Business People Style

StockX CEO Josh Luber

September 20, 2017

CEO of StockX Josh Luber, shares how he started his company, his favorite pair of shoes and some great start-up advice. 

By Chelsie Dzbanski and Rachel Schostak / Photo featured above courtesy of Bedrock.

What inspired you to start your company?

I had a company before StockX called Campless, which was a sneaker data company. It was kind of like the Kelly Blue Book for sneakers. Campless started back when I went to work for IBM in New York, which I never thought I would do, because I’m a start-up guy and I had started three other companies before going to IBM.

When I was working at IBM, I was doing data work as a consultant, and I started collecting sneaker data just to play with for my own amusement because I’m a sneaker collector. Because working at IBM really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, I took my side project and eventually transformed it into a company. It just all goes back to the fact that I collected sneakers forever and became very proficient in data, and that all led to the genesis of the whole idea.

Inside StockX HQ. Photo by Chelsie Dzbanski.

How does your site work?

StockX is a stock market of things and a consumer marketplace. We connect buyers and sellers of sneakers, watches and handbags. We connect buyers and sellers the exact same way that the stock exchange connects buyers and sellers. Which is for lack of a less cliché way to say, completely revolutionary and unique, and genuinely doesn’t exist in any other forms of commerce expect for the actual stock market.

Fundamentally there are three key points that conduct stock market commerce:

One: Anonymity, completely anonymous. If you go on eBay or Amazon, there is all this noise around who the seller is, where they’re located, how many reviews they have, etc., but when you go to buy a share of Apple stock on The New York Stock Exchange, there’s an actual seller on the other end of that trade selling you that share, but you don’t know who it is and you don’t care — all you care about is the price you’re paying for it.

Second: Authenticity. We know it’s real. You never have to worry if you’re getting a fake share of stock from Apple. At StockX, we physically authenticate every product as well.

Third: The last piece is transparency around data. What are things worth? Historical sales? Can you see everything you’ve ever wanted to know about an asset? StockX operates like the New York Stock Exchange in terms of how we connect buyers and sellers, which is the bid and the ask. Buyers place bids (what they want to pay for it); sellers place asks (what they want to sell it for). When they meet, the transaction happens.

By having those three things— anonymity, authenticity and transparency — you create a much more efficient market for buying and selling anything. It’s been the most efficient way to buy and sell stocks for hundreds of years and it’s worked well for sneakers so far.

Portrait of Josh Luber. Photo courtesy of StockX.

How old is the company?

We launched the site in February of 2016.

You mentioned that you’ve always been interested in shoes. Do you remember the first collector pair of shoes you purchased?

People my age all have the same story. I grew up playing basketball when Jordan played and I always wanted Jordans, but my mother would never buy me a pair. Around 2000-2001, the Air Jordan 11 Concorde had been re-released. After I graduated from college and had been working for a year or so, I finally had my own money to go buy a pair of Jordans. I remember going to the mall about a month after they came out. I walked into a shoe store and asked if they had any left. The two dudes working there told me they were going to put the last pair left up on eBay. I said, “No way! I’m buying those!” I bought them and wore them to play basketball with for the next year and a half, and I still have them. Those are the first Jordans I had ever bought, but to be honest, I still have shoes from when I was in seventh grade.

Air Jordan 11 Concord. Photo from stockx.com.

What pair of shoes are you wearing right now?

Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 White

Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 White. Photo from stockx.com.

How do you pick out a pair of shoes to wear for the day?

I have about 400 pairs of shoes, which is a lot for most people, but in the sneaker world, some people have thousands. It’s certainly not a grand collection in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still 400 pairs of shoes, which makes for a difficult decision every day on which ones to wear.

Inside Josh Luber’s shoe closet. Photo courtesy of StockX.

The first shoe wall that I ever built was in my first house in Atlanta, and my wife asked me if she could put her shoes in there too and I said, “Absolutely not.” Because then if someone asks, “Are these all yours?” I can’t say yes.

Do you have a favorite pair or go-to brand?

I have six pairs of the Air Jordan 1 Lance Mountain White sneakers, which is a white pair of Air Jordan 1s that you can wear any time, but they have paint that chips off as you wear them, so they change colors. They go with everything and they’re comfortable.

Air Jordan 1 Lance Mountain White. Photo from stockx.com.

We heard that you just launched StockX Bags, how is that going? What is unique about that site?

We’re just getting started with handbags and watches, so we haven’t done a lot of marketing for StockX Bags yet. We’ve just been learning the differences between sneakers and handbags and figuring out how to get them up on the same level as the sneakers. Overall, our timing for the launch of StockX Bags was phenomenal. Louis Vuitton and Supreme did a collaboration around our launch and that design hit our customers dead on. We’ve been happy with the sales so far and are looking forward to really pushing the brand. Right now we only carry Louis VuittonChanelGucci and Hermes. We plan to expand into other brands as well.

Louis Vuitton x Supreme Danube Epi PM Red. Photo from stockx.com.

Do you see your company branching out into any other categories?

We’ll be launching streetwear within the next six months, which will include brands such as SupremeBapeKith and more. I don’t think we’ll go beyond streetwear for a while. We will push our current stuff right now and focus on growing the watch and handbag sector. There are a lot of other potential verticals that have a market for collectors or as exclusivity items. From items as simple as action figures, baseball cards, coins, stamps, etc., to potentially bigger ticket items like wine, classic cars and jewelry. There’s something for everyone, and our model works well for a variety of items.

