Houston sneakerheads launch new app to revolutionize industry
Mbiyimoh Ghogomu remembers when he fell in love with his first pair of sneakers in eighth grade. Growing up, he said that âfrugality was a virtueâ in his home. âI didn’t have heat on my feet for most of my childhood,â he explains. On a mission for new basketball shoes, he found a brand new pair of Adidas T-Mac IIs and his entry into sneaker culture was sealed.
Like Ghogomu, his childhood friends Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith each had their own awakening to the sartorial fascination of sneakers. Self-proclaimed sneakerheads founded Commercial block in 2020, a new sneaker exchange platform that offers collectors a secure way to collect and exchange shoes. After a successful beta, the Houston-based startup recently launched a new mobile app available for iOS and Android users.
Malveaux, co-founder and director of authentication, began developing his sneaker collection while working at Footlocker and currently owns nearly 40 pairs.
âMy first paycheck came the same day the Foamposites went electrolime and let’s just say my check wasn’t too big than the retail price,â says Malveaux.
The former retail employee was using the ESPN Commercial Machine in 2019, a website that allows you to play the role of a team leader by creating different trading scenarios for players, when the idea for Tradeblock came to him. Malveaux shared his idea with his best friend Smith, co-founder and COO, and the two held it in their back pockets for a decade.
âAn entrepreneur at heart, D has been arguing about Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh cards since grade school,â says Smith’s Ghogomu. âAfter spending a few years in the dark cabs of American companies after graduating from college, he realized that he would never be truly happy or fulfilled if he didn’t build his own thing,â he says. .
Smith eventually escaped those dark cabins and approached Malveaux to make Tradeblock a reality. The two started an Instagram and began a trip across the country, visiting all the sneaker events they could to research market needs. To cover travel costs, they sold the majority of the impressive collection of sneakers they had built over the years and sometimes slept in their cars to avoid additional expenses.
That year, the two also brought in their high school friend Ghogomu as co-founder and CEO.
The three Tradeblock co-founders have known each other since childhood. Photo via tradeblock.us
Tradeblock started with the three founders acting as a broker in the exchanges via Instagram direct messages, and it quickly grew into a fully functional web platform.
Kicks like money
Collecting sneakers is no easy task, in part because of the huge resale market. According to GQ, the coveted Dior x Air Jordan 1 2020 sneakers sold for $ 2,000 but soared to $ 10,103 in resale value. Even moderately priced items like the $ 140 Nike SB Dunk High “Reverse Skunk”, a 4/20 themed version with a limited number of 420 pairs available, have a resale price of $ 4,500.
High demand and exclusivity created a barrier to access. Some opportunists have even bought bots online to scour websites for versions of sneakers so they can make bulk purchases and resell the rest for higher prices.
âBesides the fact that no one had engaged in the trade, which was already a known behavior in the sneaker community, we saw the sky-high prices at which sneakers were starting to sell in the resale market,â explains Ghogomu. âWe realized that a ton of real blue sneakerheads, people who were in the game for the love of kicks more than anything, were basically getting paid the price for every shoe they wanted,â he explains. -he.
By providing a platform for sneaker collectors to trade in shoes from their collection, the founders “could give them another outlet to acquire the shoes they wanted without having to spend next month’s rent check,” says Ghogomu. .
The app lets you explore other user collections, follow collectors to keep track of their newly added shoes, and create your own wardrobe with your collection. âI think the biggest social aspect of our app today is the fact that sneakerheads can actually create a unique profile and personality for themselves on Tradeblock and then they can explore the collections of other sneakerheads,â explains Ghogomu.
When you want to continue a transaction, Tradeblock allows you to manage your agents from an inbox, view transaction status, and view your transaction history. Users can also negotiate a monetary payment if an exchange is not quite equal to the shoes alone.
Once an exchange takes place, authentication is a priority.
âThe fake sneakers market itself is a billion dollar market. If you are trying to acquire a shoe that is worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, you have to be absolutely certain that what you are getting is the one. real thing. ” said Ghogomu.
To ensure customers get authentic sneakers, Tradeblock has “two-factor authentication” where each shoe goes through physical and digital inspection.
More than a flashback
The sneaker collection dates back to the late 1970s, coinciding with the rise in popularity of the National Basketball League and the New York hip hop movement.
The very first Air Jordans were created in 1984 and worn exclusively by former NBA star Michael Jordan, and released to the public in 1985. Last year, the original Jordan pair sold for a record $ 560,000 in a Sotheby’s auction, according to Reuters.
Music has strongly influenced a profusion of sneakerheads. Run-DMC released the popular song “My Adidas” in 1986, which remained at the top of the Billboard charts for 16 weeks. The trend continued with rapper Nelly who made his debut in 2000 with “Air Force Ones”.
The style of the shoe has even managed to permeate internet culture, with a slew of memes and influencers arriving to meet the moment.
“Cursed Daniel”, a viral video from 2016, has consolidated its place in the ever-changing online safe of cultural moments. The video that shows the shoe collection of the then high school student Daniel Lara led him to become one of the TIME’s “30 Most Influential People on the Internet” this year.
Sneakersheads have since found a community using online communication platforms like Instagram, Discord and Facebook.
âWe also noticed that sneakerheads were spending a ton of time on social media platforms showing off their kicks, exploring other people’s collections, and generally looking to connect with people who shared their passion for them. shoes, âsays Ghogomu. âWe thought that if we could capture this social energy in a platform that also facilitated commerce, we could create something truly revolutionary for the culture,â he says.
The most popular sneaker reviews on YouTube have developed communities of hundreds of thousands of followers, making a living from their geek. âShoe tubers are an integral part of sneaker culture today. In many ways, they’re like the sherpas of the sneaker world,â says Ghogomu.
The growing social authority of sneakerheads also helped launch Tradeblock. The company has managed to gain exposure by building an online community and building relationships with influential YouTubers.
EBay’s existing online sellers at Poshmark have provided a way for users to sell and buy items, but the process is transactional. Understanding the passionate community of collectors, Ghogomu says they wanted to “build not just a product, but a company and a brand that truly puts people first and is reminiscent of the days when being a sneakerhead was just as much about community. that was.” on kicking in your wardrobe. “
Grow a community
Tradeblock currently has over 23,000 collectors in its database, a number that is steadily increasing day by day. “What really blew me away was how much people supported me [the] jump, âsays Ghogomu.
The app currently has thousands of shoes in its database, including rare versions like the Nike Dunk Lobster collection and the Art Basel Jordan 1.
âWe even have a few original Jordan 1 pairs in the Chicago colourway from 1985â¦ but you’ll have to correct yourself if you want to trade them in,â Ghogomu jokes.
Through the obstacles that accompany the creation of a startup, Tradeblock users have been loyal.
“I really couldn’t count the number of times we’ve heard people say things like ‘I want to see you all win’, but we never get tired of it,” he continues.
âWhen you’re trying to build something that’s unlike anything else in the world, it’s easy to let doubt set in. Any entrepreneur who says he has never asked himself the question: “Is this really possible or are we crazy?” Is lying to you, “says Ghogomu.” I think as people of color these internal barriers are even higher because we have so few examples to turn to and see people who look like us start businesses. to success, “he continues.
As the business grows, the co-founders hope to strengthen the bonds of the sneaker community – a common factor that has strengthened their own friendship.
âWhen most people think of sneaker culture, they think of shoes. When we think of sneaker culture, we think of people,â says Ghogomu.