Tony Post led as CEO of Vibram USA throughout the birth of the FiveFingers explosion and presided throughout the (ongoing) aftermath of the barefoot and minimalist running revival. That is, until this past summer, when he inexplicable resigned from his position for unknown reasons. Until now. Tony just launched Topo Athletic. What is Topo Athletic? We don’t know much, but between their release and a chat I had with Post last week, it definitely involves footwear. Read on! Not only is it 12/12/12, but it’s also the day Tony Post chose to go public with news that he’s founded a new company called Topo Athletic, and that the company has already been funded with $5 million from a venture capital firm. You can read the press release below, but per the release, the overt goal of Topo Athletics is to build a brand “based on the unique belief that products should innately amplify, not modify, the body’s natural biomechanics.” Interesting. And familiar, no? If you head over to TopoAthletic.com, you’ll find a teaser email sign-up form. It’s a tease because behind the sign-up are a few scrolling images of what appear to be shoes, seen through some photoshopped distortion. Below is a collage of those images. Maybe you can make heads or tails of them:
And here they are one by one: What do I see? Well, as I alluded to above, I chatted with Tony about Topo last week. He wasn’t overly forthcoming on details around what Topo plans to bring to market other than saying that he wants to keep focus on products that let natural bio-mechanics rule the day — yet try to improve on these dynamics a la “amplify not modify.” What does that mean? How do you do that? These are good questions. I also learned that the initial products are shoes. You can see as much in the photos — I can pick out soles, laces, an Achilles’ notch, soles that appear to be “zero drop” (or close to it) and thin, and a mesh upper with a a skeletal overlay that is reminiscent of the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove. All of this is speculation — I’ve not held the shoes and have no information to confirm these thoughts. Your guess is as good as mine. Are these Topo shoes minimalist? I’m not sure. I didn’t get the impression from Post that they were going directly after the minimalist running shoe category. What I did hear a few times was “lightweight.” Obviously minimalist shoes are lightweight but it’s impossible to say at this point. We’ll know much more in 2013 when Topo shows up at the Winter Outdoor Retailer tradeshow out in Salt Lake. For now, what do you see in these photos? What don’t you see (toes! These aren’t toe shoes!)? Let’s hear it!
 

Former CEO of Vibram USA Launches New Company: Topo Athletic

Footwear industry icon and a pioneer in the minimalist movement, Tony Post raises $5 million in Series A funding from Norwest Venture Partners to launch athletic gear brand BOSTON – Dec. 12, 2012 – Tony Post, former president and CEO of Vibram USA, announced today the formation of Topo Athletic, a brand based on the unique belief that products should innately amplify, not modify, the body’s natural biomechanics. The company launches with $5 million in series A funding from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), a multi-stage investment firm based in Silicon Valley. Post’s new company marks the latest chapter in his ongoing quest to develop innovative products that help athletes become better, faster and stronger. In 2006, Post launched the Vibram FiveFingers® brand in the United States, which catapulted Vibram USA and minimalist footwear into the limelight – forever changing the way consumers think about the synergy between shoe, foot and movement. As a result, lightweight running is now the biggest driver of growth in the athletic footwear market, earning $1.5 billion this year with 50 percent expected growth in 2013, according to SportsOneSource. “Topo Athletic addresses a key opportunity in the athletic gear industry and is primed for success with Tony Post at the helm,” said Jon Kossow, general partner at NVP. “It’s been impressive watching Tony blaze every brand trail he treks, from Rockport to Vibram; so when he came to us with his concept, our entire firm jumped at the chance to support Topo Athletic.” Post’s new concept sits at the epicenter of cutting-edge performance technology that helps athletes optimize their training to tackle more aggressive goals. “Our vision is becoming a reality because of Norwest Venture Partners,” said Tony Post, CEO and founder of Topo Athletic. “We opted to partner with NVP because of the people – they ask the right questions, champion our mission, and provide important business support while allowing us to maintain our independence. We ultimately chose each other.” Topo’s target audience is athletes who value simplicity, functional design and technology where it counts. “We approach product design with humble innovation – we’re not arrogant enough to think that our products will change an athlete’s performance,” Post said. “Only his or her drive to succeed can do that. Our role is to help them get there.” The company will debut its product line at the Outdoor Retailer winter market tradeshow in Salt Lake City on Jan. 23, 2013. About Topo Athletic Topo Athletic is an athletic gear company created for and by athletes. Topo products are built with humble innovation, an acknowledgement that the most impressive thing that will ever go into our products is the athlete. We are committed to the ongoing study of physiology, environments and emerging technologies that enable athletes to constantly improve by amplifying the superb design of the human body. Topo Athletic was founded in 2012 and is based in Newton, Mass. For more information, please visit www.topoathletic.com. About Norwest Venture Partners Norwest Venture Partners (NVP) is a multi-stage investment firm that has partnered with entrepreneurs to build great businesses for more than 50 years. The firm manages more than $3.7 billion in capital and has funded over 500 companies since inception. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., NVP has subsidiaries in Mumbai and Bengaluru, India and Herzelia, Israel. NVP makes early- to late-stage venture and growth equity investments across a wide range of sectors including: technology, information services, business services, financial services, consumer products/services and healthcare. For more information visit: www.nvp.com.