Josh Luber, CEO of StockX, calls it serendipity.
What started as a side project evolved into a visionary new marketplace that led Luber to the right investor and partner, billionaire and downtown Detroit business leader Dan Gilbert. Luber’s idea for the business grew from data work he did as a consultant for IBM. Sneakers were a passion of his from a young age, so he playfully decided to combine tech and sneakers. In 2012, he launched Campless -- a platform that acted as the Kelly Blue Book for sneakers.
Then, Luber began to think bigger. He saw an opportunity to build a stock market for buying and selling all commodity goods. He calls it a “stock market of things.” Brands and investors he met along his journey didn’t always embrace his expanded vision. But when he crossed paths with Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and founder of Quicken Loans, he discovered he wasn’t the only one working on this concept.
Like minds lead to partnership instead of competition.
“When I started in early 2012 I had this vision for what you could do with this data. It was a roadmap for this company," Luber said. "It was one piece of paper -- a price guide, a concept of portfolios that value your sneaker collection like a stock portfolio -- and asset pricing so you can create a stock market for things.”
One night after a Cavs game, Luber shared this concept with Gilbert. Luber had made his pitch to dozens of potential partners and investors, so he didn't expect anything to come from this meeting, either. But that one night changed the course of his company.
“I shared that vision with Dan and his two guys, and they look at me with pure shock,” Luber said. One of them took out a sheet of paper that outlined the same idea, a stock market for sneakers.
Gilbert had been struck with the idea himself while watching one of his sons buy and sell sneakers, Luber said. Not long after his serendipitous meeting with the NBA owner, Luber secured Gilbert's funding and support to launch StockX. Like Gilbert's Quicken Loans, StockX now is headquartered in Detroit.
Investors back a new twist on a tested concept.
The concept itself is hardly new. StockX applies the 100-plus-year-old stock market exchange concept to a live marketplace where commodity goods are bought and sold online. Sneakers are just the beginning. Craft handbags, watches and other items have the potential to be up next. StockX validates the goods sold and connects buyers and sellers on the platform.
“The big, big idea is that everything can be bought and sold this way." Luber said. "It’s about standardizing it so people don’t have to worry about if it’s real or fake."
StockX since has received funding from Ron Conway and Eminem, with other celebrity endorsements and investments coming soon. Luber has recruited nearly half his team to relocate to the Detroit home base, joining the city's growing tech and startup scene.
“People that are in startups want to be a part of a building something. It’s inspiring to them,” Luber said. “I can’t think of a more fun place to be for people who want to build stuff than a city rebuilding itself.”