Pandere Shoes is an Alaskan founded and women-owned startup that creates expandable footwear that accommodates a host of conditions such as edema, diabetes, and neuropathy.
I met the co-founder Laura Oden when I was in Anchorage last month to speak at the Accelerate Alaska event. She came up to me after I gave my talk and told me that her company wouldn’t exist without Startup Weekend and Techstars.
While that caused a big smile to cross my face, I asked her to tell me more. She described how she met her founders at Techstars Startup Weekend in 2016.
Laura struggled for 40 years to find shoes to accommodate her lymphedema which caused one foot to be chronically swollen. Off the rack shoes only fit one foot and she needed a shoe that would expand to accommodate her swollen foot. Over time, the team realized that millions of people all over the world were struggling with a similar problem.
This was the idea she brought to the Startup Weekend. At the end of the 54-hour event, Pandere won the top slot and the company was born. The event fostered confidence that buoyed the team through enough contest wins to develop a prototype.
When you think of Alaska, you probably do not think of it as a popular location for producing shoes. The founders loved where they lived and put together a support team of shoe experts and designers in Boston, France, and Portugal. They were able to obtain early capital from prize winnings, along with mentorship from fellow entrepreneurs and investors. While Alaska is not a shoe capital, it is now headquarters to a shoe company addressing a global problem.
Pandere launched publicly on Nov 2018 and has produced five unique styles that accommodate wide and extra widths for men and women who cannot fit into traditional footwear, with more styles to come. Their shoes are made in Portugal. Every shoe sale generates a donation to the Lymphatic Research and Education Network (LE&RN).
When I got back to the hotel at the end of the day I bought a pair of Pandere Saturday Shoes to give them a try. I have wide feet and they are often annoyed with me from all the running I do. The Pandere’s are wonderfully comfortable and have replaced my OluKai’s, which replaced my Allbirds, which replaced my Vans as my daily kicks.
The team at Pandere continues to #givefirst by giving back into the ecosystem that fed them. They have stayed involved in the community by volunteering as coaches, hosting dinners, and offering advice to budding entrepreneurs.
And hopefully, I’m helping them out a little by highlighting them here. I love origin stories that link to Techstars, and this one combines Techstars, Alaska, women-entrepreneurs, and shoes that I’m loving.
Give them a try at the Pandere Shoes online store.
At the Authors and Innovators event, the last panel included a discussion about diversity, with a particular focus on gender diversity. The actual segment was titled Success through Strategic Innovation but it was awesome to watch it evolve into a gender diversity conversation.
One of the panelists was Jules Pieri, who is the founder/CEO of The Grommet. I’ve known Jules for a while and loved her book How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas into Products That Build Successful Businesses. As she usually is, she was great on the panel and when it shifted to Q&A, I asked the second question.
“Lots of men in the audience, like me, try to be helpful around gender diversity, especially now that there is a good understanding of the value of being a ‘male ally’ and how to do it. Can you give us one actional thing we can do right now?”
Jules responded immediately with something close to:
“While I feel a little uncomfortable referring to something I wrote, go read my post For Fathers of Daughters. It has easy, medium, and hard level of efforts of things you can do.”
I took a note to read the post and just read it. Jules is 100% right – go read the post For Fathers of Daughters right now. If you have a daughter, go read it. But also go read it if you don’t have a daughter.
There are some real gems in it including several things I’m going to add to my personal list of things to do, even though I don’t have kids.
I’m at the Authors and Innovations Business Ideas Festival in Boston put on by Larry Gennari. It’s a neat collection of people who are interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, and books, three topics that I love so I’m having a lot of fun.
I ran into Bobbie Carlton, who I met a number of years ago around Startup America stuff and then again at an event at 1871 in Chicago when I released my book Startup Communities.
Bobbie is running an organization called Innovation Women which is an online speaker’s bureau for entrepreneurial and technical women. In addition to being an entrepreneur herself, she’s helping women get more visibility as entrepreneurs through her business.
There’s something that gives me great joy about the random connections with people over a long period of time. While I haven’t worked closely with Bobbie, running into her for a third time in around a decade at different in contexts that are interesting to me, causes me to want to put some effort into finding ways to work together.
