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Exclusive: How Cognitive Diversity Is Making Comfortable Stilettos a Reality

After three years in development, Thesis Couture's first shoes will drop this month.After three years in development, Thesis Couture's first shoes will drop this month.
After three years in development, Thesis Couture's first shoes will drop this month.Courtesy of Thesis Couture

Silicon Valley’s favorite buzzword has made its way to the fashion industry.

Cognitive diversity—the idea that complex problems are best solved by a multidisciplinary team of experts—is a term being tossed around more and more by companies as they shift their understanding of what (and who) they need on their staffs to stay competitive as the pace of change quickens.

A favorite of tech behemoths like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), the concept has also made its way to Thesis Couture, a startup that aims to reinvent the high heel.

At first glance, the problem Thesis founder and CEO Dolly Singh set out to solve seems straightforward: Make high heels comfortable. However, when you consider how little change the shoe industry has undergone this century, it becomes apparent the sector needs a new way of thinking. That’s why Thesis Couture’s team consists of only a few footwear designers—and is rounded out by a SpaceX and NASA engineer, an orthopedic expert, and a wearables guru.

“We’re bringing together people who know nothing about shoes, and people who know everything about shoes,” says Singh. A former recruiter at Oculus VR and SpaceX, she knows a thing or two about getting the right people together in a room. “How you design the team will directly relate to how revolutionary your product will be,” she says.

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On Monday, Thesis announced that it is ready to bring its first product to market—but only for a select few customers. On March 22, the company will release 1,000 pairs of shoes, offered in two colors, for a 48-hour period. There is currently a waitlist of more than 12,000 people for the $925 shoes, according to the company.

The stilettos, which will start shipping this summer, are “intended to be a resort 2017 look,” says Singh. “For the first piece, I really wanted to indulge” in the design, she says. The fashion brand’s first full collection will launch in the fall and will include three wardrobe staples: a black pump, an ankle boot, and a high boot.

In December, the company received a patent for its Thesis LIFT technology, which reduces the load on the balls of the feet by 25%. Singh says this has the effect of making the shoes feel like wedges. “I wear them for eight to 10 hours a day,” she says.

Thesis also announced Monday that it has raised additional funding in a round that closed last year from Full Tilt Capital, Edgewater Equity, and Backstage Capital—bringing its total seed funding to $1.8 million across two rounds in 2015 and 2016. The startup will start raising a series A this summer, says the founder.

Other investors include Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff, BBG Ventures president Susan Lyne, and SpaceX co-founder Tom Mueller.