Josh Luber is the co-founder of StockX, the world’s first “Stock Market of Things” deemed by the media. StockX is an online marketplace that enables the buying and selling of high-demand consumer products, including sneakers, watches, handbags streetwear and collectibles. The platform connects buyers and sellers using the same method as the world’s stock markets – an anonymous, transparent and authentic ‘bid/ask’ market. Before StockX, Josh founded Campless, a price guide for sneakers, while working as an IBM consultant. Campless, which evolved into StockX, was known as the Kelley Blue Book for sneakers -- a “sneakerhead data” company that tracked the secondary market for sneaker sales, a $6 billion global industry. Josh has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, London Financial Times, ESPN and The Daily Show, among others. He has collected sneakers for over 30 years and delivered the world’s first TED Talk about them.
Was there a specific life event or reason you chose to become an entrepreneur/investor?
I think most entrepreneurs would say that [becoming an entrepreneur] it’s not really a conscious decision as much as a realization.
I graduated college in ‘99 and the word entrepreneur didn’t really exist or at least it was code for unemployed and when I started out the internet barely existed. I didn’t realize I was going to go down that path until a couple years out of school. I wish I was born either four years earlier or later. I graduated in ‘99, right in the middle of the first dot com crash. If I would’ve been born earlier, I would’ve been more attuned to it and I would’ve been possibly involved in it. If it would’ve been later, by the time I would have come out of school, there’s already this notion of knowing how to become a tech entrepreneur.
When you look back, it all sorts of adds up from selling candy and baseball cards, to a tech startup.
You have to put yourself in the position for good things to happen or good timing to happen.
StockX is the fourth company that I started.
I never thought I’d have this much success or a billionaire as a cofounder that would have the exact same idea as me and happened to be one of the most successful business people in the world, that’s just crazy and I didn’t know him. I had never been to Cleveland, I had never been to Detroit. So the timing of being able to have this idea at that moment.
We look back at StockX and there’s been so many serendipitous moments in terms of Dan and I getting together, how we got our first authenticator, how we found Scott, our new CEO. There’s been so many things that happened and if you put yourself in the position to have good fortune and have good timing, then those things could happen, but you certainly can’t plan them - frankly, I’d rather be lucky, than good.
Becoming an entrepreneur happened by happenstance.
What’s one piece of advice, quote, you would tell all entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur is definitely about getting stuff done regardless of what the circumstances are. Talk to everyone about everything. You know don’t ever think someone is going to steal your idea or that you need an NDA to go talk to somebody.
The idea that your idea is unique is crazy, it’s about if you can’t actually execute it and the only way to refine it and improve it is find people to work with and figure out how you’re going to execute is to talk to as many people as possible. Just do something. Sitting around and hoping and wishing is wasting time. For a good year and a half at StockX, literally all I was doing was cleaning data in an Excel files and I didn’t exactly know why, but it seemed like the thing that was needed to move to the next level, it was either that or sitting around and talking about it.
What’s mission critical for all investments/business decisions you make?
Dan [Gilbert] has this thing that he talks about, his analogy is “to fly”. The pilot has instruments to give them the math and the science, but then they also use their eyes, and sometimes that rely on their eyes and sometimes on their instruments, even if they can’t see something with their eyes or vice versa. I think it’s some combination of fact and gut, and I think it can never be 100% of one. It’s about learning how to balance between the two and making sure you have enough of each.
Going from zero to one billion, there’s no playbook, you just figure it out. Going from a billion to 10 billion, there’s absolutely a playbook, and there’s very clear metrics and properties and how you do things. So the more structure and the more scale, the more you get into replicable activities. The further you move towards structure and scale the more it's about the data and the numbers and less about a gut feeling.
What’s your favourite question to ask yourself and why?
Go with your gut feeling. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
What’s the single most important reason for your success?
For StockX It’s about the model. We took what was probably the most efficient form of commerce, which is the stock market, and just applied it to a new area. We didn’t make any of this stuff, we just copied it. So it was the execution in making that happen. The business model is why we’re successful. The reason we’ve been able to do that is we’ve been super fortunate and like I said there’s been a lot of serendipitous terms in how the team has come together and we’ve had this really phenomenal team that you can’t necessarily plan for.
