By Katie Amidon
Detroit is a city of fighters. It’s a city with an underdog story. Now, it’s a city that’s barreling its way back to the top. Just 15 years ago, the name “Detroit” brought forth vivid images of abandoned buildings with boarded windows. However, in the past few years investors and business owners have been flocking to Detroit, and the city has entered a period of massive growth and revitalization unlike any that it has ever seen. This mass migration has created a startup scene as vibrant and hip as the city itself. Leading the crowd is StockX, a self-declared “stock market of things” whose main feature is the authentification, buying, and selling of sneakers and other high end consumer goods. Recently, a few members of our MPowered team had the opportunity to tour this rapidly expanding startup. On this tour, they learned the secret to StockX’s success: every member of the company has a drive to make the company succeed — kind of like the city of Detroit itself.
MPowered member Katie Ford gushed about the company’s ability to adapt to the tremendous growth that their platform has been achieving. According to Katie, StockX employees leading the tour emphasized the commitment of the company to keep moving no matter what. This attitude has both caused StockX to don a hard-working mentality and allowed them to adapt to the high level of growth they have experienced. Tour leaders emphasized StockX’s rapid expansion and relayed that Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavs and one of the founders of StockX, believes StockX experienced such success because they didn’t wait to take advantage of the growth that they achieved. When the platform grew more quickly than they could have imagined, they buckled down and worked harder than ever to accommodate that growth. Katie had nothing but positive impressions of this attitude. She said that “everyone there was very friendly, legitimately excited about the tour and passionate about the company.” For Katie, that passion was infectious enough to get her excited about her own future career, and it’s certainly infectious enough to make a name for StockX in Detroit’s field of startups.
The passion and excitement that StockX employees feel is for good reason: StockX’s business model is revolutionary in its field. StockX is the first company to invoke a “stock market” for things. What makes their products different is the customer gets a fail-proof and up-to-date guarantee of its value, a revolutionary concept in the realm of sneakers. Robbie Vowels is an MPowered member with quite a bit of experience in the sneaker industry himself. He is currently the owner of sneaker-focused Instagram account @ic3ysole with almost 300,000 followers, and is a self-proclaimed ‘sneakerhead’. He reported that their method of authenticating shoes is more detailed than he could have ever imagined. According to Robbie, what makes StockX stand out from other sneaker authentication sites is their “effort to make sure the customer is satisfied”. That effort to satisfy the customer, their revolutionary methods of authenticating shoes and other items, along with the passion, drive, and positivity for their product present in the StockX workplace is what makes their company a success.
This drive and passion is analogous to the mentalities of Detroit and its inhabitants. It’s no secret that Detroit has carried a negative reputation, and the city is still fighting to change that negative perspective that many still hold to this day. However, it is through the hard work of Detroit’s inhabitants, including startups like StockX, that make the city the hub of innovation that it is today. Michael Kovalcik, a participant of the StockX tour and MPowered’s president, said that the prospect of going on this tour made him excited because he knew quite a bit about the company beforehand and he “saw them as the ‘poster child’ of Detroit’s comeback”. And it’s true: StockX has not only been making waves across the startup scene in Detroit, but it is playing a role in the comeback of the city itself. Prior to touring StockX, almost 20% of the StockX tour members surveyed stated that their perception of Detroit was either ‘negative’ or even ‘extremely negative’. However, after touring StockX, not a single member of the tour reported having a negative view of Detroit, and 72% of tour members reported that their view of the city was now ‘positive’. One tour member remarked upon their experience: “Detroit has a really bad rap. I was surprised at how nice it is.” These statistics speak volumes about the work that StockX is doing to grow as a company and revolutionize the city that it calls home.
When Michael was asked about the reasoning for StockX’s success, he emphasized this old euphemism: “bet on the jockey, not the horse”. The people at StockX aren’t afraid to put in the hours. They’ve worked for their success. With their innovative business model and relentless enthusiasm, StockX is certainly a jockey worth betting on. And so is the city of Detroit.
We would like to thank Katie Ford, Michael Kovalcik, and Robbie Vowels of MPowered Entrepreneurship for their contributions.