Hot sneaker marketplace GOAT adds former Twitter COO Adam Bain to board

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Sneaker resale marketplace GOAT has been on a bit of a tear since I covered them nearly two years ago. The streamlined app and the incredibly buzzy sneakerhead market have combined for some pretty impressive growth and stickyness.

Now GOAT’s Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano have recruited former Twitter COO Adam Bain, who is embracing his downtime by advising some companies. Bain was a natural fit, they told me in an interview, because he was a user before they ever met.

“I was a customer first,” agrees Bain. “My discovery moment was pretty pure and organic — I started buying a ton of product.”

Bain, a known Silicon Valley sneakerhead (one of many you won’t find on some lists you’ve seen cough), had been using GOAT to snag some of the hot sneakers that he couldn’t find on day of release and eventually met up with Lu and Sugano while at Twitter. He immediately had product suggestions, he says, but didn’t want to take any official role right away.

“During my time at Twitter I didn’t take any board roles,” says Bain. “I believed it was important in my role to be 110 percent focused on Twitter. When I left Twitter the guys approached me.” 

GOAT’s focus will remain on shoes for now, say Lu and Sugano. Even while other companies in the space, like StockX, expand to handbags and watches, they’re convinced there is runway to be used still in the sneaker game. And the numbers seem to bear out. The market has only grown since I first covered the company, and they’ve managed to add $30 million in funding, for a total of $37.6 million raised. Their average orders are around $350 right now (about one pair of decently hyped sneakers, two pairs of mildly hot sneakers or a half a pair of Yeezys).

GOAT currently has around 2 million members and, in 2016, its top seller sold more than $850,000 worth of sneakers. Multiple sellers have gone over $1 million in sales so far this year.

Lu and Sugano are both on their second (or third) lease on life with GOAT, having taken a first stab with their “dine with a stranger” app Grubwithus and then a meetup effort called Superb before landing on GOAT. Unsurprisingly, the app that they actually felt passionate about as sneakerheads is the one that managed to make a spark and get some traction. The original investors have stuck with the team and GOAT is now clipping right along.

“The founders are some of the most impressive and driven entrepreneurs I’ve seen,” says Bain. “Eddy and Daishin’s drive was a huge draw for me. They have hustle, they have heart, which is a prerequisite for any good team.”

Bain says an interest in marketplaces and gaining more exposure to how they operate drove part of his decision to join the board. But the nature of the very passion-driven sneakerhead market in particular was what attracted him to GOAT specifically.

“Most marketplaces are pretty sterile and pretty devoid of feeling. The whole point of most marketplaces is to remove passion and feeling and…end up at price. Sneakers are all about emotion,” says Bain.

The excitement is driven by brands and loyalties, the excitement around launches — both Bain and I share the experience of waking up early, opening multiple browser windows and trying to score the hot release of the week — and athlete involvement.

Some brands like Adidas have even taken it beyond athletes to entertainers and icons like Kanye West and now Kendall Jenner. Puma has an exploding partnership with Rihanna. Beyond Jordan is culture, deep and wide and all intertwined with the sneaker game. You simply cannot engage in popular culture on any level without limited or sought-after shoes being a part of the conversation.

Much of this influence-based boosting of the shoe game has existed for decades — even Adidas’ breakout moment came from an organic partnership with Run DMC in the 80s. But the way you buy shoes just hadn’t changed all that much in the intervening years.

“I remember…hanging out in the shoe stores walking in the aisles — that experience hasn’t changed from when I was a kid. My passion about the product, shoes, hasn’t changed — but the technology drastically has. The experience of discovery and purchase around shoes hasn’t dramatically changed since [then].”

That’s what Lu and Sugano say they’re focused on, making the experience of buying shoes something that reflects the modern world and technology as it stands now. And they’re exploring heading up-stream from resale to first-party sales, as well.

“I look at this not as a sneaker marketplace, but a play on the future of retail and a play on a product that has a connection to passion and emotions of consumers,” says Bain.