THIS COMPANY RAISED $86 MILLION TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE TIRED, BORING WORLD OF SOCKS

When longtime tech entrepreneur and investor Jeff Kearl sat down with consumer-brand vet John Wilson in 2009 to pitch his idea for a new business, it took him a while to get to the point.

"I'm just sitting there while he talked for probably an hour, I've eaten all my breakfast, thinking, 'Is this guy ever going to tell me what it is?'" says Wilson, now Stance's cofounder and president, who had previously been the president of Reef and an executive at Oakley. "We'd known each other for a while, and Jeff was at [earbud company] Skullcandy, so I was totally thinking consumer electronics. Some cool new device. Then he threw out the most low-tech random thing. I thought he was joking. I was waiting for him to actually start laughing. He kept going and just didn't skip a beat. I thought, well he's serious, he's talking about socks."

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