If the shoe fits... sell it
"When you're a startup guy and you get a job at a big company, what's the first thing you do? You start working on stuff on the side."
Most sneakerheads love the thrill of the hunt - the search for rare items and the price curiosities of supply and demand.
Luber fits in here, but he is among only a select few to have the business foresight to see an idea and develop an accessible market for sneakerheads around the world.
In other words, a way to sell items at their true market value.
That big idea is now a reality.
Luber is co-founder and CEO of StockX, the world's first "stock market of things." StockX is an online marketplace which connects buyers and sellers using the same method as the world's stock markets, an anonymous, transparent and authentic bid/ask market. "It was very clear that there were some people who were passionately interested in this small space," he said. "A very small Venn diagram overlap of sneakers and data."
At its launch, StockX had 20,000 pairs of sneakers for sale.
In addition to sneakers, StockX also allows its members to buy and sell streetwear clothing and accessories, watches and handbags.
Today, Luber sits in the middle of a brave new world of finance, tech and culture. But it has taken years to formulate the process of accurately valuing sneakers and other items. He began with Campless, a site to value sneakers (like what Kelley Blue Book does for cars).
He looks the part of culture courier.
Luber often wears a backwards baseball cap and hoodie. He also has a resume that includes IBM, and significant studies in data analysis and strategy. If the idea seems massive, it's because it is.
But Luber is a dreamer that isn't easily slowed.
"The resale sneaker market is just supply and demand. This is Econ 101, BBA, day one, 1996 for me."
"When you're a startup guy and you get a job at a big company, what's the first thing you do? You start working on stuff on the side," Luber said. "So that was the impetus to be like, 'Well, if it's kind of a side project, I wonder if I could get a hold of all this sneaker data? Just for fun, just to kind of see what I could do with it, because I was doing other data work at IBM and because I liked sneakers. And that was really the beginning of the company — the merging of sneakers and data."
Indeed, the growth of this business is traced to Luber's personal story of growing up in Philadelphia and salivating over a pair of Jordans. He recalls a time when those shoes were $100.
That was, in his words, "absolutely crazy" compared to other shoe sales. In recent years, the collectible shoe industry has turned more than 9 million pairs of sneakers for a conservative estimate of $1.2 billion in the U.S. alone. None of this revenue is seen by the brands and primary retailers. This is happening in secondary marketplaces like StockX and eBay.
"The resale sneaker market is just supply and demand," Luber said at Goizueta's Entrepreneurship Summit in Spring 2017. "This is Econ 101, BBA, day one, 1996 for me."
For example, one of the hottest shoes on the market recently released shoes retailing for $220, but on StockX, the price skyrocketed to nearly $1,000.
"I knew there was definitely something here, there's definitely interest in this space, definitely people using it, but is there a business," Luber recalled. "I talked to pretty much everybody in the sneaker industry — Nike, eBay, Foot Locker — trying to figure out really, what do I do with this little data company. Was it really a good fit? I don't want to say I was about to give up, but there really weren't many other people left to talk to."
One day just after Easter in 2015, he received a "random" email from two people working with Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc.
"That was absolutely the capstone moment," Luber said. "I was building from the ground up. I was in the sneaker world and just found a better way for the sneaker world to function and operate.
"Dan was kind of coming from top down. I was like, 'This would be perfect for a sneaker stock market.' Dan was like, 'No, this should be how the whole world works. This should be the future of all e-commerce."
At the time, Gilbert told TechCrunch StockX would deliver the kind of trading platform and visibility to tangible products that financial and commodities markets have used for decades.
"StockX's live marketplace will harness the internet's natural ability to facilitate a better way to transact certain segments of e-commerce," Gilbert said. "The efficiency, credibility and liquidity of the financial markets have been foundational to the largest economy in the world. We believe this is the right time to extend this fundamental concept to appropriate sectors of the online consumer marketplace."
Luber envisions an expansion into retail and connecting more dots with the primary and secondary markets. With each day, Luber's big idea grows larger.
"When Dan and I joined forces to do this together, it was always about the bigger idea. It was always about a stock market of things, about a model," Luber said. "It truly does not exist in a consumer marketplace outside of the actual stock exchange. We still have a long way to go to reach that whole vision, but we've proven that it works really well in a few categories. Now we get to go out and continue to really develop that big idea."