I’m personally done with being on ManPanels so if you are a conference organizer looking to get more women involved as speakers at your conference, take a look at the speakers at Innovation Women.
I had a nice run this morning around the Charles River. It’s a version of a run I’ve done many times in the past when I used to live here.
There was one “category” of problem, which I’ll refer to as the Scooter-Bike challenge.
I started at 8:52am, which was at the absolute peak of the “rush to get to work/class/wherever” experience. I didn’t think much about it as I often run at this time in Colorado and rarely notice any humans.
I started at the Charles Hotel, turned right, and headed toward the Charles River zone. 30 years ago, I would have noticed the cars, but not thought much about anything else.
I hit a wall of scooters coming at me with humanoids on them. There were a few bikes, but most were in the street. But the scooters were on the sidewalk. Going 20+ miles per hour. Right at me. In a wall.
I immediately realized that I was in an AI video game called Scooter Bike Runner Survivor. Kind of like rock paper scissors, but involving actual humans. The AIs were controlling us from a parallel universe, kind of the way I used to play Defender or Tempest.
The first fifteen minutes of the run were nuts. I figured that when I got over the bridge onto the Charles River loop paralleling Storrow Drive it would calm down. Nope.
When I crossed the BU Bridge at the halfway point, I hit another wall of treachery. This time it was cyclists who decided that the bridge, sidewalk, and path was a lot more fun to be on than Memorial Drive. There were a few stretches of human-created single track next to the sidewalk that regularly ended abruptly with big orange cones blocking them.
I’m safely back in my room having survived Scooter Bike Runner Survivor, but I’ve recalibrated my expectation around a casual bridge loop around 9am.
Recently, a friend of mine told me about the experience of giving his kid his first cell phone (I think around age 11.) As part of the experience, he decided to write up a contract with rules of engagement. He went through it with his kid in detail and they both signed it.
I had stored this away to blog and thought of it yesterday as I was walking to dinner from Harvard Square to Central Square. The number of people walking down the street staring at or typing on their phones blew my mind. While many of them were college-aged (given Harvard and MIT), some were older. I know some of this is the density of the city (vs. where I live), but the dynamic surprised me, especially since it was a beautiful early fall evening.
My walk ended up being more of a “dodging people who weren’t paying attention” kind of drill which could be some bad video game that an AI is using our universe to play. Regardless, it feels like a cell phone contract like the one below might be helpful to kids, and their parents, and everyone else.
I, ______________, understand and agree to the following:
This phone is provided to me by my parents for my responsible use. It belongs to my parents and they may take it away any time, and for any reason they deem appropriate. They have the right to see anything and everything that I do on it.
The reason my parents have provided me this phone is that they believe that I endeavor to act and interact responsibly and that I have worked for and deserve more independence at this point in my life. This phone will primarily be used for: (1) Reasonable communication with loved ones, friends, coaches, and other people in my life; (2) To help me feel safe and act safely as I strive to increase my independence; and (3) as a lifelong and passionate learner, help me better educate myself on the go. Excessive use of this device for activities outside these three listed could result in the confiscation of my phone and digital privileges.
Possession of this phone carries with it a great responsibility. It is a powerful device that can enhance my life if used properly but has the ability to cause serious problems as well if used irresponsibly or in an unhealthy manner. I promise to use it with caution and thoughtfully. To aid me in doing so, I promise to be guided by the principles below and to follow both the letter and the spirit of the rules below. My parents have the right to amend these rules at any time.
BASIC DEVICE RESPONSIBILITY
I acknowledge that having a cellphone is a privilege, not a right. I promise to use it with good judgement and to let you know when I make mistakes.
My Signature: _________________________________________ DATE___________________________________
Mom’s Signature: ______________________________________ DATE___________________________________
Dad’s Signature: ________________________________________
 And of course, my parents
Following is an abridged email that showed up in my inbox recently that caused me to stop and think for a few minutes.
I took a look back through your posts before I crafted this email. So much of what you write about is focused on men who are succeeding, that I wonder if you are going to write something about women like Simone Biles. She is doing some pretty amazing stuff on the mat, bars, vault, and beam.
I know you support women so I feel a little bad about calling this out but am curious. Is my perspective so biased that I see fault or bias where there is none?
