In 2015, when married founders Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim arrived at Y Combinator, they weren’t yet fluent in English. The pair had traveled from Pakistan, where their handmade leather shoe business had become a viral sensation. But at Y Combinator’s famous Demo Day, they looked at all the rival entrepreneurs wearing fashionable sneakers, and realized they needed a new game plan to win over American consumers. They pivoted to high-quality cloth sneakers, renamed the brand Atoms, and raised over $12 million from investors like Initialized Capital and Day One Ventures. Since 2019, they've sold 100,000 shoes and surpassed $12 million a year in revenue. Here, they share their winding path from fledgling entrepreneurs in Pakistan to raising millions from American investors.
How an Invite and a Pivot Changed Everything for the Founders of Sneaker Brand Atoms
Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim tell the improbable story of a small leather shoe business in Pakistan that's become something bigger.
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