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Nike’s Partner in Hands-Free Footwear Secures $3M in Funding

Handsfree Labs, Nike’s partner in adaptive footwear since late 2019, has received another influx of cash.

The footwear technology company announced late last month that it has secured a $3 million round of financing led by the Frazier Group, a Utah-based organization whose past investments include the audio goods business Skullcandy, genealogy giant Ancestry and code-hosting platform GitHub.

“Handsfree Labs’ technologies are redefining the way people wear their shoes,” Scott Frazier, managing partner, Frazier Group, said in a statement. “The company’s licensing partnership with Nike and the early success of its Kizik brand are evidence of great things to come.”

According to the Frazier Group’s website, the organization has invested $250 million of capital into 80 companies, including 45 since 2018. Handsfree Labs CEO Monte Deere said the group is already bringing its “mentorship and resources to our vision of putting hands-free shoes—through our Kizik brand and through the brands to whom we license—on the feet of billions of people.”

Deere’s ambitious dream received a significant boost in 2019, when Nike not only made a strategic investment in the company, but also agreed to an exclusive intellectual property licensing partnership. Nike, it’s worth noting, was no stranger to adaptive footwear at the time, having already dropped the self-tightening Adapt BB smart shoe and voice-activated Adapt Huarache that year.

However, Nike unveiled what may be the most high-profile release from its adaptive division just this year. The Go FlyEase, scheduled for a limited release this spring and a larger release later in the year, relies on a patent-pending, hinged design wherein the shoe closes around the wearer’s foot, no hands needed. The innovative technology quickly garnered broad interest online, so much so that some have grown concerned the shoe will sell so well that the differently abled who would benefit from such a design would face difficulty nabbing a pair.

Handsfree holds another connection to Nike in the form of its chief product officer, Skip Lei. A more than 30-year veteran of Nike, Lei ran the giant’s global tennis category, created its Quick Strike program and served as product liaison to owned brands like Converse, Hurley, Bauer Hockey, Starter, Cole Haan and Umbro.