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With $50M in fresh funding, Allbirds will open new stores in the US, UK and Asia

The quintessential venture capitalist’s uniform consists of a pair of designer jeans, a Patagonia fleece vest and $95 wool sneakers. The company behind the shoes, Allbirds, entered the unicorn club this morning with the announcement of a $50 million Series C from late-stage players T. Rowe Price, which led the round, Tiger Global and Fidelity Investments. The 3-year-old startup founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown has raised $75 million to date, including a $17.5 million Series B last year. It’s backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Scooter Braun, Maveron, Lerer Hippeau and Elephant, the venture capital firm led by Warby Parker founder Andrew Hunt. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the round values Allbirds at $1.4 billion. The company would not confirm that figure to TechCrunch. Like Warby Parker, San Francisco-based Allbirds began as a direct-to-consumer online retailer but has since expanded to brick-and-mortar, opening stores in San Francisco and New York. It currently ships to locations across the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Next week, the company plans to open its first storefront in the U.K. in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. It will begin shipping throughout the U.K. In 2019. Using its latest investment, Allbirds will double down on its brick-and-mortar business. In addition to the U.K., the company says it will open even more locations in the U.S., as well as open doors in Asia in the coming months. Tiger Global, which has backed Allbirds since its Series B, may be of help. The firm has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as partners across Asia. Allbirds makes eco-friendly wool shoes for men, women and kids via its kid’s line, aptly named Smallbirds. The shoes are made of sustainable materials, including merino wool, a fabric made from eucalyptus fiber that the company has dubbed “Tree” and “SweetFoam,” a shoe sole made from sugarcane-based, carbon-negative foam rubber. “Climate change is the problem of our generation and the private sector has a responsibility to combat it,” Zwillinger, Allbirds’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “This injection of capital will help us bring our sustainable products to more people around the globe, demonstrating that comfort, design…

Shoe startups aren’t dragging their feet

Joanna Glasner Contributor More posts by this contributor Hydrate, intoxicate, caffeinate, repeat: Meet the startups pouring the future VCs serve up a large helping of cash to startups disrupting food Good thing Carrie Bradshaw, the shoe-loving heroine of Sex and the City, wasn’t a footwear venture capitalist. The high-heeled, high-priced and hard-to-walk-in pairs beloved by the TV icon are pretty much the least fundable concept in the shoe startup space lately. Instead, when they do dip their toe in the footwear space, venture investors have been putting a premium on comfort. At least that’s what recent funding records indicate. Over the past year-and-a-half, investors have tied up roughly $170 million in an assortment of shoe-related startups, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data. The vast majority is going to sellers and designers of footwear that people might actually want to walk in. Top funding recipients are a varied bunch, including everything from used sneaker marketplaces to high-end designers to toddler play shoes. Startups are also experimenting with little-used materials, turning used plastic bottles, merino wool and other substances into chic wearables. Below, we look at how startups are leveraging market trends to get a foot in the door. Growth market It should be noted that recent footwear funding activity comes on the heels of some positive developments for the shoe industry. First, this is a huge and growing industry. One recent report pegged the global footwear market at $246 billion in 2017, with annual growth rates of around 4.5 percent. Second, public markets are strong. Shares of the world’s most valuable footwear company — Nike — have climbed more than 50 percent over the past nine months to reach a market cap of nearly $130 billion. Stocks of several smaller rivals, including Adidas, have also performed well. Third, men are spending more on footwear. Though they’ve long been stereotyped as the gender with more restrained shoe-buying habits, men are putting more money into footwear and could be on track to close the spending gap. Sneakering in Both men and women are spending more on sneakers, and venture capitalists have taken notice. Sneakers and sneaker-related businesses…

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