[FF Story] My journey from tech to footwear

How I got into Web3 and sneakers before launching Futures Factory.

Innovation & Tech

I’m going to tell you how I got into Web3 and sneakers before launching Futures Factory.

In 2016, I was hiring young tech talents for tech startups in France. I was really close to a few students at Ecole 42 — an engineering school famous for its peer-to-peer learning and project pedagogy.

One of the students, Thanh-Quy, was really into crypto-currencies and helped me get into it. A few weeks later, I was completely hooked. As I was playing with my first coins, I was also learning the philosophy and the core principles behind it. I was fascinated by the cypher-punk lore.

Some of our friends and people from our network were also interested in crypto so we created a group that we called ‘Satoshi vs Fibonacci’. At first, it was just a casual Facebook group to talk about our discoveries but with a lot of developers from Ecole 42 in the group, we started to explore the boundaries of blockchain through practice.

We grew the group to 40 people and among them, we had investors, devs, entrepreneurs, marketers, and all crypto enthusiasts.

Around that time, I followed with attention Crypto Punks and Crypto Kitties, the latter introducing the ERC-721 standard for non-fungible tokens.

I was quite intrigued by those projects as I was already convinced that blockchain would go beyond the financial sphere to have an impact on the cultural space in some way: how we collect, own, and transfer any kind of physical and digital valuables.

This captivating new topic (NFTs) further led me to Lukso whose original Whitepaper was published around that time (end of 2017). It helped me realize the true potential of the blockchain for the creative and fashion industries: many use cases were on authenticity, traceability, new business models for brands and creators, and how consumers could be turned into real stakeholders with tokens.

As I was looking for a tech partner, I interviewed a few devs from ‘Satoshi vs Fibonacci’ to pitch them the BIG idea: create a sneakers brand using ERC-721 tokens to create digital twins for each pair of physical sneakers for authenticity and transparency purposes — materials, suppliers, certifications, etc.

Most of them thought the idea was weird and I don’t blame them.

The most experienced Solidity developer from the group, Cedric Cervantes was immediately hooked. We shook hands around a beer and a few months later Satoshi Studio was born.

This picture was taken a few years after in our new shared office (Futures Factory / Starton). Cédric co-founded Starton.io as a CTO and is still a partner at Satoshi Studio.

The brand started well, we bootstrapped it with €3k and it is still running with a demand-driven production model and a community across 54 countries in the world. We even had our sneakers displayed at the Design Museum for the biggest exhibition on footwear.

It was hard, the brand got severely hit by Covid, and we had a lot of problems with our logistician and manufacturer but we were happy we made this project a reality.

Web3 is still in its infancy, and while we are at the premise of a digital revolution, there’s still a lot to experiment with and learn. As we began to better understand the footwear and NFT market, my team and I started to observe what was happening on small digital art marketplaces like Opensea and Rarible in 2020.

By looking at some projects with physical redeemable, we began to think about offering virtual sneakers linked to NFTs to finance the physical production of the shoes.

We interviewed our network: brands, NFT collectors, sneakerheads, and designers.

We started to explore the concept of digital sneakers with several independent designers and we learned that they could generate way more interactions and opportunities by publishing digital sneakers on social media rather than doing physical sneakers in their day-to-day job.

The designers understood better than brands how they could leverage this technology to connect better with their fans and create more utility for digital sneakers.

This led us to onboard independent designers who saw our project’s potential to build something that will help them unlock all those opportunities.

For us, it was clear that designers had the most potential because they were creating a lot of value without being able to capture a good part of it in the traditional system (both web2 and the footwear industry) and it was hard for them to start a brand.

As a result, Victoria (my marketing intern at the time) and I decided to focus more on this new project that could allow both footwear brands and designers to get into the space.

We called it Futures Factory because our purpose was really about turning ideas/digital products into something more tangible and valuable in the real world.

Futures Factory’s ambition is to be the accelerator for the most promising footwear creators, backing them with finance, web3 infra, and our community.

We are developing a platform enabling footwear brands and designers to launch their NFT projects and monetize their work in total autonomy with specific features for virtual and phygital sneakers (AR, presale campaigns, experiential utilities).

The purest of intentions.

Web3 is an excellent opportunity for creators to challenge the status quo.

While the footwear industry is growing considerably, it is still dominated by a few leading brands capturing most of the value created. On the other hand, many designers, product makers, manufacturers and independent brands are creating their own journey, but the entry barriers are super high.

These independent creators do not have access to the same resources, opportunities and visibility that big brands have.

We have identified several issues footwear creators face:

  • The difficulty of raising the funds necessary for their development
  • The limited access to new printing technologies (for independent designers)
  • The difficulty to scale a sustainable distribution offer (for footwear brands)
  • The opacity and complexity of Web3 tools and solutions
  • Interoperability of 3D sneakers in virtual environments for avatars and gaming.

However, everything is about to change.

1/10 NFT Sneakers “REGENERATE” by Redd Smith

The future is wide open.

Since the launch of Futures Factory at the end of 2021, we have built solid foundations we can capitalize on.

We onboarded +60 Footwear designers like Robert Quach, Felipe Fiallo, Kacimi Latamène, etc. +10 independent brands in the pipe such as Shoes 53045 (ex Balenciaga) and brands we can’t publicly talk about before the launch (2023).

We are proud to say that we have a special connection with our peers in footwear and we also met amazing people in the Web3 space.

We are convinced that thanks to blockchain, new manufacturing technologies, and an unprecedented community spirit, a revolution is underway in the footwear industry.

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