Shoe Dog – Nike’s Early Years Were a Constant Battle for Cash

I recently finished Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir about founding and building Nike. It is an amazing story – and highly relevant for the customers PrimeRevenue serves. It’s a story about a constant struggle for cash to fuel growth, the power of global trade, and the risks associated with relying on a single bank to fund anything strategic.

(Spoiler alert: to bring these points home, I’m going to highlight some key events covered in the book.)

Nike started from humble beginnings in 1962 as Blue Ribbon Sports, an importer of Tiger running shoes from Japan. Knight ran track at the University of Oregon, so he knew more than most about running shoes in the early 60s. He noticed too that Japanese camera manufacturers had improved their products enough to start taking share from German brands. Knight reasoned that Japanese athletic shoes could do the same to Adidas, the dominant market leader. So, he negotiated the rights to distribute Tiger running shoes in the U.S.

Knight started selling shoes from the trunk of his car at track meets, and later from a retail store in LA. Sales in 1964 were a mighty $8000, funded first by loans from his dad to pre-pay for orders of Tiger shoes. He secured his first commercial funding from First National Bank of Oregon – a letter of credit for $3000.

From the earliest days, Knight and his tiny company began giving design input to Tiger to improve the performance of their shoes. As a result, demand grew consistently for running shoe innovations sold by knowledgeable guys to running aficionados. Sales doubled consistently year over year – with revenue in 1968 reaching $150,000.

And then the trials of success began. The combination of 100% YoY growth, terms from Tiger that required payment far earlier than shipment and conservative bank funding created a triple existential threat. Bankers constantly pressured Knight to slow his growth to shore up equity in the business to reduce the risk of a disaster waiting to happen. Tiger consistently shipped product late and/or not according to order specifications. Despite the pressure and stress, Knight kept selling out inventory, just paying off his line of credit in time, and placing an order for twice as many shoes as the last time. To make ends meet, he worked full time as an accountant while running Blue Ribbon on the side.

The value of alternative funding hit home in 1975. Knight had started Nike as a hedge against Tiger pulling Blue Ribbon’s distribution rights. Sales were still doubling every year, and supply couldn’t keep up with demand as running started going mainstream. They formed a secondary funding relationship with a Japanese trading company as a backup to the bank, now Bank of California. During a particularly difficult cash flow crisis, the bank decided to pull their $1M line of credit. At that moment in the spring of 1975, Nike could easily have become a footnote in the annals of footwear history. Instead, the Japanese trading company took the time to analyze the business, precisely understand the risks and awesome potential and stepped up with additional money to bridge Nike’s funding gap.

There are many other existential moments detailed in Shoe Dog, where powerful players attempt to exploit a still fledgling and fragile company. Perhaps the most egregious example is the U.S. Customs Department sending Nike a bill for import duties equal to their prior year’s revenues.

Of course, everyone knows how the story ends. Nike generated close to $34B in revenue for its most recent trailing 12-month period and directly employs more than 70,000 people worldwide. While revolutionizing athletic footwear and apparel, Knight and his colleagues built an iconic global brand from scratch and helped make world-class athletes global celebrities.

What struck me most was the tenacity of these people to drive an idea to greatness in the early years. How Knight & Co. handled the constant struggle to balance growth with the need to control cash flow played a starring role in making that happen. Had the team taken a then – conventional approach to improving cash flow – going through a single funder – there is a good chance things would have turned out differently.

That scenario is exactly why PrimeRevenue was founded – to give buyers and suppliers an alternative way to optimize cash flow and to make sure they’re never held hostage to a single source of funding. This is why thousands of buyers and suppliers trade billions in invoice value with us every month.

By PrimeRevenue
Published May 11, 2017

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Stephanie Wargo

VP, Global Head of Marketing

Stephanie joined PrimeRevenue in 2015 and oversees the company’s global marketing team and strategy. With a data-driven approach, Stephanie focuses on demand generation and thought leadership to drive brand awareness, strengthen client/partner relationships, and generate new sales opportunities. Stephanie has guided PrimeRevenue through new technology releases and an evolving FinTech landscape. In addition to leading PrimeRevenue’s internal and external communications, she implemented innovative demand generation and marketing strategies to enhance the company’s overall sales pipeline.

Stephanie has extensive experience in marketing and customer success. She previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications at BitPay and Vice President of Client Relations and Marketing at FirstView Financial. Stephanie earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

Brian Medley

VP, Global Head of Sales

Brian joined PrimeRevenue in early 2012, after more than 20 years of sales leadership, executive-level consultant and business growth experience. As VP, Global Head of Sales, Brian leads a growing team of fintech sales professionals with a focus on developing strong customer relationships, improving sales predictability and helping PrimeRevenue enter the lucrative mid-market.