Can you tell us about your video series and why you started it?

StockX TV started organically. It wasn’t intended or always a part of the plan, but we had access to Dan Gilbert’s, co-founder of StockX, production company, Woodward Original, which created an intro start-up video for us featuring Wale. It came out so awesome that we decided to continue making videos featuring all of these celebrities that we have connections with. We had this idea of “Mad Money for Sneakers,” because data has always been so core to our business and DNA from the very beginning. For our first video, we went out to Steve Aoki’s house in Vegas and valued his sneaker collection, played in his fun house, and did a bunch of other cool stuff. Overall, it’s purely a branding thing and an obvious way for us to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. Plus, it’s a cool way to engage people and build the StockX brands.

StockX TV Ep. 1 – Aoki’s Playhouse. Photo courtsey of StockX.

Who do you think has the most supreme or unique collection of shoes?

Steve Aoki has a unique collection. Most people you meet have a lot of Jordans & Yeezys, but he only had six pairs of Jordans and three pairs of Yeezys out of 500 pairs of shoes. He had a lot of unique stuff like Jeremy Scott and Adidas with his face on the side of the shoe, which was very much a reflection of him and his style, so that was fun to do that collection of shoes. We also did Mark Wahlberg’s collection. He’s a huge Jordan guy. I would say 90 percent of his collection was made up of Jordans, so that wasn’t as unique. But to see all of the crazy stuff that Steve had is part of the reason why we chose him for the first episode of StockX TV.

Best sellers or brand that sells the best?

All Yeezy.

Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Black Red. Photo from stockx.com.

How would you describe your personal style?

Personal. I did not think about my outfit when I got dressed this morning.

One of the greatest things about working here and working with Dan Gilbert is that he absolutely wants me to be myself and wear whatever I want. I can wear whatever I want to any type of meeting with Dan or with Warren Buffet or even with the mayor of Detroit.

Josh Luber

Josh Luber lounging in his in office, oversized “nap chair.” Photo by Chelsie Dzbanski

Current jam?

My Sirius XM channels right now are 90s on 9, Lithium, the two New York and LA pop stations, and BPM. Most of the music that I listen to is what I used to listen to when I was 17. 

How have you dealt with some of the challenges as a business owner? Any advice for those thinking about starting their own business?

The advice that I always give to people is to just always keep doing something. StockX is a bad example because of the amount of success it has reached in such a short period of time. It’s rare. I started a lot of businesses and none of them have seen anywhere near the success that StockX has. You learn from every start up and rarely do you get to use what you’ve learned in that same business.

When I started Campless, which became StockX, I was doing it on the side for almost three years. I didn’t really know where it was going, and I couldn’t have possibly imagined it could be what it is now. But I knew there was something there. I knew I just needed to keep doing something and keep pushing forward. You will never be able to plan to have a billionaire call you up out of the blue and say, “I have the exact same idea as you and I want to buy your company,” but that’s what happened. But I kept pushing forward and I put myself in that position and then the serendipity of it all made it happen.

Josh Luber

Josh Luber with his sneaker collection. Photo courtesy of Bedrock.

The other thing is to talk to everybody about everything and don’t ever ask someone to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Don’t ever think anyone is going to steal your idea. If someone has the time and the ability to execute your idea better then you, then more power to them anyway. There’s a reason no professional investor will sign an NDA. You want me to sign a document to help you with your business? No thanks.

What do you think of the resurgence in Detroit?

I grew up in Philadelphia and then I lived in Atlanta for 15 years. After that, I moved to New York for a few years and then back to Philadelphia. Then, in 2015, I met Dan and ended up moving to Detroit to start StockX. I had never lived in Detroit; I had never thought about Detroit. I had every perception everyone else has about Detroit. In the two and a half years that I’ve been here it’s like night and day. Every day another business, another building, another restaurant opens. There’s Shake Shack and Tony Hawk’s skate park and Wahlburgers, and none of that stuff was here when I first came here. Plus, I’m getting the chance to be a part of rebuilding a city. It’s been unbelievable and I love it.

The Wayfinding Skate Park, a collaboration between Bedrock, Library Street Collective, Cranbrook Art Museum and Tony Hawk was opened on August 15, 2017. Photo courtesy of Bedrock.

What role does your company plays in the revival of Detroit?

About a third of the people working here have been recruited from other cities, so I think we play a big role in bringing other people here and showing them the potential of Detroit. I hope one day we can become a Detroit-exported brand like Shinola.

Downtown Detroit. Photo courtesy of Bedrock.

Local Love List: Go-to for coffee?

I kind of joke that I’ve only been in two buildings in the whole city, which is my house and the office because I travel so much, work so much, and I have a family. I only drink coffee at home or from the espresso machine in the office. Cafe Du Monde is my favorite brand.

Favorite cocktail spot?

I rarely drink anymore. It was never a conscious decision to stop drinking. The best time to do work is from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. There are no emails, no phone calls and my family is asleep. Slowly, I got into this rhythm of working during those hours so I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a drink.

Favorite brunch spot?

Steve’s Deli

Go-to restaurant?

I eat the most at, purely due to proximity, Townhouse or Maru.

Photo courtesy of Maru Sushi Detroit

Where would we spot you shopping?

Ironically, it wouldn’t be a sneaker store. I shop a lot online at KithEND clothing and, obviously, I buy my sneakers on StockX.

You can follow Josh and StockX on Instagram at @jluber31  and @StockX. 

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