It took an email from Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, to convince Bianca Gates to quit her cushy job as a sales executive at Facebook to devote all her time to Birdies, the luxury slipper company she founded in 2015 with Marisa Sharkey, a former group vice president of strategy at Ross Stores. She had been wavering on the idea for months, when he wrote both women in January, urging them to start fundraising — beginning with a check from him. “You guys have so much traction. Let’s start moving this to the next level,” he said.
His advice paid off: Birdies announced a $2 million Series Seed funding round on Tuesday, led by Forerunner Ventures, the investors behind Jet.com, Dollar Shave Club and Glossier. Other investors include Slow Ventures, Graph Ventures and Social Capital.
Gates and Sharkey said the process, which began formally in late June, was surprisingly painless, given all the horror stories out there about fundraising, typically told by young women. “It went faster than we anticipated, and we had more interest than we knew what to do with,” said Sharkey.
Their last meeting, planned as an informal breakfast with Forerunner, ended in under 45 minutes, with the company’s CEO, Kirsten Green, asking to lead their round — a somewhat surprising result, given the niche factor of their product offering.
Birdies founders Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey
But according to Green, their founding story was reminiscent of many of the brands in Forerunner’s portfolio. “While their product is niche, they struck a chord in a shoe category that most of us don’t think twice about and ended up solving a problem we didn’t know we had,” she said. “We have the utmost respect for founders who take a product or industry that hasn’t been updated and present consumers with a fresh, new take that’s worth getting excited over.”
Gates and Sharkey have big plans for the cash infusion, including expanding their collection and rolling out new…