Insurance for sneakers? St. Paul startup may have answer for high-end collections

While scrounging through a house he and his wife had purchased, St. Paul native Phil…

While scrounging through a house he and his wife had purchased, St. Paul native Phil Terrill found about 10 pairs of Michael Jordan signature basketball shoes that were left behind.

The shoes were valuable and rare, Terrill said, but the previous owner had no way of recouping the investment made into those high-priced shoes.

A sneaker enthusiast himself with a collection of more than 200 shoes, Terrill looked into obtaining an insurance policy on his treasure chest of sneakers, which he valued north of $40,000.

“I went through the process of talking to multiple carriers and it was like I was speaking a different language,” he said.

The experience sparked an idea for Terrill: an insurance company specializing in sneakers.

Last year, Terrill started developing SoleSafe, a mobile app that offers insurance coverage for high-end sneakers using a valuation and appraisal model.

Through the app, a customer can upload images of their shoes, which are then authenticated by SoleSafe. Shoes insured by SoleSafe are typically valued around $250 a pair, Terrill said, and claims paid out would be based on market value.

Helping Terrill in his new endeavor are the Minnesota Twins and national startup accelerator Techstars, who picked SoleSafe as one of 10 startups from across North America — and one of two from the Twin Cities — for its joint 13-week accelerator program in Minneapolis.

More than 120 startups applied for the Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars, a sports and entertainment-focused accelerator, and the first of its kind in Minnesota sports, according to the organization. It’s only the second to be operated and funded by a Major League Baseball team. Other startups selected for the inaugural class include an audio tech company from Los Angeles, and a Toronto company that created a marketplace where influencers receive gifts for creating branded posts.

Minneapolis-based LeagueOS, another of the companies chosen, serves as an esports registration, operation and content platform that allows leagues to handle individual and team registration and player agreements.

Through the accelerator, companies receive investments from the Twins and Techstars. How much is invested has not been disclosed. The Twins have signed on for three years for the accelerator program.

“We are excited to watch these companies as they progress and ultimately work together to help advance the sports and entertainment business,” Joe Pohlad, the Twins executive vice president of brand strategy and growth, said in a statement.

Terrill plans to officially launch SoleSafe in early 2022, when he also plans to raise capital from private investors. Techstars will be his third accelerator in the Twin Cities this year. He previously participated in Beta and Lunar Startups.

In October, Terrill, previously a business development manager at Microsoft, was awarded a $25,000 business grant from General Insurance in partnership with the NAACP to fund the development of SoleSafe.

In addition to the grant, Terrill will also receive professional one-on-one mentoring sessions with General Insurance brand ambassador andformer NBA star Shaquille O’Nealandan executive at American Family Insurance, the Madison-based parent company of General Insurance.