For his first game as an L.A. Laker last October, Kyle Kuzma entered the Staples Center in a pair of vintage 2003 Nike Zoom Flights. It was partially to honor teammate LeBron James, who had worn the style for his NBA debut, but also to build awareness. Not for Nike: Kuzma isn’t a spokesperson. He’s the first brand ambassador for GOAT, the online sneaker-resale platform. Since its 2015 launch, GOAT has grown into a premium lifestyle brand with more than 150,000 sellers, 10 million customers, and 750,000 shoes for sale. Last year, dozens of its sellers each moved more than $10 million worth of kicks, which can run upwards of $10,000 a pair. GOAT typically takes a 9.5% commission.
Savvy partnerships (Versace tapped the company to sell its Chain Reaction sneakers last summer) and a seamless user experience (it takes just one swipe to buy) have propelled the company’s growth, along with a rigorous authentication process. Each new shoe undergoes a literal smell test to ensure that it’s not counterfeit: Nikes, for example, have a particular factory scent. Used kicks are cleaned and refurbished so that even leather creases are removed. “You don’t want to buy a used car,” says cofounder Eddy Lu. “You want a certified preowned Mercedes-Benz. That’s what we’re doing for the sneaker industry.” With a new $100 million strategic investment from Foot Locker, GOAT is proving that the secondary market is anything but second place.