Sunrise Speaker interview with Tim Brown, founder of Allbirds

Sunrise Speaker Spotlight: Tim Brown, Allbirds

Date Published:
July 25, 2023

This weeks sneak peek behind the Sunrise curtains: Tim Brown, founder of Allbirds.

It’s time for another peek behind the Sunrise speaker curtains, and this week we've got a special guest who needs little introduction. We're talking to none other than Tim Brown – the creative vision behind Allbirds and a former soccer player for the New Zealand All Whites in the World Cup.

Tim credits being a professional athlete with helping him develop a mindset where you focus on your long term vision, and a long term vision is exactly what he built in turning his sneaker business into a billion-dollar empire all the while without compromising on what truly mattered: creating a great, sustainable product. 

Nowadays, Allbirds boasts a team of 350 talented individuals worldwide, and has become a cult classic embraced by fashion icons like Sarah Jessica Parker, Mila Kunis, and Jennifer Garner. And they're not stopping there, having recently announced the world's first net-zero carbon shoe, the M0.0NSHOT. 

We were absolutely thrilled to sit down with Tim and have a chat about his incredible career, creativity, and unique experiences. Consider this a little teaser of what's in store for you at Sunrise Aotearoa on September 20th. This isn’t one to be missed!

Blackbird: If you were to summarise your career in a single sentence, what would you say?

Tim Brown: Extraordinarily privileged to work with talented people on problems that matter. 

Blackbird: What are some ways you foster a culture of creativity and innovation within Allbirds?

Tim Brown: Curiosity is the foundation of creativity and innovation but the assumption is that "curiosity" is a nice or carefree state of mind. It is actually the opposite. Impactful curiosity is a lot about discipline, constraints, rigour and the courage to ask (and answer) the simple question. At our best I would like to think we bring that incisive form of curiosity to our daily work with the understanding that the answers in innovative organizations come from everywhere not just the top.

Blackbird: What’s the biggest lesson you have learned as a founder?

Tim Brown: Focus, focus, focus. Over time I have come to sharpen that lesson: focus :) You are defined as much as what you don't do as what you do and the best organisations are very clear on what they do and what they don't with the discipline to maintain and tighten that focus over time.

Blackbird: How do you think your experience as a professional soccer player influenced your approach to design and running a business?

Tim Brown: I think in so many ways. As my co-founder Joey points out it had to because I haven't had any other job outside of football. First and foremost I think playing sport has taught me the power of trusting the process and maintaining a long term view while you show up every day to get a little bit better. Often times in sport you relentlessly practice an action or activity with few cues daily you are improving. You have to trust that in time that work will manifest itself not just in personal improvement but success in competition. In business I have found chronic short termism and a consistent tendency to overestimate what can be achieved in the short run and underestimate what can be built when you stick with one thing for a long time. Sport teaches you the opposite.

Blackbird: Thinking about the current NZ start-up community, what is one thing you’re excited to discuss or learn more about at Sunrise Aotearoa?

Tim Brown: Any chance to come home is always exciting. I had dinner once with a bunch of business folks in Auckland and the usual anecdotes were coming up about NZ businesses and business leaders not thinking big enough early enough. And then Rowan Simpson, an early TradeMe employee and tech investor, piped up to say: "maybe the rest of the world has got it wrong and we're thinking about things just right." I loved that so much and was so impressed by him. I sometimes find us as NZ'ers restlessly feeling the need to change or conform when I think the future lies in us sharpening our strengths, our values, our sense of self to be more confident in where we are geographically, culturally and financially. Don't take this as an encouragement to be less ambitious; it is intended to be the exact opposite! The world is coming to us in so many ways and I hope I can shine a light on that potential.

Tim has so much more wisdom to share and we’re excited to host him at Sunrise, Aotearoa ✨

Haven't got your tickets yet? GA tickets are now available here.