Braden Parker

Braden Parker, 28

Co-founder + CEO, Casca Designs

Life Story: Everything changed for Braden Parker at age eight, when his family moved from Alberta to California so his father, a teacher, could do a sabbatical at Stanford University. This early brush with Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture left a deep impression. “People were inspired to go out and give it their best shot and swing hard, and not be afraid to fail,” he recalls. 

After returning home, Parker earned a BComm in real estate at UBC Sauder School of Business and spent five years as a manager with Vancouver billionaire Chip Wilson’s Low Tide Properties. In 2017, industrial designer Kevin Reid, a friend from university, approached him about creating the perfect everyday shoe. Seeing a gap in the athleisure market and a chance to shake up footwear, the pair worked with orthotic experts to create the Avro, which combines elements of hiking boots and runners with a timeless silhouette, Parker says. With a five-year guarantee to discourage fast fashion, the shoe also features 3D-printed insoles that buyers customize by scanning their feet with a mobile app.

Casca Designs sells online, but late last year the startup took its first step toward a “factory retail” model by opening a Vancouver store with a scanning station and 3D printer. “I firmly believe that the future is going to be on-demand, custom and local,” Parker says. “Eventually we’ll reach the point where everyone’s shoes are made perfectly fitted to them, with a design and quality that will last for a lot longer.”

Bottom Line: In 2019, Casca raised US$3.5 million from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. The 10-employee company also has strategic investors, including Shopify founder Tobias Lütke and Vancouver entrepreneur Alex Conconi. Casca, which started the year with healthy revenue growth, has reopened its store after closing in March due to the pandemic.