Allbirds has changed its tune and is no longer denying the rumor that it is considering an initial public offering.
Although the buzzy sustainable footwear brand has said several times in the past that it was not interested in going public, in response to a story in the New York Times on Wednesday saying that the company was interviewing banks to help it prepare for an eventual IPO, it issued the following statement: “Allbirds has always been focused on building a great company, and as a B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, 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.
Clearly not a denial, and an abrupt about-face from what cofounder Tim Brown, a former soccer player from New Zealand, told WWD in late February when asked about the IPO rumors. Brown said at the time: “We have no plans for an IPO. The possibility of being a public company is a huge challenge, and at five years old, it’s still very early in our life cycle.”
The company declined to make its founders available or add to the statement on Wednesday. But a job posting on the company’s web site seeking an SEC reporting and technical manager “to coordinate and prepare information gathering process required for SEC filings” is a clear indication that an IPO may be in its future.
Despite its repeated denials in the past, times have changed and brands — particularly those with a strong e-commerce presence such as Allbirds — are lining up to get into the hot public market. The San Francisco-based Allbirds, which operates 21 stores in the U.S., Europe and New Zealand, has raised more than $200 million in funding since launching and is currently valued at around $1.7 billion.
In February, the company added Emily Weiss, founder and chief executive officer of Glossier, and Mandy Fields, chief financial officer of E.l.f. Beauty, to its board of directors. It also launched its first true apparel collection last fall with the introduction of a line of sustainable essentials including sweaters, T-shirt and outerwear to add to the underwear and socks it had offered previously.
If Allbirds does go through with its rumored plan to go public, it would join others such as Jessica Alba’s Honest Co., which recently revealed plans for an IPO. And Warby Parker, the direct-to-consumer eyewear producer, is also said to be eyeing plans to go public, a path the company has said is “a likely outcome at some point,” although no timetable has been revealed. That business, which was founded in 2010, has raised $500 million since its founding and is valued at around $3 billion.
Allbirds has created a loyal community of fans since Brown and Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and renewables expert, teamed up to create a line of footwear made from merino wool, a fabric virtually unused in the shoe industry and named it Allbirds. Its message is centered around sustainability and in addition to wool, the brand recently invested $2 million in a company that is creating a plant-based alternative to leather.