An activewear startup backed by Michael Jordan's son hit its first fundraising goal. Here's how Äktiiv plans to take on Lululemon and Nike.
Two Nike veterans, including the basketball legend Michael Jordan's son Jeffrey Jordan, are launching a brand for sustainable workout apparel that hopes to compete with the likes of Lululemon.
The Portland, Oregon, startup Äktiiv, which rhymes with black sleeve, launched its first products on Kickstarter in November and recently hit its fundraising goal. Cash from the campaign will be used to scale the company, including its marketing.
Äktiiv wants to take on Lululemon and Nike in the market for premium leggings and activewear for women. But there's a twist: Äktiiv products are biodegradable and made from plants, not materials derived from oil or plastics.
By contrast, the sustainable leggings sold by other brands sometimes contain recycled polyester, which is typically derived from petroleum. Polyester is a staple of athletic footwear and apparel because it's lightweight, durable, and versatile.
Äktiiv launched a one-month $25,000 Kickstarter campaign on November 1. The launch included a bra, a legging, a short, a tank, and a short-sleeve top. Leggings were discounted during the Kickstarter campaign and will retail for $100.
The company's products are made at a contract factory in Shanghai with a proprietary plant-based material made by weaving together three types of natural thread.
"It feels like nylon or polyester," Gobet said. "You would never know it's made from plants."
'Mirroring what happened with the food movement'
Gobet worked for Nike for 15 years, including as a senior product manager for basketball. He also worked on the company's Nike Pro apparel line, which focuses on technical performance. Similarly, Äktiiv products are designed to be worn in the gym, not while running errands.
He cofounded the company with Brian Boesen, who previously cofounded Colorado Threads, which makes yoga pants from recycled water bottles, before selling his stake in it.
Jordan, a seven-year Nike veteran, serves as an Äktiiv investor and advisor. He worked in several departments at Nike's Jordan brand, including digital innovation, before leaving the company in 2020 and cofounding Heir, a digital platform that helps athletes connect with fans.
Jordan and Gobet met while working at Nike about a decade ago and immediately "clicked," they said.
"Sustainability has been something we've talked about quite a bit," Jordan said. "This type of product just doesn't exist."
Gobet and Jordan spoke highly of Nike but said they hoped big apparel and sportswear brands would follow them into increased sustainability and the elimination of plastic. Brands like Unless Collective and Kent have also emerged with the same ethos. Kent, which makes underwear from plastic-free material, recently got an investment on "Shark Tank."
Hitha Herzog, the chief retail analyst for Doneger Tobe, said there's consumer demand for clothing made more sustainably.
"In some ways this sector of the industry is mirroring what happened with the food movement," she said in an email to Insider. "People want to know where their items are coming from in a real and transparent way."
Herzog said the biggest challenge for Äktiiv will be its ability to communicate all of its sustainability efforts, not just its materials. She said consumers wanted to know about everything from factory working conditions to water use, not just the lack of plastic.
Äktiiv will primarily be a direct-to-consumer company, but Gobet and Jordan said they're considering a few retail partnerships. They also plan to expand into men's products.
"Nike was the best school ever," Gobet said. "I love Nike. I love Jordan. But I want to innovate. I truly believe all these big brands are going to have to follow where we're going."