Allbirds is set to follow Rocket Lab and become the second company founded by a Kiwi to lineup a multi-billion Nasdaq listing this year.
The maker of environmentally-friendly footwear, made from New Zealand Merino wool and various recycled materials, was founded in 2006 by ex-All Whites captain Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger - a renewables engineer who Brown met in San Francisco, where the company is now based.
It now sells more than 1 million pairs of shoes a year after becoming trendy with everyone from Silicon Valley execs to ex-President Barack Obama to Leonardo DiCaprio (the Hollywood A-lister who has also invested in the company).
And while it's still a high-volume purchaser of NZ Merino wool, the company now also makes footwear with products derived from everything from sugar cane to silky fabrics made from eucalyptus trees. In February, Brown revealed plans to commercialised a plant-based "leather."
The New York Times' Dealbook market gossip column says Allbirds is now interviewing banks ahead of a possible IPO, while Techcrunch says the shoe copmany's online sales success during the pandemic has attracted calls from the sudden army of blank-cheque or SPAC (special purpose acquisition companies) that are now driving many public listings.
Allbirds has already raised more than US$200m. It's most recent raise was in October last year - a Series E effort that hauled in US$100m at a US$1.7 billion ($2.4b) valuation.
Allbirds started with online-only sales, but since 2019 has opened 20 of its own stores around the US, Europe, Japan and China.
The Times says if it does list, Allbirds will join other consumer companies heading for IPOs on the back of strong online sales during Covid - including prescription glasses maker Warby Parker and the Jessica Alba-backed consumer goods startup the Honest Company.
In September 2019, Allbirds ran into potential flak as e-tail giant Amazon released a house-brand woollen and synthetic shoe that paid homage to the Kiwi-American company's product, but which at US$45 sold for half the price.
Brown told the Herald that Allbirds would not go legal. His company preferred to push its environmental credentials. It would highlight that it was not possible to produce a US$45 shoe in carbon-neutral, sustainable fashion.
The tactic seems to be working. While Amazon's lookalike footwear has yet to make the celebrity pages, as far as the Herald is aware, the likes of GQ and Esquire have celebrated Allbirds. The latter called it's signature Merino product "the affordable" status trainer and ran a montage of Ben Affleck, Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman and Matthew McConaughey ("who owns three pairs by our count") wearing Allbirds. The Daily Telegraph in the UK has snapped Cindy Crawford wearing the Kiwi-American company's trainers.
Self-imposed carbon tax
Since 2019, Allbirds has imposed an inhouse "carbon tax" on its products in a bid to achieve carbon neutral production.
Brown's company used an in-house team plus consultants to carry out a full audit of its carbon footprint, from sheep stations in South Canterbury to its textile mill in Italy to its manufacturing in South Korea to San Francisco, where it calculated the environmental cost of its corporate staff's daily commute.
The Kiwi entrepreneur would not give the amount, but told the Herald that money generated from the "tax" would help fund projects in three areas: three areas: replanting Amazon rainforest, developing wind farms in India and a project to trap methane from landfill and meat production.
While being good for the planet could ultimately be good for the bottom line if it attracts more customers, the Times sniffed that Wall Street hasn't always taken to companies wiht do-gooder intentions.
Brown declined to directly comment on the IPO talk.
But his company released a broad statement: "Allbirds has always been focused on building a great company, and as a B Corp [diversity-certified] and Public Benefit Corporation [a for-profit company that also has environmental and social goals], doing what is best for our stakeholders (planet, people, investors) at the right time and in a way that helps the business grow in a sustainable fashion."