Oct 28 2019

Pandere Shoes, Anchorage Startups, and Techstars

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.