansion at psychlopedia).

This magical moment is inspired by Charles & Ray Eames.

Tags:  life 

Becoming uniquely the same?

Amazon just asked me if it can connect to Facebook so I can see what my friends like and it can also suggest to me what I might like. As much as I think I’d like that, I am also a little bit cautious. I’m afraid that the “like” button could do to people what western conglomerates did to cities.

I remember arriving in Lima and seeing the huge Hilton with a casino next to it and a mall filled with restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays across the street. And I remember when I was back in Beijing one year (maybe 8 years ago) and found a Starbucks in the Forbidden City. It’s sad to see cities losing their own uniqueness because they want to fit in, play with the big boys and be “cool” on the world stage, so I definitely don’t want that to happen to people.

I believe that people do grow out of the habits we learn from playgrounds as we go through our individual Rites of Passage. But I am still worried. Could knowing what everyone thinks all the time perpetuate sameness more than ever before? Just think hipsters - uniquely the same all over the world. I really hope the Mad Men of our generation could apply a bit more social consciousness to their work, think longer term and try to not to do evil things like carelessly selling sugary cereal to kids. The “like” button is so much more powerful than television. Just as we’ve eventually figured out how to use television for good sometimes, I hope we can start out using the tools of our generation for good rather than evil. It’s not too late.

Alright, so this thought I shared may not be exuding optimism like all the other magical moments that clad this blog, but I’m glad I got a little reminder to start checking the work I choose to do, the clients I take on and the decisions I make in my designs. In the mean time, I’m going to pick up Jaron Janier’s book “You Are Not a Gadget” and give it a serious read.

And I’m going to go “like” Jaron Janier on Facebook now, so more people will read this book and think more about the stuff they make.

Tags:  tech,  design 

No not yet


There is an art to jumping off cliffs. The tide washes in and you have precisely 2 seconds to do it. Just when you are about to dive off, your body and the earth becomes magnetically charged and they get stuck to each other. Your body says “not yet”. And you miss the tide.

The next tide inevitably washes up and you realize the ocean gives you second chances. The question is when do you muster up enough courage to overcome the million-year-old survival instinct to protect yourself and dive in without hesitation. 

When the timing is perfect you stop saying “not yet”, and you jump. Re-emerging from the water feeling exhilarated you forget why you were ever so afraid.

Tags:  Life 
"The freedom we seek is to use our own mind and body, to live our own life, instead of the life of the belief system." - "The Four Agreements", by don Miguel Ruiz

"The freedom we seek is to use our own mind and body, to live our own life, instead of the life of the belief system." - "The Four Agreements", by don Miguel Ruiz



Tags:  Tech,  design 

"There are times in your life when the hero has to sit down"

From the reading of “The Old Interior Angel” -  David Whyte:

"… Beowulf must go down into the lake and follow Grendel’s mother, and he has to wrestle with her for 3 days and 3 nights down there. I wondered for a long time, what was it that Beowulf could take down to the lake… He was the only one who could go down to the lake. And the story says that ordinary male courage won’t take you down. And I remember this story from my own life…

I was at a bridge at the Himalayas… When I got to this bridge, one of the cables have collapsed. This bridge was over a 400-foot chasm…  And I stood there for a long time. That was quite a moment for me. Because at that stage in my life, I was in my mid 20s, I had a kind of invulnerable feeling about myself. I had a very adventurous life and I was always the one who went across the bridge, the one who did it.

And I sat there, I sat there for 15 mins, for half an hour, for 45 minutes. In the Himalayas, it doens’t really matter.  You don’t have a lot to do from one day to another, there are no phone calls to make… What I did was what we all do when we come to a place in our lives where the bridge is down, you look at the bridge so intensely that you hope simply by looking at it hard enough, it will spontaneously repair itself. And you walk across easily in full glory…

Suddenly along the path coming up on my side, was this little old Tibetan lady. She was picking up dry yak dung… She bowed: “Namaste” (it means “I greet the god in you, I greet the divine in you”) And so I bowed back “Namaste”. And before I could lift my head up again, she just went straight across the bridge. And without thinking, I picked up my bag and I went straight after her.

And I realized there are times in your life when the hero has to sit down - the waxing part of yourself. Some bridges you come to in life, the part of you that does it all the time has to sit down. The part of you that limps across is the part that takes you across the bridge. The part of you that you thought wasn’t any good, that was going downhill, that couldn’t do it any more…”

I inclined my head
and clasp my hands

to reply

But before I could look up

she turned

her lined face

and went straight across

that shivering chaos
of wood and broken steel
in one movement.

One day the hero

sits down,

afraid to take

another step,

and the old interior angel
limps slowly in
with her no-nonsense


and her old secret
and goes ahead.

you say
and follow.

"This is why I think Beowulf had to go down into the lake. He had developed the old, wiser, feminine side of himself. And he could let her go down to the lake, because it was so terrifying to the upper light-filled male consciousness, it was the only way he could get down.

So somewhere at the lake edge, his interior youthful masculine hero sits down. And another kind of timeless innocence allows him to go down into the lake.”

The Magical Founding Team Mix For Web Startups »

Tags:  business 

The Happiness Process

I was having wine with Joe Gebbia telling him about this new thing I’m doing -  each week identify one thing that doesn’t make me happy, the follow week replace it with something that makes me happy. I’ve been doing that for 4 weeks now. Apparently people like the Happiness Process, Joe made it a sensation here. It’s good to have brilliant friends, they make your ideas better : ) 

I hope everyone who read about the Happiness Process tries it. It made my life magical!

Tags:  Life