Tracksmith, a new running apparel company, has raised $1.6 million in its first round of institutional funding to bring modern technology and classic styling to running gear.
The company’s mission, envisioned by Matt Taylor and Luke Scheybeler, is to re-connect the sport to its storied past while looking forward to what the sport could be in the future.
Taylor, an avid runner who previously worked for Puma as head of marketing for their running and training categories until 2012 (and ran track for his alma mater, Yale University) started Tracksmith initially because he couldn’t find clothes that he, himself, wanted to wear while running.
“It was a frustration coming from my position inside the industry and as a consumer,” Taylor says. “The product design process was constrained by price concerns and the assumption was that every runner wanted to look and dress the same.”
Seeing the success of other brands that have gone direct-to-consumer through the internet, Taylor thought there would be an opportunity to sell running clothes that hewed to the traditions of the sport he loved, while at the same time providing runners with the comfort they needed.
His next step was recruiting Scheybeler, who’d found success mining a similar vein with the cycling-focused clothing brand Rapha.
Over the past two years the two men worked to design Tracksmith’s first products and have managed to line up some big-name backers in the venture space. Their fresh $1.6 million round comes from the New York-based firm Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Geneva-based Index Ventures along with prominent angel investors like Michael Preysman.
“If you look across all of these vertical sports category there is always one or more of these premium brands,” says Taylor. “That was a big part of our selling point as well. From an investor standpoint, they’re looking at future returns, and there is quite a bit of movement in the running industry.”
Indeed, one of the world’s biggest brands started off as a new design for a running shoe for the track team at Oregon.
Tracksmith may eventually begin selling shoes, but for now the two founders are focused on a line of apparel including singlets, racing shorts, a longer pair of shorts for casual running, t-shirts, and bags to hold running gear.
The two founders are hoping they can find similar success using the internet to form a relationship with customers and create a different kind of sports brand for runners.
“This is classic American menswear meets high performance sportswear,” says Scheybeler. “It’s influence is from that classic, preppy New England style.” (When I first saw the clothes, my first thought was “Chariots of Fire“.)
Taylor and Scheybeler also have a vision for the sport that extends beyond the aesthetic. “The sport has gone in a direction that’s about general health and wellness,” says Taylor. “One negative consequence of that is that the sport hasn’t been given the respect and attention it deserves as a sport.”
That’s an assertion Scheybeler also makes. “There’s so much interesting culture and exciting history that hasn’t really been celebrated,” he says.