Former All White-turned-entrepreneur, Tim Brown, launched innovative footwear company Allbirds back in 2014. He talks to from his current home base in San Francisco about new babies, new technologies and getting busted wearing other shoe brands. My weekends are really important to me. In my previous sporting life, I never had weekends free. There was always a game, so it took me time to reacquaint myself with a good weekend, but I’ve learned fast. A well-spent weekend is a key part of a well-lived week.
I live in the Marina in San Francisco, which is very near the harbour, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It’s a beautiful part of the city that reminds me of my hometown Wellington all the time.
The beach is 15 minutes’ walk from our house, there are great cafés and farmers’ markets nearby, and it’s an easy drive to get over the bridge, out of San Francisco and up to Sonoma (wine country) where we go frequently. It’s really beautiful up there and in a weird quirk of the San Franciscan climate, you drive an hour away and you often go from fog to sunshine and it is suddenly 10 degrees warmer.
Work and home life definitely do spill over. My wife and I have a 6-month-old baby so there’s a lot of new things to learn there and having the flexibility to be at home when I need to be is a real priority. It is definitely a work in progress finding the right balance as a new dad but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Friday evening is a really important moment for me to end the week, reflect and come down from the highs of all that has gone on.
I try to use Saturday to reset, usually with exercise, and time spent with friends and family. Ideally, talking and thinking about things not related to work.
On Sunday, there will be a chunk of time dedicated to preparing for the week ahead.
In between the crazy loveliness of time with our daughter, a regular Sunday will include lots of cups of tea, time with The New York Times – the paper edition – dog walks with our pup, Charlie and, eventually, exercise of some kind.
The simpler the better for Sundays at the moment. The journey to build Allbirds has been such a whirlwind, I’ve come to really value a few small things done really well.
A New Zealand Sunday versus an American one? They are pretty much the same. The food is a little different, and there’s different sport on television but people have the same vibe. I’ve never lived in a more “Kiwi” city than San Francisco. There are a lot of similarities and I love living here.
Overall, I think of my approach to work much like I did developing and maintaining fitness when I was a sportsperson – intense training followed by equally important moments of recovery. There are more similarities between professional sport and entrepreneurship than I ever could have imagined.
Allbirds recently sold its millionth pair of shoes. It was a special moment particularly as it coincided with the launch of our Tree family of products and our second material innovation. There was a small celebration with our team here, but there is still so much more to do so we’re not getting too carried away.
Early on, we realised that as remarkable as wool is, when the weather gets hot and you’re wearing wool shoes without socks it isn’t as good an experience as it could be. We set out to find a new material that could deliver an even better comfort feeling, and found eucalyptus fibre. Eucalyptus has both incredible hand-feel and softness but also a naturally cooling property that made it the perfect solution.
The only catch was, much like the wool, it took years of research and development, a world-first FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification to meet our environmental standards and the use of a new, digitally knitted manufacturing process to meet our product standards. It’s been a long journey but we’re thrilled with the results.
The one thing they don’t tell you about starting a footwear company is you kind of have to wear your product all the time! On the rare occasions I’ve had to wear other footwear, I inevitably get caught.
On the weekends, I’m definitely more casual and I try to wear shorts and trackies whenever I can – which I would never do during the week in the office. Other than that, my grey, blue and white palette is still a constant.