From Student Project to Startup
Matthew Flail M’15 and Timothy Ganter M’15
Students arrive to PhilaU to receive a well-rounded education where they can collaborate both inside and outside of the classroom, graduate and have meaningful career paths. Many students develop a design or business concept with their classmates, but only a few take those innovative concepts to development and beyond. Matthew Flail M’15 and Timothy Ganter M’15 are one of those few. Flail and Ganter graduated from Philadelphia University with a master’s degree in industrial design. The two were lucky to have found each other because they work well together and are determined to make their vision a reality.
Several years after completing their bachelor’s degrees from Flagler College (Flail) and Muhlenberg College (Ganter), both decided they needed a career change. Flail wanted to study industrial design because since childhood, he had a fascination with the appearance of things and keeping them arranged. “Aesthetics and lines and the way stuff works were always at the forefront of my mind growing up,” explained Flail. “Being a good industrial designer is about being able to solve problems in both a creative and practical manner.” His attraction to industrial design was that great and influential designers have skillsets which can be applied to any discipline or field. Business partner, Ganter has always had a passion for footwear and footwear design; and the latter was always his end goal.
Flail and Ganter received support from faculty and were presented with many opportunities during their time at PhilaU, which lead to where they are now. Footprint was an idea Flail and Ganter presented to Tod Corlett, director, industrial design programs and industrial design professor, Mikael Avery in September 2014, when they were finalizing their outlines for the master’s project. The mission of Footprint is to create cutting-edge footwear solutions that utilize 3D scanning, algorithmic model development, rapid manufacturing and advanced textile application. Flail said the concept came from a vision of one day having the ability to purchase sneakers that fit perfectly. He has always struggled with finding footwear that fits properly. “Traditionally, for people with foot abnormalities, there were two options: force yourself to wear shoes that don’t fit correctly or go to get custom shoes made for astronomical prices by a medical professional,” he said. Over the course of their research, Flail and Ganter realized that there were others who had the same issues as Flail and others with more serious conditions. Their process allows them to correct a number of the problems they saw in the way footwear is currently constructed. From a health standpoint, they hope to alleviate the pain and soreness that stems from poorly supportive footbeds found comely in designer brands worldwide. From an aesthetic standpoint, they are aiming to provide a technical update on existing designs and classic styles. The goal is to give the customer complete control over the look of their favorite footwear while providing superior support and eliminate the need for orthoses by going straight to the root of the problem. Ganter said that by taking scans of a customers feet and applying their unique process, they can design footwear that fits and supports the specific needs of the user.
The business partners hope to modify and streamline all major aspects of shoe productions. They are currently experimenting with a number of 3D printing materials and searching for the most efficient process. Over the course of the next six months they will start to roll out details of the business plan with a set number of designs and styles to choose from. Customers will have a range of options in having their feet scanned from sending in foam impressions of their feet to having them scanned in stores. “A lot of major retailers are just now starting to incorporate scanning technology into their customer experience programs but over the next few years this technology will become more common,” noted Flail. They are excited about the potential of 3D scanning on smartphones and apps that will allow 3D data to be sent with ease.
Footprint shoes are currently unavailable as Flail and Ganter are still in the beta testing phase. It is important that they find right materials and equipment and making sure they are setting themselves up for success when the technological factors align. “It’s a bit difficult to say when exactly our footwear will become widely available but that time is not far off,” explained Flail.
Taking an idea from a student project to a startup is a massive endeavor, especially when considering the money and time spent. Flail and Ganter recently obtained their first angel investment and at that time they overcame a lot of doubt about whether Footprint would evolve from where it was when they graduated in May 2015. They love design and strive to create innovative consumer projects that enhance the quality of life. “Even though Footprint is still in its infancy, it’s great to wake up and set to work on something we really believe in,” said Flail. They are looking forward to the future and what they can create.
Their advice to others, “Work hard towards your personal goals and use your resources wisely. If you have a good support system, you’re in a good spot. A strong social network is paramount for anyone looking to turn a vision from fiction to fact.”