What does a typical day look like for you and how do you structure it?
It’s pretty bad generally. I usually go to bed between 3-4am and wake up around 8am. I take two naps during the day. One at work and the other at home after I put my daughter to bed. But the reality is that I’m probably on the road more than half the time, in which case that goes out the window. But what happens is that quiet time from 10pm to 2am that’s just when I can do work and there’s no meetings, no emails, and my wife and kids are asleep. And that’s a really great time to get stuff done and do whatever. You know if you reach a certain point where your life is mainly meetings and all that stuff then there’s not a whole lot of time to do work and frankly I still really like that. I miss the days when I’d got in to IBM first and second year and I’d just put on my headphones and sit in front of an Excel spreadsheet for 15 hours, that being said there’s something really nice about that if you can get that for a couple hours a night.
Do you have a favourite blog or book you recommend to friends or colleagues?
This Is Not a T-Shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community — a Life in Streetwear by Bobby Hundreds
Since being an entrepreneur/investor, what has been your biggest mistake and lesson learned?
My last startup before Campless, which became StockX. We raised a couple hundred thousand dollars of friends and family money and then the company and I lost about 200 hundred thousand dollars of money from friends and family and have to pick up the phone and call everyone and tell them that there money was gone and not coming back and just the process of going through that. I still have the list actually of the people and how much they invested. Some of them were my grandfather, classmates from law school & business school, their parents and stuff like that.
What companies and/or technologies are you paying attention to? Why do they stand out?
I think 3D printing is the next internet. I feel like at some point you go home and there’s a 3D printer and you want some pizza and it 3D prints that. I want a toy for my kid, let me 3D print that. It’s all something out of the Jetson’s. So I think the material scientist creates that goes in to the 3D printer will be the next big tech entrepreneurs. That seems like the biggest innovation and change.
What do you think about networking? Is there specific way you prefer to network?
I’m a good public speaker and I can go out and do that. If its work related individual meetings I can do that. But if you’re talking about networking events and parties, I’m probably going to sit in the corner and go home early.
StockX carries a lot of products for women, like handbags, watches, and shoes - do you consider StockX a major leader in women’s streetwear industry?
StockX is absolutely a leader in all streetwear and fashion -- women’s included. A lot of major brands are making a concerted effort to design with the female consumer in mind; mainstays like Jordan Brand and Puma have introduced collaborations that tend to feel more feminine. StockX is a marketplace -- we connect buyers and sellers with the best products and that includes products for women.
How are you growing and catering to your female audience?
When I started, the sneaker industry was male-dominant. Over the four years since we launched StockX, the brands themselves, particularly sneaker brands, started creating women’s products as opposed to just smaller sizes or bright colours that tend to be thought of as women’s colours. By having a larger collection of these types of products on the platform, StockX continues to cater to female customers. We also launched product categories like handbags and watches, which include accessories and other items that are primarily feminine.
For what it's worth, we actively partner with influential women and female-led brands. Our recent Europen exhibition was curated in collaboration with Sarah Andelman of Colette and our very own Deena Bahri is leading the StockX marketing department as our first-ever CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
Who are female designers to watch in streetwear industry?
Melody Ehsani is the first person who comes to mind -- she has been a StockX supporter for a long time, she was in Detroit for StockX Day 3 and she’s done a lot of great stuff with us. Cynthia Lu of Cactus Plant Flea Market gets a lot of notoriety these days because Cactus Plant has become so engrained with big cultural moments and cultural icons like Pharrell and Kanye. I’ve also had an interest in Kristen Noel Crawley because she was originally most known as Don C’s wife and has really developed a great brand for herself. Above all else, Yoon from Ambush has probably been the most prominent female in streetwear over the past two years and has been a phenomenal example for everybody. Most of the Ambush clothing and jewelry are unisex so it’s pretty awesome to have both men and women wearing your designs.