The Allbirds vision for comfortable shoes: wool
NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Howard Schultz from Starbucks is an investor. So are the guys from Warby Parker, and the venture firm, Lerer Hippeau. Google cofounder Larry Page and Apple's chief design officer Jonathan Ive are reportedly customers.
Allbirds, a San Francisco based startup, sells the shoes that everyone in Silicon Valley is wearing and it has opened a store in Manhattan.
Allbirds cofounder Tim Brown says the company has come to New York to offer a great customer experience and a distinct, different, and thoughtfully made product. And it seems like it's resonating so far.
This question is at the heart of Allbirds: If you could make just one shoe, what would it be?
The secret ingredient here is wool. Tim comes from New Zealand, which he calls the land of 29 million sheep. The benefits of wool are well understood in New Zealand. It wicks moisture, regulates temperature, and is incredibly soft.
Tim says wool is also a sustainable material, so he thought, "Why not use it to create footwear that's better for the environment and also creates a better product experience?"
Allbirds launched in March 2016 with its wool runner. This April the slip-on lounger debuted. Both cost $95 a pair.
Just last month, because the name was just too good, the brand launched Smallbirds for kids for $55 a pair.
Tim came up with the idea for the wool shoes when he realized people needed casual, comfortable footwear to get them from work to play.
He thought there was an opportunity to design a shoe that didn't have logos all over it, wasn't bright and loud, and was focused on comfort.
The former New Zealand soccer star partnered with Joey Zwillinger, a Wharton grad working in renewable materials. They started going after a piece of the $80 billion U.S. footwear industry, according to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.
Tim says they have a completely different business model and a completely different way of thinking about product. It's all focused on one idea: comfort.
Allbirds started selling direct to consumer online and has taken off.
The first store opened in San Francisco in April and a second store in SoHo in September.
The company raised more than $27 million in funding and now has 75 employees working on selling the best sustainable shoe possible.
Internally, Tim says, they refer to it as the right amount of nothing. It's a design approach, which has enabled them to build a business around two products.
This August, the New York Times called Allbirds the shoe to wear to fit into Silicon Valley.
But it's not just a San Francisco thing. Matthew McConaughey and Gwyneth Paltrow have been spotted in them, too.
Tim believes that if you create one product that solves a problem and keep it simple, it will have broad appeal.
And he says, this is only the beginning. 2018 is all about new Allbirds styles, silhouettes, and materials.
Watch this space, he says, there is a big vision here.