[INTERVIEW] STOCK X CEO AND CO-FOUNDER JOSH LUBER
Today, Stock X announced it is officially expanding into the UK and Europe. Stock X is the world’s first stock market for high-demand consumer goods such as sneakers, streetwear, watches and designer handbags. The platform is one of the fastest growing startups in the US, with more than 8 million people using it monthly. Today they also announced they are opening their first European authentication centre which will be based in West London. All products are physically inspected for quality and authenticity by a trained StockX authenticator before being shipped to the buyer.
If you have never heard of Stock X and you’re a crep/sneaker lover then you have come to the right place to learn about the company and the CEO himself Josh Luber. We had the pleasure of speaking to the sneaker culture shifting entrepreneur who has 7 pairs of Air Max BW Persians at the Stock X launch party in London last night. Check out the very insightful interview below and be sure to visit http://www.stockx.com for more information and the world’s most exclusive creps.
Why did you start this?
I have the exact same story as every other 40-year-old sneakerhead in the United States. Grew up playing basketball when Jordan played and I always wanted Air Jordans. My mum never bought me Air Jordans. As soon as I got some money I got Air Jordans. We all have the exact same story, it’s almost like textbook. But for me, I was growing up as a business person, I was a startup guy.
I started to run three other startups before this and none of them had anything to do with sneakers. So for me, there was finally an opportunity to merge my business passion with my personal passion. I intentionally avoided working with sneakers because I felt like that wasn’t a real thing. I’m of the age where the word entrepreneur didn’t exist when I was in high school and college. You were a doctor or a lawyer etc. So to do something in sneakers would’ve been crazy. I literally have sneakers from when I was 8 years old that I still have.
I’ve started a lot of startups but in between each startup I’ve had ‘real jobs’ while trying to work on the next startup. I went to work for IBM in 2010 and you know, if you’re a startup guy and you get to IBM the first thing you do is you start working on stuff on the side-working on side businesses. Then I was a consultant and I was doing all this data work at IBM like any other consultant.
I was like, ”I wonder if I could get hold of some sneaker data just to play with my own amusement just to see what I could do with it as a side project,” because I was doing all this data work at IBM. That was the very beginnings which was scraping eBay data to build a price guide for sneakers. That was this company called Campless which later then became Stock X. But that was the beginning. Can we just build a price guide because there just wasn’t a price guide? I just happened to be the only person doing real analytics behind the secondary market.
What does influencer marketing mean to you?
It’s interesting. When we first started Stock X, launching in February 2016. Influencer marketing was a thing but it wasn’t a ‘thing‘ and there’s been a massive shift in the past two years but it was still very much real. We’d get a lot of these sneaker influencer kids, that had anywhere from twenty-five thousand, fifty thousand to a couple hundred thousand or whatever it was (followers). They were hitting us up proactively and saying ”can you give me free sneakers and I’ll post about.”
Coming from a more traditional world being 40 and not having the Internet when I grew up my initial gut reaction to that, in the beginning, was like ”Get the fuck outta here.” Then we as we grow a bit we take a step back and start to look at every single channel of which you can market to. You realise that this is absolutely as real and as serious and as effective as any other marketing channel. So we use influencer marketing a lot but we use it on a performance basis. We try to put it around a promotion or a launch or certain media we want people to see as opposed to just general brand marketing. That’s a tough thing. If we can measure it then we’ll put the hours behind it and test it to see if we can do more.
Thoughts on Off White x Nike?
It’s awesome. Here’s the thing, people want to hate on hype just because it is hype. Because lots of people like it but there’s a reason lots of people like it. There’s truth in every statement. It’s like when someone’s drunk and they start rambling on. There’s truth in there, they’re just holding their tongue when they’re sober. So I love the first one. Amazing. Here’s the thing. How many times have you thought whether you said it out loud or not ”I’ve seen everything in sneakers.” And then the ‘ultraboosts’, then the ‘react 87’s’ and then ‘Off White.’ Every time when you think you’ve seen everything there’s something [new]. So I think that was phenomenal. I think Nike did a great job of making them limited but not too limited.
They weren’t impossible to get. It’s not like a pair of Pharell pink human races. So I think it was really great like that. And then also on the flip side, selfishly for Stock X, that’s really our sweet spot. At the beginning when the shoes were like $500/$600 and there were thousands of them being resold because they’re accessible. Then what happened was after the first ten they started doing more of them. Those original ten then became really valuable and [they were] collectors and grails. I liked that and I hope that Nike never restocks those first ten because that keeps them as grails. Let them do Serena, let them do Lebron, let them do whatever the next one is. But just keep that first ten as grails and I think that’s awesome.
What advice would you give a 21-year-old Josh Luber?
