< Return to podcast

Business of HYPE: Allbird’s Tim Brown

Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders, entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. For today’s episode, we welcome Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Allbirds, Tim Brown.

As the company states itself, “no flashy logos, no senseless details,” just a simple wool sneaker made from sustainable materials. Tim Brown started his sneaker business alongside Joey Zwillinger in 2016 and has since amassed a billion-dollar business with unwavering loyalty from its customers. 

The New Zealand native was a former professional soccer player, having even played in the 2010 World Cup. During this time, Tim became curious about the footwear space and soon began his quest for a simple, yet comfortable shoe. With no business strategy in mind, Tim immediately jumped into the game and during his offseason, began designing sneakers and visiting factories in Indonesia to create his perfect prototype. 

After retiring, Tim entered a masters program for his idea where he was met with disapproval and crippling self-doubt about the purpose of his business. With no funding and running through savings from his soccer days, Tim began a Kickstarter campaign, where he eventually raised $120,000 USD and found his future business partner, Joey.

“I’m empowered by the idea that someone can tell you you can’t do something. There’s a challenge of making something and trying to solve it. It’s a love-hate. There’s a lot of days where you’re doubting yourself, but if you can channel that, it forces you.”

A new business approach, raised capital and a relocation to San Francisco later, Allbirds has sold over a million pairs within its first two years. The company has a heavy focus on making its products from recycled materials in order to leave a neutral carbon footprint. While sustainability wasn’t Tim’s initial mission, it became one out of necessity. 

“The way out of the situation isn’t to make sustainable product, it’s to make a great product sustainably.”

This episode features references to the following:

5:42 – Professional soccer
6:06 – 2010 FIFA World Cup
6:50 – Sponsored by Nike
10:35 – Retiring from soccer
12:30 – Starting his business
23:17 – Using wool
28:28 – Kickstarter
31:07 – Facing challenges
35:40 – Funding
26:45 – Meeting Co-CEO, Joey Zwillinger
36:45 – Relocating to San Francisco
48:08 – Importance of feedback
51:00 – Production run
55:20 – Importance of brick-and-mortar
61:40 – Sustainability
66:10 – Challenges & advice