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Why Former Nike and Jordan Brand Execs Backed This Sneaker Trading App

The secondhand sneaker market has another player shoring up funding and seeking growth in an increasingly crowded space that already includes StockX, Goat, Stadium Goods, eBay and Grailed .

Sneaker trading platform Tradeblock has raised more than $8.9 million in a Seed II funding from investment partners Courtside VC, Trinity Ventures and Concrete Rose Capital. The barter-based marketplace is expecting an additional $4.5 million in investment by the close of the current round.

Tradeblock will use the proceeds from the financing round to grow the business, and expand and improve authentication and logistics, which involves inspecting and authenticating shoes from both sides of the trade simultaneously in what the company calls “a complex and highly-interconnected process.”

Additionally, Tradeblock will deepen data science investments to enhance the customer’s virtual bartering experience and further develop the marketplace.

The app works lets shoppers view available inventory and see supply and demand for an individual pair of sneakers to get insight on how many collectors already have or want a new pair of them. The user can then select a trading partner based on the sneakers they are interested in, and offer their own in the trade. If the shoes aren’t of perceived equal value, both users can add or ask for cash to “balance out” the trade.

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The new funding brings Tradeblock closer to its mission of making resale accessible for consumers who often face “high and unjust” prices when pursuing secondhand sneakers. As it seeks to reshape sneaker culture, Tradeblock focuses on the three pillars of accessibility, community and sustainability.

Tradeblock said it has seen rapid growth since it launched in 2020 with 300 users and less than 5,000 shoes. It now says it has more than 250,000 community members with 1 million shoes listed in users’ virtual closets this year.

Co-founder and CEO Mbiyimoh “Beems” Ghogomu, along with co-founders Darren Smith and Tony Malveaux, formed the platform to bridge the gap for passionate collectors who were losing the battle against automated bots on sneaker drops. Thanks to these bots, shoes will often sell out online before an average consumer gets a chance to buy them, even if they click to purchase shortly after the drop.

The co-founders also created Tradeblock for shoppers who cannot afford rapidly increasing resale prices. These increases are largely driven by resellers who corner the market on popular shoes and flip them for massive premiums for the sole purpose of profits.

The sneaker resale market appears to be a lucrative one as sneakerheads seek out new opportunities to collect unique and rare shoe drops. Cowen projects global sneaker resale will reach $30 billion in sales by 2030, up from $6 billion in 2020.

Tradeblock is also driven by a passion for building a company that resembles many of the shoppers it serves.

“Black and brown communities have always been the backbone of the sneaker industry and sneaker culture,” Ghogomu said in a statement. “Showing those folks that they can be the owners and operators of this industry as opposed to just consumers is both a point of pride and a deeply rooted responsibility for everybody at Tradeblock.”

The Tradeblock team aims to embody this sentiment of representation within their own workforce. Besides having three Black founders, staff is comprised of more than 80 percent Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) employees, and the senior leadership team includes more than 75 percent BIPOC managers.

The company’s mission and vision trumpet the goal of leveling the playing field for the BIPOC community, which Tradeblock highlights has played a “tremendous” role within the culture that is the foundation of the sneaker industry.

“Tradeblock is revolutionizing the way forward for the new emergent asset class of footwear,” said Tradeblock angel investor Jason Mayden, a former Nike and Jordan footwear designer who now serves as president of luxury fashion and streetwear brand Fear of God Athletics. “The founding team’s understanding of the nuances of culture and tech gives them an unfair advantage in the industry and the team’s desire to lead with inclusion, representation, and authenticity also provides them with unique and meaningful organic engagement.”

Keith Houlemard, former president of Nike’s Jordan Brand, is an angel investor alongside Mayden.