When I look back now. There are so many decisions that I made that maybe weren’t the right decision or could have been better at the time. But I’m not sure that I would’ve ended up in this place. For example, I sold this company ‘Campless’ to Dan Gilbert and before that, I had an offer on the table to sell it to Complex. Complex gave me an offer and not surprisingly that number was significantly lower than what Dan’s was.
And you just look at certain things like ”maybe if had handled that differently, I could’ve got a bigger offer.” But there’s zero chance any of this would have happened if I was some small piece of Complex as opposed to being [a partner with Dan]. So the short answer is ”Keep doing what you’re doing.” That would be the advice because I think it worked out really well. But the one thing that someone had said to me during my first real startup was ”You can’t use what you learn in any startup until the next startup.”
So the best example of that is that you go and create a business right now, the first business you ever created and you’ve got to go get a logo. You’re going to spend three times as much money and waste three times as much time because you’ve never been through that process before. But then once you have the logo you don’t have to go do it again because you have the logo. That’s a very simplistic example but it really is true in a lot of different things like product design.
The second startup, the first really big tech startup that I did which was completely overbuilt. There are just little things that you realise. So I think that was the advice I was really fortunate someone gave me to understand. That it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to do that. And don’t feel like you have to hold anything up, it’s okay, keep going. At some point, those learnings will become useful.
Which brand do you think will create a culture shifting change in the reselling market?
We haven’t had a brand do anything other than Nike and Adidas in a really long time. I think that there’s something that could be happening with Puma [They just signed Jay-Z] and they went out and signed all the top rookies. But you still have to go out and create a good shoe. Under Armour proved it doesn’t matter who you have, you still need to put out a great product. Under Armour just signed Joel Embid the other day.[They] did something with ASAP Rocky. So at the end of the day, you have to have a good product.
I wouldn’t bet on someone else but [Adidas and Nike]. Honestly, I think the biggest opportunity to totally change everything again is Kanye because the lack of focus in how they managed Yeezy over the last year with like brand and restocks. There’s just not a very clear strategy in regards to releases. [So this] means that if they got back on track and all of a sudden they said ”great, we’re not going to re-stock anymore, here’s a super limited, here’s a 350 V3.” I think it’s still sitting there for them to get better by how they execute that and that could be as big as Off White’s.
What is your view on brands such as Sketchers and Fila and how they have rebranded?
In October 2015 I did a TED talk about sneakers. So think about this, October 2015 is when I gave the talk so I was working on it all summer and the first Yeezy dropped in February 2015. There were only nine thousand [or so], it wasn’t big yet. There was just like a couple Yeezy’s, it wasn’t really there. So Adidas was really still really non-existent on the secondary market. [With] all the data I was using, the number two brand in the states was Sketchers. Sketchers was the number two brand in the United States from a dollar standpoint at that time. [Ian Connor was working with them at the time].
So there was a little bit of hype but it didn’t matter because the masses were wearing it. At the end of the day, that’s a business. Not everybody has to be cool and wear thousand dollar shoes and Sketchers was able to capitalise on that. Kim Kardashian repped Sketchers for a minute and they were walking shoes. Everybody walks right? So for a minute, they were the actual number two brand before Yeezy and Addidas had that resurgence. But right now all I notice is when I see one of those Yeezy knock off’s around. Honestly, there’s a woman I know who I really adore and I’m going to buy her a pair of Yeezy’s because she’s wearing this.
What are your favourite sneakers?
From a model standpoint, the three models I have the most of are the Jordan 1’s, Air Max 90’s and Air Tech Challenge 2’s. Those are from the model standpoint. From the individual shoes, there are two pairs of shoes that I have seven pairs of. One is the Air Max BW Persian and then the other is the Air Jordan 1, Lance Mountain White.
Rate these sneakers in order and explain why? (Jordan 11 Gamma, Jordan 1 Bred Toes, Nike Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon, Addidas Yeezy Wave Runner 700 Solid Grey and Addidas NMD HU Pharell Black?)
The Jordan 1 Bred Toes are first just because it’s classic. The Gamma 11’s are last for me in that. I don’t actually like any Jordan 11’s except the concords. Concords are classic. I don’t like any other Jordan 11’s. I’m going put the Sean Wotherspoon’s next. Even though he has very publicly come out and said very negative things about Stock X. I’m still going to say that because I do think they designed a really great shoe. Wave runners are next because I like that not only did they go out and say we’re going to embrace the dad shoe.
But what was really great about that shoe was that it actually appeals to dads. The actual functionality of it and they’re comfortable. It was the first thing that people at Adidas that work around him in that loop told me, it was that they’re actually comfortable and I think that’s great. And then the Pharell’s. I actually love the Human Race but I just don’t really like the black one.
- Jordan 1 Bred Toes
- Nike Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon
- Addidas Yeezy Wave Runner 700 Solid Grey
- Addidas NMD HU Pharell Black
- Jordan 11 Gamma