You did write about JOMO and that was written by a woman. But that was one post out of 10-15 that I scanned through.
And this is your personal blog so you can write about whatever you want. My concern is that you are followed by a lot of men who you could influence with your openminded approach to more than just sci-fi, investing, and health. I’ve read Snow Crash and thought it was fascinating but it’s definitely not my typical cup of tea.
Perhaps we women are not your target audience. To which I will add that it would be really helpful if you could use your platform for the good of women, not just men. Because in the end, we all win if we have a more level and equal playing field including opportunities, products, and services.
Even though I think I write in a non-gendered way and try to alternate pronouns when I sat and thought about this email the point being made rang true to me.
I have many women who are examples and role models for me. They start with my mom (Cecelia Feld) and my wife (Amy Batchelor). But there are many more that, going forward, I’ll try to incorporate into the stories and examples that I write about on this blog.
I try to live my life in a non-gender biased way. But, this note was a good reminder that it’s easy to fall into patterns that are not particularly helpful.
Amy and I had dinner recently with Chris Couch, a friend from MIT who I hadn’t seen in 25 years. Before we had dinner, Chris sent us an email with a link to his High Altitude Photography Platform along with the video from Mission 1 of the HAPP.
Chris has a day job, so this has been his hobby for the past two years. It’s pretty epic – both as a project and a hobby. And, it’s reflective of the kind of brain many of my MIT friends have.
Amy met Chris on a flight from Boston to Dallas. She was flying to Dallas to meet me and my parents for a holiday weekend and Chris was flying to Dallas to meet his parents. They were sitting next to each other and Chris started writing equations on a napkin. Amy asked him what he was calculating and he said: “the amount of fuel the plane will use on this flight.” It was friendship at first sight.
While we hadn’t seen each other in many years, we reconnected as though no time had passed. While we’ve aged, the playful and curious spirit that we all had in our 20’s shined through during our long and winding conversation at dinner.
I love that Chris’ hobby (the HAPP) is a reflection of his brain. Is yours?
Last week David and I spent some time at the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Their demo day is happening on October 30th in Denver and you can register here if you’re interested in attending.
If you want to see what actual world-changing startups look like, you’ll love this particular demo day. The ten companies that you’ll hear from are working on problems like how we remove carbon from the atmosphere, better manage our water, make valuable products from waste, and keep companies accountable for critical supply chains like coffee, seafood, timber, minerals, cotton, and palm oil. Each company is a venture-backable for-profit that has the possibility of creating both big financial and impact outcomes.
You’ll also hear from my wife, Amy Batchelor, about the important work The Nature Conservancy is doing and how we’ve been supporting them since 1990. My partner Seth Levine and his wife Greeley Sachs, who is currently a trustee on the TNC Colorado board, have also been long-time supporters of TNC as a key shared value of ours is protecting our planet following TNC’s science-based approach.
If the event is anything like last year, you’ll leave inspired about what a new generation of entrepreneurs is doing to help and protect our planet. The partnership between Techstars and The Nature Conservancy is combining disruptive technologies from startups with proven science from conservation in powerful ways.
As a bonus, there is also an investor-only event that morning for accredited investors. If you want more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the many great things about the Governor of Colorado is that he’s an entrepreneur, having started multiple successful technology companies, including BlueMountainArts.com (acquired by Excite for $800m) and Provide Commerce (IPO, then acquired by Liberty Media for $500m). He’s also a co-founder of Techstars with me, David Cohen, and David Brown.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of Jared Polis’ relatively early new initiatives as Governor is the Colorado Digitial Service.
The founding team includes several entrepreneurial friends along with extremely capable technologists around Colorado. The idea is to do “civic service tours of duty” to rapidly improve a number of citizen-facing applications that millions of Coloradian’s use on a regular basis.
I much prefer this approach, with a highly functional agile team of experts, rather than yet another $100 million contract with a large consulting firm, government contractor, or legacy technology company that will result in a three-year build and deployment of a system that never actually sees the light of day.
If you have deep technical, designer, or application development skills and are interested in a civic tour of duty helping improve the software that Coloradian’s use to interact with our state government, go apply to help out.