By Amy Feldman. Source: Forbes.
Wiivv Wearables – one of the early startups in the 3D-printed footwear market – launched its latest product, a 3D-printed sandal, on Kickstarter today with hopes that it will augur in a new way of making shoes. “We see the sandal as a precursor to what the footwear industry will look like in the future,” says Shamil Hargovan, the company’s cofounder and CEO. “We have this notion that every shoe can be custom.”
Hargovan, 29, and Louis-Victor Jadavji, 24, who were on the FORBES 30 Under 30 list in 2016, founded the Vancouver-based company in 2014 and launched their first product on Kickstarter last year. That product, a custom insole that cost $79, was relatively simple. Customers would simply take photos of their feet with their phones, and Wiivv would manufacture the insoles to fit at its San Diego plant. To date, Wiivv has sold more than 15,000 of those insoles. Like many companies that launch on Kickstarter, Wiivv relied on the crowdfunding platform to test demand for its products and to help create a little buzz.
But the insoles were just the start for the company, which has raised more than $7 million in venture funding, from investors that include Eclipse and Asimov Ventures, at a valuation of $20 million. In February, Wiivv purchased eSoles, a company known for its modular customizable footbeds, for an undisclosed price, in an effort to ready itself for new product launches.
Wiivv’s sandals look like a basic flip-flop, but allow wearers to customize the fit with 3D-printing technology.
Its first sandals, launched on Kickstarter, are fairly basic flip-flops, available in both men’s and women’s versions, but they will be custom fit by using the same 3D-printing technology. While a number of footwear companies offer customized shoes – including, notably, Nike – Hargovan says that this is the first time the technology has been used to go beyond shoes’ aesthetics and address how they actually fit. The sandals, which will sell for $95, will have custom toe-thong placement and adjustable interchangeable straps. Kickstarter backers that pledge $65 will get a pair, while those who kick in $275 can choose between a men’s special edition sandal handmade by San Francischoemaker Frank Beneduci or a women’s special edition one with a strap covered in Swarovski crystals. “This is a long-awaited product for our team,” Hargovan says. “It’s a big leap to go from an insole to an actual footwear product.”
Wiivv’s stated goal on the Kickstarter is $250,000 – the amount that’s needed to do the tooling at the factory for the product’s launch – but Hargovan says he hopes to raise $1 million. All told, he expects the company’s revenues to surpass $3 million in 2017, and perhaps more if some partnerships the company is exploring pan out. To help expand the company, Hargovan brought in Manny Kostas, formerly a top executive at HP and Symantec, for a stint as interim chief marketing officer and then as an advisor. “He was a mentor of mine who hired me at HP,” says Hargovan, who worked at the giant printer company for three and a-half years before founding Wiivv.
Longer-term, Hargovan believes that Wiivv’s biggest business will not be with its own designs, but in partnerships with designers and brands worldwide that want to offer custom products. Says Hargovan: “We will introduce new products to showcase the power of the technology, but we envision 80% of the business longer-term coming from our manufacturing capability.”