Innovator: Tim Brown

Co-founder, Allbirds
Tim Brown
Tim Brown Cody Pickens

As a professional soccer player in New Zealand, Tim Brown spent a lot of time in sneakers covered in flashy logos and bold patterns. So when he started Allbirds, a San Francisco–based shoe startup, in 2016, he wanted to keep things as simple as possible: The insanely comfortable kicks come in only a handful of muted colors and styles, and they retail for just $95. (High-tops go for $115.) “Humility is how we've approached the design,” says Brown. “We're whispering when everyone else is shouting.”

It has proved to be a winning formula—Allbirds sold its millionth pair last May, and the company is worth upwards of a billion dollars. Brown and co-founder Joey Zwillinger are also leading the way in sustainability, using renewable materials like merino wool and eucalyptus tree fiber. The soles on Allbirds' new flip-flops are derived from sugarcane—and they're giving the formula to anyone who wants to use it, free of charge: “We can't wait for consumers' tastes to change,” says Brown. “I believe businesses can be a force for good. Business 1.0 was about logos and brands. Business 2.0 is about authenticity and purpose.”

About the program

We're saluting innovators who have developed creative solutions to the problems that face our world—pollution, economic disparity, war, discrimination and more. Say hello to the creative class of 2019.