AlleyWatch chatted with cofounders and co-CEOs Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert about KOIO, the inspiration for the brand, the luxury footwear market, and the company’s most recent round of funding, which brings the company’s total equity funding raised to $10.3M.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
This is a rolling from our first series A where we received $3M. This round was led by Founders Fund, the leading consumer-focused private equity venture with additional participation from previous investors Acton Capital Partners and Brand Foundry, amongst others. We are super excited that we are continuing to grow and slowly expanding.
Tell us about the product or service that KOIO offers.
We offer a product for the always on the go person. Each KOIO’s sneakers are crafted over a period of four hours by local artisans who also work with Chanel and Hermès at select manufacturers in Le Marche, Italy. We saw a gap in the luxury leather goods in the US market, so we visited over 34 different Italian leather factories in the legendary Le Marche region of Italy to find the perfect manufacturer to create a sneaker of the highest quality.
What inspired you to start KOIO?
We started KOIO in 2015 while completing our MBAs at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Initially, we bonded over being from Germany, but as we continued to talk we realized that we had a mutual passion for luxury leather sneakers. We recognized that the European market had better luxury leather goods offerings and accessibility, so we set out on a mission to create sneakers that are well designed, durable and fairly priced. Some famous DTC brands, like Warby Parker and Harry’s were out of Wharton and that definitely inspired us to create a DTC premium leather goods brand. We visited over 34 different Italian shoe manufacturers in the legendary Le Marche region of Italy before finding the perfect manufacturer to merge old-world craftsmanship with a modern ready-for-anything ethos and aesthetic shoe. The end product is a truly versatile sneaker of the highest quality.
How is KOIO different?
KOIO’s footwear is made at select manufacturers in Le Marche, Italy. While Italy has much stricter social and environmental regulations than China or other large footwear manufacturing countries, there are still some producers in Italy that manage to evade the most stringent rules. This is why KOIO checks the working conditions of its manufacturers rigorously and only works with suppliers that prove excellent in that regard. KOIO believes that a luxury product is only luxury if all the people involved in the process benefit from the value that’s being created.
What market does KOIO target and how big is it?
We cover all the US market.
What’s your business model?
Our brand is a direct-to-consumer company that sells all products on our own website and KOIO storefronts. We don’t rely on any retail partners. This allows us to save on the traditional retail margin, which usually makes up a large portion of the prices. For example, a sneaker that would typically cost $700 at a traditional retailer, only costs $250 at KOIO. We have developed technologies that forecast the demand based on current sales. We are able to get real-time feedback on which styles are selling best and apply that insight to future sales. Our company can react quickly to demand and is able to work with a smaller inventory to avoid overstock.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
With the close of its Series A round, the company is setting out to create new, unique designs in order to offer a more complete product portfolio to its loyal customer base. Additionally, KOIO will focus on scaling the operational team to respond to the increased demand for KOIO’s product.