Allbirds CEO Joey Zwillinger on the startup’s $100 million round, profitability, and SPAC mania – ClearTips
As people spend less time in the world and more time thinking about when the vaccine will arrive, lifestyle shoes are only gaining traction.
A clear beneficiary is Allbirds, a San Francisco-based manufacturer of casual, durable kicks, which launched in 2016 and quickly became a favorite in Silicon Valley circles before being taken elsewhere.
However the company saw its business slow this year as the epidemic now saw its products available for purchase in 35 countries and 20 of its brick-and-mortar stores sprinkled throughout the US and Europe, another outpost in Tokyo and several Shops are China.
Investors clearly see room for more growth. Allbirds Cofounder and CEO Joey Zillingler says it closed at $ 100 million in Series E funding at a valuation of about $ 1.6 billion, after closing nearly $ 27 million in Series D funding earlier this year. Was, and cofounder and CEO Joy Zeilinginger says. He chatted with us earlier this week, which has been edited for length and clarity.
TC: Your shoes are sold worldwide. What are your biggest markets?
JZ: The biggest market by far is the US, and the same day that we started here in 2016, we also launched in New Zealand, so the last four years have been very good for us. But we have seen growth in Japan and Korea and China and Canada and Australia. We have a network of warehouses globally which allows us to reach 2.5 billion people [who], If they were so inclined, could get their product in three days. We are proud of the infrastructure we have established.
TC: We have worn all the shoes in 2020 wearing less than expected. How has this affected your business?
JZ: We are growing, but certainly not at the same pace until the epidemic occurred. We are primarily digital in how we reach people, but stores are important to us. And we had to switch [those] Completely closed and lost a part of our sales for a long time.
TC: Do you have to keep your retail staff?
JZ: A large part of our retail force was unable to work, but we were fortunately able to pay them in full for four months, plus [some received] The government benefits if they get it. And now all 20 of our stores are running again in a way that is completely safe and everyone feels really comfortable.
We also donated shoes to frontline workers – valued at 10,000 pairs or about one million dollars.
TC: In terms of new offerings, Alleybirds has an ace up its sleeve?
JZ: We have just launched our original mobile app, and through this we are able to discount our more loyal fans. It is a really cool experience that blends technology with fashion. You can try on shoes in a virtual mirror; You have been informed [about different looks] That you wouldn’t be otherwise.
We also launched wool-based weather-proof running shoes in April, which have blown our hopes. [were fast discovered by] People who haven’t actually been up and running again for 10 to 15 years [because of gym closures]. It is a super high-stakes category and is difficult because people buy it on repeat. But we took two years to make it. It’s not like we launched it because of the epidemic. It is a shoe for the 5K to 10K distance – it is not a marathon shoe or a trail shoe – and we are able to express that clearly, speaking for its success, I think.
TC: What about clothes?
We launched underwear and socks at a small launch last year. We have developed a fabric that has not been used before – it is a mixture of tree fiber and merino wool because we think that nature can unlock magic. Underwear is usually synthetic – it is made of plastic – or cotton, which is not a great material for a whole bunch of reasons. [Meanwhile] Our temperature is unprecedented for control; It also sounds like Kashmiri.
TC: Patagonia really advertises its social and environmental values. Do you see alebirds evolving in a similar way with the increasing share of offerings?
JZ: I’m incredibly humbled [the comparison]. Given their environmental leadership of the retail sector, we hope that we are compared to them. But they are too much of an external brand – not a competitor so to speak. And we would love to share more of the retail world with them so that we can do our environmental things together.
TC: You have just raised funding. Are you profitable and if not, is there profitability in sight?
JZ: We have been profitable for most of our existence. As we grow up, there is some discipline. We are not close to the profitability that we will eventually have, but we are still a small company in investment mode. After emerging from the epidemic, we will enter the ramp-up phase.
TC: Everyone and their brothers are raising money for a blank-check company, or SPAC, which can make it very fast for a private company to go public. Have you been contacted, and may this option interest you?
JZ: Yes and no. Yes, we have been contacted, and no we are [not interested]. We want to make a great company and going public can be something that enables for many reasons. But we want to do it at the right time, in a way that helps business grow in the most sustainable and sustainable fashion. We are not focused on the way we are jumping at the chance of a SPAC without rigorous submission.