Former All White Tim Brown gets $9.7m to expand shoe business
A woollen footwear business founded by former All White Tim Brown has been given a multi-million dollar funding boost.
Brown's company Allbirds originally launched in 2014 after successfully raising about $3.68 million through a global crowdfunding platform and a US investment fund.
On Thursday, the former Wellington Phoenix captain secured an additional US$7.25m (NZ$9.71m) from Maveron, a private equity fund established by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.
The lifestyle shoe is made from New Zealand merino wool and is only available online in the US and New Zealand, and have been worn by celebrities including Channing Tatum's wife Jenna Dewan Tatum.
Brown, who previously lived in London and now lives in San Francisco, retired from professional sport following the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Speaking from the US on Thursday, Brown said he was blown away by how quickly the company was gaining traction.
He would use the money to employ more people - in addition to his current team of 15 - and expand the range.
Allbirds has just launched the Wool Runner range in new colours, including dark blue, light red, light green, and black.
"The plan is to double-down on what we started and expand beyond wool into other natural materials," Brown said.
"In American terms, the funding is pretty small, but it's very significant for us."
The biggest challenge so far had been keeping shoes in stock, he said.
"It's going tremendously well. We achieved our first year, high-level goal in about two and a half months."
Brown's idea for woollen shoes was spurred on by a $200,000 AgResearch development grant and a business incubator programme in the UK.
He ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to develop the shoes, under the provisional brand name Three Over Seven - raising $70,000 and selling 500 pairs in the first few days.
The campaign to produce a test version of the Wool Runners reached its target in four days.
This initial success encouraged him to keep pushing the business.
Allbirds subsequently raised more than US $2.7m (NZ $3.61m) in an investment round led by New York-based venture capital fund Lerer Hippeau Ventures.
High-profile investors include Ben Lerer, co-founder of digital media company Thrillist and David Gilboa, co-founder of online eyewear company Warby Parker.
This led Brown to move his company to San Francisco in October 2015.