"My passions are building technology, and collecting and buying and selling sneakers,” says Kemar Newell. Fortunately, the industrious 28-year-old has found a way to merge those interests into a successful startup. In 2014—with a computer science degree from Morehouse College, as well as stints with Apple and Google on his résumé—he came up with the idea for Flip, an app that allows sought-after sneakers to be bought and sold in a 90-minute timeframe. The following year, Flip was accepted into Y Combinator and subsequently launched in 2016. The company has secured investments from well-known names in tech, sports, entertainment and VC, including Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
While the concept of a resale marketplace is not new—Forbes estimates that the sneaker secondary market is a $1 billion industry—Flip’s fast-moving model is a large part of its appeal, as is its wide-ranging catalog (more than 10,000 kicks, from general releases to rare exclusives, are available). “A seven-day auction for an item doesn’t work,” Newell observes. “It slows down liquidity tremendously, especially for items that are in very high demand. And there is a demand curve that strongly correlates to your potential resale value after the shoes launch.” With Flip, sellers submit photos to help the company authenticate the product. A guaranteed sale price is agreed upon, and then the sneakers are listed as “coming soon” for a couple days to create some hype. If the 90-minute auction yields no bids, Flip will buy the shoes.
Newell’s personal trove exceeds 3,000 pairs, with the Nike Air Yeezy Red October and self-lacing Nike Air Mags (aka, the Back to the Future shoes) among his current favorites. On Flip, the Adidas Yeezy 350 Boost are especially popular, and in 2017, the Off-White x Nike The Ten Collection was the most coveted. The app’s priciest transaction? Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers that sold for $5,400. With reselling such big business, Newell and his team aren’t stopping at sneakers: Flip is expanding into handbags and streetwear. Make room in your closet accordingly.
Originally published in the March issue of Silicon Valley