Holey Innovation!
Cutting air vents in his sneakers inspired Geox founder Mario Moretti Polegato to launch a multimillion-dollar shoe brand.
By Siri Schubert, Business 2.0 Magazine

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Mario Moretti Polegato loves the outdoors but hates sweaty feet. After attending a 1989 vintners convention in Reno, Nev., on behalf of his family's Montebelluna, Italy, business, the third-generation winemaker stopped over in Colorado to hike in the Rocky Mountains.

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Cutting air vents in his sneakers inspired Geoz founder Mario Moretti Polegato to launch a multimillion-dollar shoe brand.
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But when the temperature climbed past 90 degrees, Polegato's hot, moist feet made his rubber-soled sneakers highly uncomfortable.

The "Aha!"

En route to his hotel, Polegato pulled into a gas station to borrow a knife and carved 1-inch holes in the soles of his shoes. The ventilation served him well, but it wouldn't work in the rainy European fall.

The perfect solution, Polegato thought, would be a perforated sole with a porous inner membrane to shield the foot from outside moisture but allow perspiration vapor to escape. Polegato then spent three years perfecting the technology, which he planned to sell to Nike (Charts) or Adidas (Charts) (they passed).

The payoff

Polegato launched Geox in 1991 and began targeting the Italian market with its designs - similar to Ecco's but edgier - then expanded into Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and, in 2004, the United States.

Today, Geox (Charts) shoes are sold in 68 countries, and revenue at the 3,000-person company hit $573 million in 2005, making it a close third to Clarks and Ecco in the worldwide market for comfortable shoes.

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.