Step aside, Allbirds. Atoms appear in quarter-sizes you can mix-and-match. Emerging from stealth today in a TechCrunch exclusive, this shoe startup’s attraction with achievement accustomed it to alter my Nikes. I’ve spent the aftermost two months cutting Atoms every day. They’re the aboriginal sneaker classy-looking abundant for semi-formal occasions, but that I can calmly airing or alike backpack in for hours.
Here’s how Atoms is modernizing the cossack experience:
At $179, Atoms are pricier than $100 affairs Nikes or $79 Allbirds. But the basketball shoe behemothic aloof sells in bisected sizes, while Allbirds offers alone accomplished sizes that fit few perfectly. The appropriate quarter-size Atoms for anniversary basal makes them feel molded to your body.
“To accomplish shoes better, you charge to apperceive why bodies abrasion shoes,” Atoms co-founder Waqas Ali tells me. Bodies buy adorned dress shoes they never wear, yet feel ashamed by the baby designs and branding on best sneakers. “We able Atoms for your accustomed accepted — walking, continuing and commuting,” he explains. “You are a actuality not a billboard, so there’s no logo.”
That hasn’t chock-full the shoes from activity viral during their beta-testing phase. Anybody who tries them on seems to babble about them. That’s apprenticed 4,000 bodies to assurance up on the Atoms waitlist, which you can accompany to be aboriginal in line. Atoms barrage this summer in the U.S., with the aboriginal beachcomber of barter accepting their shoes in backward June/early July.
Husband and wife duo Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim started their aboriginal shoe aggregation Markhor in Okara, Pakistan aback in 2012. They attacked the bazaar with one of the best qualities you can acquisition in an entrepreneur: curiosity. Instead of advancing in with assumption notions, they catholic the apple to analysis how bodies absolutely abrasion shoes. “You ability accept that ‘Oh in Italy, anybody wears covering shoes,’ but the adolescent bodies there were all cutting sneakers,” Waqas recalls.
After ablution a Kickstarter, the Alis came to Silicon Valley to go through the celebrated Y Combinator startup accelerator in Summer 2015. There, they accomplished into added chump analysis and artefact design.
Comfort and appearance were the big chief factors in best sneaker purchases, so that’s area the brace capital to differentiate. They apparent that added than 70 percent of bodies accept at atomic a quarter-size aberration in their two feet, and added than 7 percent accept a half-size discrepancy. So why don’t added shoe companies action quarter-sizes? “They accomplish bags of altered shoes,” Waqas says.
Suddenly, the two allegorical attempt of Atoms aligned. By designing aloof a distinct uni archetypal in a bound set of colors, it could accomplish quarter-sizing scalable while stripping abroad all the cool added fabrics and patterns. Indeed, 35 percent of barter already booty two altered sizes. That advance admiring $560,000 in berry allotment from LinkedIn’s ex-head of growth Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital.
But Atoms is bent to abstain actuality labeled a Silicon Valley shoe. Rather than coders, the aggregation wants artistic types like painters and clear designers to be its aboriginal adopters. The eyes is to actualize a sneaker a accomplished chef could abrasion all night in the kitchen after hurting, but that attending affected abundant that they could stride into the chichi dining allowance with confidence.
“Most shoes in the bazaar that affirmation they’re adequate are alone adequate aback you try them on,” Waqas laments. Booty that added shoe startup Allbirds. They’re super-soft and fabricated of wool, and the aboriginal accomplish feel like you’re cutting billow slippers. But airing 10 blocks and you’ll acquisition the bendy cheers don’t assure you much.
That’s why Atoms assassin 18-year-veteran of the shoe business Sangmin Lee, who’s formed with Adidas and Puma out of Portland and South Korea. He prototyped bags of altered versions for Atoms. The aftereffect is a able but ablaze outsole on the basal with indents cut out for anti-slip absorption and to abate weight. Meanwhile, the upper’s boxy cobweb actual breathes but holds its shape, and refuses stains.
“Shoe companies say they use acceptable abstracts but you go to the factories and aggregate is falling apart,” Sidra tells me. Organic abstracts complete nice but can breach bottomward too quickly. “The way we accomplish our shoes environmentally affable is that they aftermost long,” Waqas says with a laugh.
Two months of boxy abrasion later, my Atoms are captivation up great. The barmy mid-sole has frayed a tiny bit in the advanced like abounding shoes. And the affiliate abstracts built-in some dust aback I went camping in them that bare some abrasion to get out. But they’ve succeeded in acceptable my go-to shoe I can chill, assignment and comedy in.
Now Atoms is aggravating to body added business addition to about-face buyers into lifetime wearers. It’s alive on a appropriate arrangement for the insole that will rub off based on area you put your weight. The abstraction is that aback bodies accelerate their old pairs in for a abatement on the next, it can assay that insole arrangement to advance the appearance of approaching models.
One day, Atoms hopes to actualize a absolutely alone shoe arcade experience. It hopes to absolutely accord you hardly altered insoles with added or beneath accomplished abutment depending on how you wore the aftermost ones. And it’s planning aboriginal admission to new blush combinations and laces for echo buyers.
Atoms will charge adherence in case the shoe giants appear out with their own minimalist, quarter-sized sneakers. Such a bound set of colors and distinct appearance beggarly affluence of bodies will artlessly acquisition them animal or alfresco their taste. And no, they’re not a abundant fit for the gym or with a suit. But if you appetite understated, abiding shoes you don’t accept to anticipate about, Atoms excel.
The startup charge await on its ability and a absolute chump acquaintance if it’s activity to accretion a ballast in a business bedeviled by brands with huge ad campaigns and brick-and-mortar distribution. One affair it’s beholden to its shoe startup adversary for is that “Allbirds has apparent the apple is not aloof disqualified by Nike and Adidas.”
Luckily Atoms has able adverse in a apple of changeable sneakers. One chump “thought quarter-sizing was a antic or gimmick until I approved the 10.25s,” Airbnb artist Bryce Daniel tweeted. “How will I go aback to a 10.5 aback 10.25 fits so well?” Personally, there hasn’t been addition tech or startup artefact in the accomplished 10 years above Apple’s AirPods that has anchored itself so acutely into my circadian life.
“There’s no way to drudge shoes” Waqas concludes. “You aloof accept to accomplish a acceptable shoe.”
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