Meet The World Cup Soccer Player Who Only Ever Wanted to Design Things

Tim Brown just wanted to be a designer. Born in New Zealand, he initially attended design school in the U.S. on a soccer scholarship. But, through a combination of luck and talent, he ended up as a professional soccer player for nearly a decade. He even played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for the New Zealand national team.

However, he never forgot about his true passion, design.

Allbirds, the shoe company he co-founded with engineer and a renewable materials expert Joey Zwillinger, was initially just a fun side project. Tim says,”I initially started making black and white basic sneakers in response to a gap in the market for simple, unbranded footwear. After several years of experimentation and testing we now have a proprietary NZ merino fabric produced for us by one of the world's great Italian textile mills”.

Which is the basis of their first product – The Wool Runners – launched on March 1st, 2016.

Tim started by creating prototype after prototype and even sold an early version himself as a Kickstarter project. But, when he finally developed the prototype for the Wool Runner, he knew he had what he needed to take this all to next level. With that prototype in hand, he and his partner decided to use it to raise VC funding.

Tim found the fundraising process both scary and exciting. The countless hours spent developing prototypes paid off. Investors were impressed with not just what they heard, but what they could touch. Tim and Joey successfully raised $2.7 million in funding. The round was led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

Tim is passionate about design, “it’s at the centre of everything we do and I am fortunate to be able to both build a brand and develop products with a cast of incredibly talented designers.”  

He advises other creative people, “Think about design more broadly than just type or form or aesthetic. In my mind design is really a way of thinking, a process for problem-solving, and an embedded curiosity and creativity that is more powerful when anchored in more traditional schools of thought.”

Meet Tim Brown and 15 other thought leaders at the First Annual Design Gurus Summit, Tuesday, May 17, from 12:00 PM to 5:30 PM (PDT) San Francisco. Click here or use the code ‘insider’ for 20% off tickets to the event.