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January 25, 2015 | Tom Ballard

Lucy Beard of Feetz is on a mission as it relates to customized shoes

Feetz(EDITOR’S NOTE: Feetz is one of the nine start-ups participating in this year’s “The TENN” cohort coordinated by Launch Tennessee. All nine companies begin a statewide tour this morning in Kingsport with a stop late this afternoon in Knoxville and tomorrow in Chattanooga. There are both public and private events. Check the “Upcoming Events” section to register for the public events.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Lucy Beard is not a native of Chattanooga or, for that matter, the U.S., but she has found an unbelievably welcoming and supportive community since she committed to being a participant in last year’s “GIGTANK.”

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Feetz is on a mission, and she’s not going to be deterred in meeting her goal. It is simply to change the face of manufacturing, by providing individuals the opportunity to use 3D printing technology to make a customized shoe designed for the individual’s feet at an attractive price point.

They call it SizeMe shoes that are 3D-printed with carefully selected materials utilizing specialized algorithms. The result is a comfortable shoe “built” to the individual’s biomechanics and size.

Beard’s company is one of the start-ups in this year’s “The TENN” master accelerator operated by Launch Tennessee. She and the other participants begin a week-long statewide tour today with stops in Kingsport and Knoxville.

Beard was first introduced to Mike Bradshaw of CO.LAB, coordinator of the “GIGTANK,” last February. The initial attraction was the additive manufacturing track that was a major focus of the 2014 program.

While she was clearly intrigued by the focus, she admits asking, “Chattanooga . . . where is that?”

Beard and Bradshaw continued to talk for the next couple of months. After all, she was in San Diego, and the program was several thousand miles away. However, Beard liked what she heard about the program in general, the additive manufacturing track specifically, the involvement of nationally-recognized 3D printing manufacturers, and the opportunity to interact with the other teams.

By April 2013, she had made-up her mind.

“We’re ready; let’s roll the dice,” Beard recalls saying. “Within two weeks of arriving, we saw the difference between San Diego and Chattanooga.”

The “GIGTANK” requires start-ups to reside in Chattanooga during the program, but Beard has taken it one step further. She and her husband, Feetz’s Chief Technology Officer, have permanently moved to Chattanooga. She made the announcement at “GITANK’s” Demo Day.

As the effervescent Beard described the company’s decision to us, it was a non-brainer.

“We had a (local) team of 20 people helping us accelerate our business,” she explained.

The JumpFund, Chattanooga’s angel fund that invests in women-led businesses, was a key piece, helping secure the all-important early stage funding. Other individuals helped identify office space – Chattanooga’s Business Development Center – and a place to live – the city’s Southside section in downtown.

The company’s team includes scientists, engineers and mathematicians, indicative of the cutting edge nature of the start-up business. There are new printers with new technology that Feetz developed that will allow the business to scale quickly.

Feetz has an app in beta testing and is actively seeking another $400,000 to be able to go to market. When it does, Beard notes it will be as easy as 1-2-3 to order the customized shoes. Individuals will use the app to select their preferred design, take three pictures of their feet, and upload the photos where they will be compared to a database of 100,000 feet.

“We have an accuracy of one to two millimeters from just 3 photos,” Beard says about the dimensions that are taken.

To learn more, check out this news report that WTVC, Channel 9 in Chattanooga did.

And, watch for a February 9 public event in Chattanooga when Beard launches her Kickstarter campaign.

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