On Vans and Vertical Integration
Paul Van Doren founded Vans after working around shoes long enough to increase efficiency and reduce costs low enough to identify the vulcanized rubber machine as the critical bottleneck to founding his own shoe company.
The rest is global history and possibly on your feet right now.
Paul was born in Braintree, Massachusetts and had an entreprenurial spirit since childhood, like when he negotiated a moonshot deal on firework sparklers.
One of the critical elements of the success of Vans was the personality. Everything was custom.
Paul started selling shoes out of his trunk at track meets. He began selling shoes with colors to match school mascots. Bands. Cheerleaders. Cute and comfortable, what's not to love about classic slip-ons? Some see black and white squares. I see anything. Underneath them? Anywhere.
How was Paul able to customize feet for everybody? The entire process revolved around the rubber. Literally where the rubber meets the road is the one thing all shoes have in common.
By nailing the recipe for rubber, Paul Van Doren and his family were able to grow entirely new cultures from the ground up. One of those earliest cultures was skate.
Skateboarding didn't have the shape of footwear before Vans to carefully caress the surface of the grip tape to safely flick and land ill tricks at the park.
By fashioning the correct mold, the rubber was able to seamlessly and shamelessly meet the critical need of an emerging use case.
The nature of the Vans business model being a mom and pop family shop and the nature of rubber being liquid at human artificial temperatures and solid at human normal temperatures allowed Vans to grow around the world, fit by fit.
Hello. I am Tyler Childs, entrepreneur. I work with a form of rubber that is invisible to the naked eye at human normal temperatures. This is a rubber that runs on all computers, whether at the library, as your phone, on your wrist, or even the computer that is an at home always on refrigerator server.
When was the last time you thought about your computer?
When was the last time you wished you didn't have to think about your computer?
I'd wager that moment was the same moment.
Because you are not alone.
You are not alone.
I've been around people and computers long enough to know between every person and every computer is a problem.
At first, that problem is not the computer. The computer actually promised to solve the problem that led you to the computer in the first place.
At last, the problem is now bundled with the computer.
In the moment where you were thinking about the computer and wishing you never had to think about computers, you have your original problem and whatever incurred technical debt the computer has cast upon you— a big enough problem to break you out of the problem-solving beast-mode person you are and will continue to be once you're back in the matrix properly.
You are not alone. You are not the problem. The computer is not the problem. The rubber between you and the problem and the computer is the problem.
The rubber I work with is exactly this person-problem-computer invisble rubber. I posit the solution to the problem between people and computers is readily discoverable in the streets by reducing the problem space between people and computers to a formal implementation of so called digital rubber— glue code.
So from the ground up, I'm growing a computer company the same way Paul grew a shoe company. Meeting people where they are and figuring out the best way to fashion rubber to bring people closer together. Social and technical glue.
You have custom computer problems. I have custom computer solutions.