Rising online retail star Shoes of Prey get $3 million in funding

Sydney start-up success story Shoes of Prey has sung the praises of its home city after raising $3 million from investors, including Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Shoes of Prey – founded by husband and wife team Michael and Jodie Fox, along with Mike Knapp – has made a name for itself by allowing consumers to design their own shoes online.

The founders met in the early 2000s while studying law. Shoes of Prey, which launched in October 2009, is regularly held up as a success story among local online retailers.

It has raised $3 million from investors in Australia and the US, including US venture capitalist Billy Tai, and venture capital firm CrunchFund, led by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington.

Funding also came from Australian tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes, one half of the duo that founded fellow start-up success story Atlassian, which is now a major software company.

Michael Fox says the process of raising funds was “more about finding the right partners”.

“We didn’t want to take money from anyone – we wanted investors who could add value,” he says.

“It was a bit of a marathon. We first started talking about it 18 months ago and we did some pitches 15 or 16 months ago. It really has been that long to get it happening.”

Fox says the company isn’t entirely sure where it will head to next – having already established a presence in Australia, New Zealand and Asia – although the United States is a possibility.

“We’ll see where we’re getting the best traction. In a few months’ time, we’ll focus on the geographies working best,” he says.

Jodie Fox told The Sydney Morning Herald the deal highlights Sydney as an ideal place to do business, particularly in the burgeoning tech scene.

“In light of the calls from [Sydney Lord Mayor] Clover Moore and [Google Australia managing director] Nick Leeder just last week to turn Sydney into Silicon Beach, we’ve got the proof that we have the talent and the Silicon Valley buy-in to make it happen,” Fox said.

Fox admitted that while funding prospects “probably would have been easier in the Valley”, she doesn’t believe being based in Australia has limited the company in any way.

“We created something that was globally novel and something that globally was of great interest, with social currency for people to share, and I think there’s enormous potential in that,” she said.

“Once you have that proof behind you, it doesn’t matter where you are.”

According to Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of Sydney-based tech seed fund Pollenizer, Australian start-ups tend to think global from the get-go, which works to their advantage.

“Because Australia is a small market, start-ups tend to think globally whereas American companies tend to think America is big enough,” Liubinskas told StartupSmart.

Fox said Shoes of Prey will spend the new funds on increasing the size of its team, from 14 to 24, and taking the site mainstream by way of a major marketing campaign.

“Now it’s time to be the crazy teenager and really go for it,” she said.

The Shoes of Prey founders also operate Sneaking Duck, which is aiming to carve a niche in the designer eyewear market. Sneaking Duck is led by former Google executive Mark Capps.

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.


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