Allbirds’ secret sauce: Early investor reflects on shoe company’s success as it goes public

Allbirds’ wool sneakers. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Strong brand ethos; future-focused; and obsessed with customer loyalty.

These were some of the ingredients that helped turn Allbirds into a $3 billion shoemaker, according to one of the company’s earliest backers.

Allbirds debuted on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, with shares spiking 60% on the first day of trading. The company raised $300 million in its IPO. It has sold more than eight million pairs of shoes since launching six years ago. Net revenue came in at $219.3 million in 2020, up 73% year-over-year.

Dan Levitan, co-founder of Maveron. (Maveron Photo)

Seattle-based VC firm Maveron, which led a $7.25 million Series A round in 2016, held the largest stake in Allbirds before the IPO that was worth around $400 million based on the opening price.

Maveron was co-founded by former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan, who penned a blog post today celebrating the Allbirds IPO.

“Allbirds has always been committed to making better things in a better way,” Levitan wrote. “Since their beginning, they’ve done this through an unwavering focus on product development to prove that comfort, great design, and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That continues today.”

Levitan noted that Allbirds committed early on to build a brand built on three pillars: comfort, simple and high quality design, and sustainability.

The company also established relevance faster than any other in Maveron’s portfolio, Levitan said. The VC firm has invested in 150 consumer startups since launching in 1998, including eBay, drugstore.com, Groupon, Shutterfly, and Zulily. More recent investments include Pacaso, Imperfect Foods, Trupanion, and others.

“The best founders are also able to gain confidence from their early success but appreciate how hard and how long one has to work to build an enduring, sustainable brand,” Levitan wrote in his praise of co-founders Tim Brown, a former professional soccer player from New Zealand, and Joey Zwillinger, a biotech engineer.

Allbirds’ focus on the customer is also key to its success. It has improved the core Wool Runner shoe more than 30 times; offers products both online and in-person; and expanded to sell socks and scarves.

“I’m a walking example of just how loyal their customers can be,” Levitan wrote. “I’ve purchased 45 pairs in the last five years. I literally cannot remember the last time I wore a leather shoe, and I used to wear leather shoes every day.

“Great products have a way of integrating into the lives of consumers, which Allbirds has done not only in my life but also in the lives of millions of other customers.”

Source: GeekWire

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