When Sport Meets Silicon Valley: adidas and Carbon Partnership Demonstrates Innovation in Footwear
Photo Credit: Carbon CMO, Dara Treseder

When Sport Meets Silicon Valley: adidas and Carbon Partnership Demonstrates Innovation in Footwear

Carbon CMO, Dara Treseder, shares how partnership has scaled technological breakthroughs

Global sporting brand adidas first partnered with digital manufacturing startup, Carbon, to create the first performance footwear crafted with light and oxygen in 2017.

“It’s funny because we often hear big brands and companies say ‘we want to be innovative; we want to partner with startups; we have an open-source platform,’” says Carbon’s Chief Marketing Officer, Dara Treseder. “But it’s often not true. With adidas, it’s completely true.”

In April 2017, adidas unveiled FUTURECRAFT 4D, the world’s first high performance footwear featuring midsoles crafted with light and oxygen using Digital Light SynthesisTM, a technology pioneered by Carbon.

The two companies are continuing to revolutionize the footwear industry by creating a 3D printed midsole – the first of its kind –  the latest iteration of which releases next week: the ALPHAEDGE 4D shoe.

“ALPHAEDGE 4D is a high-performance running shoe featuring the adidas 4D midsole, which is crafted with light and oxygen using Carbon’s DLS technology,” says Treseder. “This shoe really leverages adidas’s extensive archive of computational athletic data to create a digitally-tuned midsole which is precisely engineered to meet the performance needs of those looking to gain an edge in their sport through running and training.”

For Carbon, the partnership with adidas has been the best of both worlds. In adidas, they have found a partner that shares their commitment to innovation, sustainability, and creating a digitally-tuned high-performance product.

“They understand that innovation is dynamic and that being a partner means working through challenges,” says Treseder. “It’s been a brilliant partnership. It’s not a case of a large company taking advantage of a smaller company’s innovation. It’s a true partnership with mutual benefits.”

The original intention of the partnership was to leverage a new way of creating products through Digital Light Synthesis, or DLS — a software-controlled chemical reaction that uses light, oxygen, and programmable liquid resins to manufacture high-quality parts. Carbon and adidas first came together to apply this technology to running shoes, leveraging adidas’s extensive archive of computational data to craft a product finely-tuned to meet the needs of high-performance athletes.

While Carbon’s DLS technology has been ground-breaking in its own right, their longstanding partnership with adidas has allowed them to operate on a scale never before possible for a 3D printing company.

“The 4D midsole, the direct-printed midsole, is one of the largest applications of a direct 3D-printed consumer product in history,” says Treseder. “Our ability to do this type of high-volume production in factory settings has been catalyzed by this partnership. It has really helped us with not only having the technological breakthrough but also scaling it up.”

Incorporating Inclusion in Innovation

Clearly, both Carbon and adidas prioritize innovation — but they also share a dedication to inclusion.

“Diversity starts at the top,” says Treseder, pointing to Carbon Founder and CEO, Joseph DeSimone’s history of advocating for diversity and inclusion in STEM long before he founded the company.

“Our CEO was committed to diversity even before he started Carbon. He was very adamant as a professor at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill that his program emphasized diversity. He graduated 80 individuals from PhD programs and half of them were from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and math. This view really impacts how our company operates.”

For example, conference rooms in the company are named after pioneers in science and technology with special attention given to women and people of color who’ve made significant contributions to the fields.

“We must embrace diversity and inclusion because diversity without inclusion is nothing,” adds Treseder. “It doesn’t matter if we have diverse people if we don’t create an environment that allows them to thrive.”

Carbon employs inclusive recruiting practices, like partnering with Lesbians Who Tech, a nonprofit that works to foster inclusivity of queer women in technology. Carbon also established employee resource groups to assist with success and inclusion in the workplace. Their ERG for people of color will be attending AfroTech 2019.

adidas believes that sport has the power to change lives. The partnership with Carbon is an opportunity to bring together diverse perspectives and scale innovations that creates meaningful change for athletes and creators today. 

“We’re super excited,” says Treseder. “I think we’ve really been able to accomplish and achieve things that we’ve only sort of dreamt about in the 3D printing space.”

Tomorrow night, adidas and Carbon will co-host a private event ahead of the 2019 AfroTech Conference to bring together employees from both companies and adidas-sponsored students from the Bay Area. The goal of the event will be to share experiences and foster productive conversations about diversity and inclusion in tech.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished [with adidas], and I think the commitment from both companies is strong,” says Treseder. “Just a few weeks ago, our CEOs were meeting in Germany talking about what’s next. We’re really excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and we’re committed to continuing to work together to create products to surprise and delight our customers.”

To learn more and connect with employees and leadership from both companies, visit the adidas booth (#G3) during AfroTech this weekend.

This piece is brought to you in partnership with Adidas.