By Mike Freeman
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After a few frustrating hours shoe shopping, Lucy Beard walked into a Starbucks and ordered a grande mocha light with two pumps.
As she waited, it dawned on her that she could easily buy an elaborately customized cup of coffee. But she couldn’t purchase a pair of shoes customized to fit her feet.
That led Bread, a data scientist, to co-found Feetz. The startup uses 3D printers and a smartphone app to make customized shoes that take into account 22 dimensions of foot size and are accurate down to one or two millimeters.
“One in five people say (they) have trouble finding shoes that fit,” said Beard. “We have launched with customers. We have raised millions of dollars. Entrepreneur.com named us one of the companies to watch that is disrupting the whole footwear industry.”
Feetz is among 31 local start-ups make the Cool Companies by the San Diego Venture Group.
In August, the companies will meet privately with a couple of dozen Silicon Valley venture capitalists to pitch their businesses.
This is the second year that the San Diego Venture Group has arranged for a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists to meet local startups. The 31 companies were selected from a list of 140 applicants because they were considered far enough along to receive initial or follow on rounds of investment.
“People complain about San Diego not being Silicon Valley, but I look at that a little differently,” said Mike Krenn, head of the San Diego Venture Group. “We are the closest tech city to that big pot of money and better positioned than any other city to the resources that are there. And we should leverage that.”
Krenn said last year’s event was successful not only in fund raising for the companies but also “in elevating the perception of our start-up community with these important investors.”
On June 7, 20 of the 31 Cool Companies will display their technology at Farmer & The Seahorse restaurant in Torrey Pines from 4 pm to 6:30 pm. The event is free to San Diego Venture Group members and $50 for non-members.
Among this year’s group is SkySafe, which has developed security technology that can take control of rogue drones. Founded by a team from MIT, the military and security research community, the company has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Co-Founder Grant Jordan, who worked with drones in the Air Force, said SkySafe’s radio frequency technology provides enforceable controls for the drone industry. It detects, identifies, tracks and takes control of drones when needed. The seven employee company is targeting airports, stadiums, prisons and critical infrastructure for use of its technology.
Other Cool Companies include: Approved, Brojure, Certona, CircleShout, Cloudbeds, CourseKey, CureMatch, Dermala, Forge Therapeutics, Fragmob, Leading Biosciences, LeadCrunch, LoanHero, Lymber, MindTouch, Ossic, Phluido, Robo 3D, Secured Universe, SparkFin, SweetLabs, Tourmaline Labs, Underground Elephant, Wildcat Discovery Technologies, Wrapify, XY Findables, Xycrobe Therapeutics, Zebit and Zingle.
Founded in 2013 in San Diego, Feetz has been based in Tennessee for the past two years after being lured there by government incentives, said Beard.
But six weeks ago, Feetz moved back to San Diego to be closer to its California-based investors and to access a larger talent pool of software and hardware engineers. It currently employs less than 20 workers. It raised $1.5 million last year and expects to announce a second, undisclosed funding round later this month.
The company designed its own 3D printers and uses environmentally sustainable materials to make its shoes. It has developed a free software app where customers take three pictures of their feet against a standard piece of paper. Feetz combines that data with height, weight, walking style and other information to make custom shoes. It has patents, trademarks and copyrights to protect its intellectual property.
It’s going slow for now, offering the $199 shoes to just 100 customers who have signed up. The company will use the experience from this initial phase to expand its offerings over time, said Beard.
“We are doing it in slow tranches because it is so disruptive that we are learning about the customers and they are learning about us,” she said. “It is translating the language of fit, learning the language of fit.”
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