This story was originally published in the April/May 2015 issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
Like many entrepreneurs, the inspiration for Lucy Beard’s company, Feetz, was practical: after spending an hour trying on shoes one day she couldn’t find a pair of shoes that fit right. While mulling over her shopping frustrations at Starbucks, she realized she could have more customization with her coffee choices than her shoes, and the idea for Feetz was born: a 3D printed shoe that could be customized to each individual for the perfect fit.
Fast forward to March 2015—less than two years since her “ah-ha” moment—and Beard has closed on a $1.25 million seed round of funding to launch the Feetz platform directly to customers later this year via its first micro-manufacturing center in Chattanooga. Funders include Khosla Ventures in the Silicon Valley (Menlo Park), the JumpFund in Chattanooga, and Uli Becker, former CEO of Reebok who has also joined the Feetz board of directors.
“Today, we wear a shoe that’s been made and sized to fit anyone,” says Beard, CEO and founder of Feetz. “I’m excited to bring a new reality to market by offering 7+ billion shoe sizes: one for everyone in the world. Our shoes are not only custom fit but can be customized so that no two pairs are ever the same.”
The Feetz SizeMe™ technology allows customers to create their perfect size at home. Customers use the Feetz app to take a 3D scan of each foot, pick their shoe design and colors, and then Feetz uses this data to create a custom fit, tailor-made shoe delivered within seven days. Feetz has drawn national attention and was named a Wearables Finalist for the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas in March.
“Feetz has the key elements of a company in which the JumpFund seeks to invest—a strong, talented female leader, disruptive technology with huge market potential, and founders willing to grow their company in the Southeast,” says Kristina Montague, general partner, the JumpFund. “Lucy and her team are on the front line of making 3D printing wearables.”
Beard’s journey to Chattanooga began in May 2014 when she and her team participated in the GigTank accelerator program focused on 3D printing start-ups. They were so impressed with the entrepreneurial community in Chattanooga that they decided to relocate the company from San Diego, California to the INCubator, Hamilton County’s Business Development Center. Beard met several of the JumpFund partners through her participation in GigTank.
“The JumpFund has an awesome set of women who understand the world of business and have been tremendous in helping Feetz get settled in Chattanooga,” says Beard. “Every business needs capital to start or grow their business. Having access to early stage capital from a group like the JumpFund opens up new opportunities for people that simply did not exist three years ago.”
The JumpFund is an angel fund led by six general partners—Kristina Montague (managing partner), Cory Allison, Betsy Blunt Brown, Shelley Prevost, Tiffanie Robinson, and Leonora Williamson—and has over 50 women investors. The vision of the JumpFund is to establish Chattanooga and the Southeast as the nation’s best place for a woman to invest in or start a business. In its first funding round, the JumpFund raised $2.5 million and expects to invest in 10-12 companies over the next three years. Feetz is one of seven companies the JumpFund has invested in since fall 2014, and the diversity of industries represented reflects the JumpFund’s commitment to innovative, scalable companies with high-growth potential.
The International Coffee Group is the only other Chattanooga-based company currently funded by the JumpFund. Jennifer Stone, CEO and founder, is an established entrepreneur who opened Stone Cup Café in 1997, which grew into a successful coffee roasting business that has won multiple accolades. Stone is a Top 100 Q Grader for the Coffee Quality Institute and International Judge for “Cup of Excellence.” She launched Demours Café Privé Sélect in 2014 with the goal of bringing the world’s finest and most rare micro lot coffees to consumers throughout the world.
“All of our exquisite coffees are exceedingly rare, produced only in small lots, and sourced directly from the most remote parts of the world directly from farmers,” says Stone, who created the Café Privé Sélect standard that is the sole domain of Demours. Once a coffee is accepted into the product portfolio, it is exclusively Demours. The JumpFund joined several other funders investing in Demours, including Blank State Ventures, the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, Lamp Post Group, and numerous individual investors.
“The entrepreneurial landscape in Chattanooga has changed dramatically since I opened my first café,” says Stone. “The JumpFund is an amazing resource and is filling a void in our immediate market. They have been very supportive in engaging my company and brand in events to help broaden my network.” International Coffee Group has also launched another new product line, Fleetwood Coffee, which is reviving an 85-year-old Chattanooga brand and is targeted to grocery stores and cafés.
“We have been overwhelmed with substantial deal flow of exceptional, high-growth, women-led companies since opening our doors last June,” says Montague. “The demand for new avenues for capital from women-led companies is evident and even more than we had imagined.”
For more information on the JumpFund visit www.thejumpfund.com.
Photography courtesy of Feetz, International Coffee Group and The Jump Fund