All shapes and sizes ... Jodie Fox of Shoes Of Prey with some of the footwear on offer. The company is not joining big retailers calling for GST to be added to online purchases from overseas. Photo: Edwina Pickles
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An Australian husband-and-wife web start-up that allows customers to design their own shoes has raised $3 million from heavyweight investors in Australia and the US.
Shoes of Prey, based in Sydney, received the large financial backing from US venture capitalist Bill Tai, Silicon Valley blogger/investor Michael Arrington's CrunchFund and Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of the Australian-based global enterprise software powerhouse Atlassian.
Shoes of Prey co-founder Jodie Fox, 30, said the deal was proof that Sydney had the ideas, talent and execution to foster world-class tech businesses.
"In light of the calls from [Sydney Lord Mayor] Clover Moore and [Google Australia managing director] Nick Leeder just last week to turn Sydney into Silicon Beach, we've got the proof that we have the talent and the Silicon Valley buy in to make it happen," she said.
Specialising in women's shoes, the site allows customers to design their own pair, which are hand-made in China and sent anywhere in the world. To date Fox says customers have spent more than 20 million minutes designing tens of millions of shoes.
The other founders of the site are former Google employees Michael Fox, 30, Jodie's husband, and Mike Knapp, 31.
Shoes of Prey, which launched in October 2009, claims a large celebrity following including Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who it says owns a "jubilee-themed" pair. It has almost 84,000 fans on Facebook.
The company has launched another niche online shopping site following the success of Shoes of Prey called Sneaking Duck, which sells prescription glasses.
Fox won the Hudson Private and Corporate Sector Award at the 2011 Telstra Business Women's awards and she's currently in the running for Cosmopolitan Magazine's "fun, fearless and fabulous female of the year".
She says the company is going to spend the money on increasing the size of the team from 14 to 24 and on taking the site mainstream with a big marketing campaign.
"Now it's time to be the crazy teenager and really go for it," she said.
Fox said her journey "probably would have been easer in the Valley", particularly when it came to securing finance and high valuations earlier on in the business, but being in Australia didn't hold the company back.
"We created something that was globally novel and something that globally was of great interest with social currency for people to share and I think there's enormous potential in that," she said.
"Once you have that proof behind you it doesn't matter where you are."
Successful Australian entrepreneurs are increasingly investing in up-and-coming Australian talent, which is partly helping to solve funding problems that start-ups say is pushing them offshore.
Watch and learn from other Australian entrepreneurs in Digital Dreamers Episode 3.