Inside Tradeblock’s Mission to Make Sneaker Trading More Accessible

Tradeblock has hit a new milestone.

In July, the barter-based sneaker trading marketplace reported it reached 1 million shoes available on the platform. What’s more, Jordan Brand came out on top as the platform’s most traded shoes in July. Jordan Brand’s Military Black 4s came in as the month’s most traded sneaker, followed by the brand’s Infrared 4s, Amm 1s, and the Stage Haze 1s.

This news comes just months after the Austin-based company reached over 100,000 collectors on its mobile app in January, eight months after the app’s launch in May 2021.

And while the Tradeblock team is just getting started, this two-year-old company actually has an origin story dating back to 2009 when childhood friends Mbiyimoh (Beems) Ghogomu, Tony Malveaux and Darren Smith came up with the concept of the company while playing with ESPN’s Trade Machine.

Tradeblock mobile app
Tradeblock’s mobile app
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tradeblock

Ultimately going their own separate ways, the founders reunited in 2019 eager to develop their startup idea. The result was a trade-only shopping experience, which launched in Aug. 2020, that allows collectors to trade with one another via fantasy-sports style barter negotiations.

Since its launch, Tradeblock was recognized as Forbes Next 1000, Class of 2021 last June, and received funding from Google for Startups’ Black Founders Fund, an important milestone in the company’s growth. In fact, more than 60% of Tradeblock’s angel investors are people of color. This group includes sneaker industry veterans like Jason Mayden, a former Nike footwear designer who is now VP of Fear of God Athletics, and Keith Houlemard, former president of Jordan Brand.

“It’s also important to point out that Tradeblock has three Black founders and a leadership team that’s 80% Black or Hispanic,” Ghogomu, the company’s CEO, told FN in an interview. “We also have a company that’s almost 90% Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and overall, this is very intentional. The real reason that this company exists is to support, develop and inspire the next generation of underrepresented entrepreneurs, innovators and creators.”

Tradeblock CEO Mbiyimoh (Beems) Ghogomu
Tradeblock CEO Mbiyimoh (Beems) Ghogomu.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tradeblock

The company has also worked hard to forge connections within the sneaker community since its launch. In 2021, the Tradeblock team attended eight sneaker conventions around the U.S. and participated in the San Antonio Spurs’ Sneaker Jam in November. The co-founders also participate regularly in local sneaker events throughout the Houston and Austin areas.

Tradeblock’s success comes as the sneaker resale market has grown into $6 billion global industry, according to a 2019 report from market research firm Cowen. In the report, the firm estimated that the global sneaker resale market will reach $30 billion by 2030, and the non-U.S. sneaker resale market will reach $19 billion.

Driven in large part by a consumer shift to a sustainability ethos, the entire secondhand market in the U.S. is poised to more than double by 2026, reaching $82 billion, according to ThredUp’s 2022 Resale Report released in May. In 2021 alone, the total secondhand market grew 58% over the prior year to $35 billion, ThredUp’s report said. This marks the highest level of growth in the secondhand market in five years.

This data echos similar numbers from the NPD Group. In the first quarter of 2022, according to the recent “Future of Apparel” study from NPD, consumers reported an increase in purchasing clothing on resale websites. While lower prices are the main draw for most resale shoppers, style and higher-end brands are growing in importance. The market skews towards a younger, Millennial crowd, with 66% of 18–24-year-olds reporting they shop resale websites, the NPD study found.

As for the future of Tradeblock, Ghogomu is focused on improving the platform through data-driven enhancements and adding a new way to conduct trades. “The next big thing we’re going to be working on is basically a way to easily present a trade offer to everyone who can fulfill it, versus only being able to send trades directly to one person,” Ghogomu teased. “This will ultimately allow users to close trades quicker and easier than they can now, and will hopefully add a gamification element to the experience.”

Tradeblock at Got Sole Miami
Tradeblock’s set up at Got Sole Miami.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Tradeblock
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