Shoes do more than protect your toes. Whether they're the latest Jordans, a pair of vintage velcro Reeboks, or a favorite brand of ruby-red pumps, we've been fetishizing footwear since we learned to tie laces.
"Footwear collectors are a very particular group of people. They're very opinionated," Gordon said. "The one constant thing in the culture is the need to see and be seen; nobody buys something nice to not show it off."
Flaunting your favorite kicks is key for Connoshoer's audience, and the concept targets an underserved culture.
The idea for Connoshoer was born at Omaha-based digital agency Phenomblue, which gives its employees a bonus day to work on personal projects. Great concepts kept popping up, so the owners decided to form Drop Kick Ventures, a startup incubator. Connoshoer was their flagship project.
"Some of those ideas get shelved because it's really just a pressure release," Gordon said. "But Drop Kick was formed specifically for that purpose: the 1 percent of ideas that deserved to have a little bit more muscle put behind them."
Jamieson manages most of the day-to-day operations with the app, using his passion for athletic shoes to fuel the business. Gordon represents the more public, sneakerhead persona who defines the culture. He brings 15 years of design expertise, 20 years as a shoe collector, and experience on the USA Track & Field team to the table.
In November last year, they partnered with developers at fastPXL, and with commitment to a strict production schedule, they launched the app February 17.
The first iteration of Connoshoer shows a global photo feed, where users can like, comment on, or share other users' shots. Users can also add their own pictures to their "closet," and mark any must-have pair they discover with a "want" tag.
Search is the other big draw. Gordon and Jamieson built the app so you could search for footwear—either globally or in your own collection—based on 21 colors, six categories, six material types, gender and any number of keywords (below, right).
"There were a lot of apps talking about shoes, but there weren't any that had users showcasing their collections," Jamieson said. "We bill ourselves as the first user-driven social footwear app."
So far collectors are responding: by mid-March, Jamieson said Connoshoer had about 1,000 downloads, more than 900 pictures, and upwards of 3,000 actions, such as commenting or tapping "want."
To get to this point, Jamieson and Gordon raised $100,000 from Dundee Venture Capital, the founding partner of Drop Kick Ventures, and earned a $50,000 prototype grant from the State of Nebraska.* The app is free, but the team plans to monetize it by forming partnerships with big-name shoe companies, bloggers and other shoe fanatics. Eventually, they want to set up an affiliate pricing structure.
"We have relationships with both the community and the creators," Jamieson said, "so we want to build something that helps them buy shoes that they discovered inside of the app, outside of the app."
Connoshoer isn't faced with much direct competition; other footwear-focused apps tend to be news aggregators or branded efforts. But to stay on top they plan to build features like one-way following, personalized feeds and a web presence.
As for the community, Gordon said sneakers aren't necessarily the main target. Connoshoer is also after the female market. "It's really for anyone who loves shoes; whether that's your sneakerhead or you're Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City," he said.
*Update 3:15 p.m. – When orginally published, the article incorrectly stated Connoshoer raised $250,000 from Dundee Venture Capital. The correct amount is $100,000 from Dundee, along with a $50,000 prototype grant.