Prior to PrimeRevenue, Brian honed his enterprise software sales leadership skills at Clarus Corporation. He also served as an operations and IT management consultant for Kurt Salmon Associates. In addition to his sales and consulting background, Brian has deep experience in the financial industry having founded a successful residential mortgage broker and lending business. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology having earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Economics and M.B.A. in Global Business.

Jason Green

SVP, Global Customer Success

Jason joined PrimeRevenue in 2021 following more than two decades in the fintech/financial services industry. He brings a strong background is sales leadership due to his impressive relationship building capability as well as a successful track record in creating structure and process improvements. In his role, Jason uses his keen attention to detail to strengthen the customer experience and enhance the company’s solutions to deliver more value to clients.

Prior to joining the company, Jason held several senior level and executive roles with a focus on building and scaling sales and support organizations at both large and small companies. Jason graduated from Murray State University with a B.S in Marketing.

Matt Ford

SVP, Global Product Innovation

Matt joined PrimeRevenue in early 2015 and is responsible for overseeing all commercial, strategic and operational aspects of PrimeRevenue’s supply chain finance offerings throughout EMEA, based in Prague. He has been instrumental in gaining global alignment and developing supplier enablement processes for the region.

Matt joined PrimeRevenue following a 15-year career at Morgan Stanley, where he worked in fixed income operations covering debt syndication through bonds, EMTNS, corporate loans and other debt securitization. Notably, he set up non-core location operations in Europe (Budapest) and all lending operations in Baltimore from scratch.

Matt, who was born and raised in South East England, earned a B.S. in Sports Science at University of Teesside where he mastered the art of TEAM development and accountability as a youth international rugby player.

Dominic Capolongo

EVP, Global Head of Funding

Dominic joined PrimeRevenue in 2016, and is responsible for leading our bank and capital markets funding strategies and execution. He focuses on building global, scalable and highly efficient funding structures that maximize options for supporting PrimeRevenue’s programs. Dominic began his career as an attorney and was a partner with Kaye Scholer before joining DLJ as a senior banker. Dominic brings tremendous strategic and capital markets experience in all areas of finance having held senior positions at, among others, Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets in addition to DLJ. Dominic earned a JD from Fordham University School of Law and a BA from SUNY Binghamton.

Gavin Cicchinelli

Chief Operating Officer

Gavin joined PrimeRevenue as Chief Operating Officer in 2021. With more than two decades of leadership and executive experience along with a deep understanding of the payments space, Gavin provides a unique focus on improving and strengthening operational strategies and implementing GTM growth execution. He is responsible for leading transformation across corporate and operational strategies as well as building a repeatable and scalable commercial growth strategy that aligns with PrimeRevenue’s core business while delivering key adjacent growth opportunities.

Prior to joining PrimeRevenue, Gavin served as President and Chief Revenue Officer of Integrated Solutions at TSYS, a global payment processing services company acquired by Global Payments (NYSE:GPN). There, he also served as Head of Product and divisional COO. Throughout his career, Gavin has held multiple leadership positions including VP of Sales, SVP of Business Development, and President of Financial Institutions. Gavin graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.

David Quillian

Chief Legal Officer

David joined PrimeRevenue as General Counsel in 2007. He and his team have been instrumental in successfully creating the unique legal structures that support PrimeRevenue’s multi-funder model and global funding capabilities. David is also the lead named inventor on PrimeRevenue’s two patents for Electronic Time Drafts, which allow PrimeRevenue to manage supply chain finance programs using electronic negotiable instruments as opposed to accounts receivable. Prior to PrimeRevenue, David was General Counsel at Harbor Payments, which was acquired by American Express (AXP) in 2006, and Magnet Communications, which was acquired by Digital Insight (DGIN) in 2003. He holds degrees in Economics and History from Duke University, and Juris Doctor and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Georgia.

Nathan Feather


Nathan has successfully ushered PrimeRevenue from our very early days as a visionary startup, through the financial crisis to today’s position as a thriving mid-sized leader in the cloud-enabled supply chain finance marketplace since joining PrimeRevenue in January 2006. He was instrumental in recapitalizing the company with an $80M investment led by BBH Capital Partners in 2015. Prior to PrimeRevenue, he held various financial management roles with Ariba, Freemarkets and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Nathan holds a BS in Accounting from Pennsylvania State University.

PJ Bain


PJ has an impressive and accomplished track record as an enterprise software entrepreneur and executive. PJ has built a solid record of success with PrimeRevenue since being appointed Chief Executive Officer in July of 2009. The company has received numerous awards for growth, customer service, innovation, along with being recognized as a top employer.

PJ is a life-long software and technology entrepreneur having been involved in numerous firms in the roles of founder, executive, advisor and investor. Immediately prior to PrimeRevenue, PJ was the VP and General Manager of Exact Holding N.V. (NYSE/AMS: EXACT), a leading global provider of business software solutions. He was previously Founder and CEO of Inspired Solutions, an Atlanta-based, B2B software and services firm that grew to be the largest reseller of Exact Software in North America, later acquired by Exact. PJ holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.