There's something wrong with almost every pair of shoes you own, and this startup just raised $11 million to make them more comfortable
SOLS' new funding will allow the company to expand into the consumer product side of 3D printed footwear beyond its first product, orthopedic 3D printed insoles, with an emphasis on sports, a seemingly perfect fit for a startup that got its start creating orthopedic insoles.
SOLS was founded by Kegan Schouwenburg and Joel Wishkovsky in 2013. Schouwenburg was previously director of industrial engineering and ops at 3D printing marketplace Shapeways - that's where she she got the idea for SOLS, while walking around the factory floor in her black leather platform boots.
SOLS works by taking a few pictures of your foot to create a 3D printed model, and from that, the company builds your insole. It gets printed and shipped within a week.
Instead of having to get your SOLS through a doctor, SOLS wants to sell its products directly to consumers.
It's also experimenting with a 3D printed shoe prototype, called "ADAPTIV," which uses robotics and biomechanics that adjust to the body's every move.
"It was this great collaborative effort to design this shoe that had 3D printed exoskeleton, color-changing LEDs that match your outfit - you can take a selfie and have your shoes match that - and we talked robotics, putting cells on the inside that would inflate and deflate to detect movement," Schouwenburg said. "You can imagine being out on the court and coming down from a jump and having a shoe inflate around your foot. It's pretty awesome."
The new funding comes from previous investors Founders Fund and Lux Capital, and new investments by Tenaya Capital and Melo7 Tech Partners, which was cofounded by NBA star Carmelo Anthony and Stuart Goldfarb.
The company also announced Terdema Ussery, president and CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, will be joining SOLS' board of directors.
Schouwenburg, whose roots are in fashion and design, now finds herself immersed in the world of sports. "This is a whole new world for me," she told Business Insider.
"I'm really honest about it. I come from the design and fashion world, but design, fashion and sports - those three things actually go together and have this very interesting relationship. I definitely sit on the design-fashion side, but I'm learning every day.
"I get really excited about how we can use SOLS to enable people to live their lives and achieve whatever it is they want - and that could be a hardcore way, like in a professional sports setting, but it could also be in a much more casual way in that you just want to go for a run or jog around the block or play with your kids longer at the park."
This year, NBA All-Star Weekend happened at the same time as Fashion Week, a perfect storm for SOLS.
"Back in December, the guys at Melo7 approached us about this NBA Fashion Week, All-Star event - it was the first time that the NBA All-Stars game was happening at the same time as Fashion Week and everything was culminating at once," Schouwenburg told Business Insider.
"We're taking what we've done to the insole and driving that forward, and not only launching into the consumer sector - enabling anyone, anywhere to have access to our technology at an affordable price, but hopefully one day actually taking the next step and using the insoles we've built as the first piece in a new definition of footwear," Schouwenburg said.
The startup previously raised $6.4 million in a Series A round in April from investors including Grape Arbor VC, FundersGuild, Felicis Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, RRE Ventures, and Founders Fund. Since its launch in 2013, SOLS has raised $19.3 million in funding. The New York-based startup has 45 employees, and a network of 300 medical professionals providing SOLS to their patients.
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