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Trendy Sneaker Startup Allbirds Laces Up $1.4 Billion Valuation

Rob Copeland
Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown speaks at OZY Fest in Central Park on Saturday, July 21, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

In Silicon Valley, even the shoes are now worth more than $1 billion.

Trendy footwear startup Allbirds Inc., whose sneakers are a favorite of striving venture capitalists and celebrities alike, has sold a stake to investors at a valuation of $1.4 billion, people familiar with the matter say.

The valuation, which wasn’t publicly disclosed, more than triples last year’s number and vaults the company into the closely watched realm of so-called Silicon Valley unicorns, or privately held startups valued at more than $1 billion.

While Allbirds are a staple in the offices of seemingly every technology startup, it isn’t exactly a tech company itself. At the moment it is a shoemaker that sells products made of just two materials—wood and wool—though limited-edition flip flops made of sugar were briefly available over the summer.

“We’ve never even thought of ourselves as a shoe company,” co-founder Joey Zwillinger said in an interview from Shanghai, where he was scouting for additional locations. The 37-year old described the company as “focused on delivering everyday comfort in a really elevated way,” and said further products outside of footwear were under development.

In an industry where the vast majority of product is sold in person, Allbirds has just two stores, in San Francisco and New York. The company website states “Mother Nature is our muse.” Its newest shoes are made from what Allbirds describes as “magical eucalyptus tree fiber,” with laces of recycled plastic bottles and insoles dipped in castor bean oil.

Allbirds was last year valued by investors at $370 million. One of those backers, hedge-fund firm Tiger Global Management, put in more as part of a $50 million investment announced Thursday from investors including T. Rowe Price Investment Management and Fidelity Management. The valuation and funding suggests the investors collectively received about a 3.5% stake for their investment.

Mr. Zwillinger, who founded Allbirds with New Zealand native Tim Brown, declined to provide sales figures. A person familiar with the matter said it has sold more than $200 million of shoes over the past two years. Under Armour Inc., with a public market capitalization of $7.6 billion, posted $1.17 billion in revenue in its latest quarter alone.

Mr. Zwillinger said an initial public offering was “not desirable for a variety of reasons” but that the company had been “profitable since basically day one.” He declined to say whether he had sold any of his personal stake in the fundraising.

Write to Rob Copeland at rob.copeland@wsj.com

Allbirds CEO Tim Brown is scheduled to speak at the WSJ Tech D.Live conference, taking place Nov. 12-14 in Laguna Beach, Calif.



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