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Drake and Live Nation are the newest investors in Ntwrk, the QVC for Gen Z and young millennials

Ntwrk’s deft use of celebrity—and the brands who also have access to them—gives it an advantage in the influence-driven commerce game.

Drake and Live Nation are the newest investors in Ntwrk, the QVC for Gen Z and young millennials
Drake [Photo: The Come Up Show]

E-commerce platform Ntwrk just got a boost in cash—and cachet—with a second round of funding led by mega promoter Live Nation Entertainment and rap titan Drake.

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Ntwrk’s mission is “shopping at the speed of culture.” To fulfill it, the e-commerce app offers limited-edition gear coveted by cool kids sold via scheduled, limited-time drops—often with a celebrity attached. Some prominent examples include A$AP Ferg peddling Redline Bicycles, popular entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk selling K-Swiss sneakers, and LeBron James’s sneaker drop moving 100% of the available product in just 36 hours.

[Image: courtesy of Ntwrk]

“Most retailers have tons of different products they’re selling throughout the year. Ntwrk will do nothing else for an entire day but celebrate this one product and this one story—and that’s our entire plan for the day,” says CEO Aaron Levant. “I don’t think any other retailer in the world will clear out their store or their website to just sell this one thing. It’s hard to break through the white noise that is social media and the internet and capture consumer attention, which is what we’re all really in a war for.”

Drake and Live Nation add to the already impressive list of backers Ntwrk has attracted, giving Levant access to an array of high-level celebrities and the influence they bring to move merchandise. Ntwrk launched last year with backing from Warner Bros. Digital Networks along with such bold-faced names as James, Jimmy Iovine, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “The one thing we don’t do is we don’t just take anyone who just gives us money,” Levant says. “Anyone who’s decently smart can go out and raise money these days. We’re only taking on partners we feel are highly strategic, that we can put a commercial agreement in place alongside of the money where we’re actually going to get some value out of it. Every investment we’ve done, starting with Warner Bros., was predicated on not just dollars but a commercial agreement that sits on top of the investment where we can actually leverage real value out of that.”

To that end, Ntwrk’s partnership with Live Nation will focus on creating and selling exclusive, artist-driven collections and powering ticket sales for select concerts. And it had already partnered with Drake to sell exclusive merch from his Assassination Vacation European tour.

Ntwrk CEO Aaron Levant [Photo: courtesy of Ntwrk]

The Live Nation investment also gives Levant the partner he needs to launch Ntwrk Presents, an events franchise. Levant, who spearheaded the creation of Complex magazine’s annual ComplexCon, is looking to launch Ntwrk’s first event by the end of the year.

Much like the retail platform, Levant says Ntwrk Presents will differentiate itself in the events space by opting for a more in-depth experience in lieu of something more fleeting. “We’re focusing on events that are a minimum of a week, sometimes as long as 90 days,” he says. “So these have more room to breathe and give us more engagement and more of a timeline and we think that’s more meaningful.”

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The goal: brand awareness beyond the pop-up itself, a la Refinery29’s 29 Rooms or the Museum of Ice Cream. “I see events as like a margin-positive digital customer acquisition strategy,” Levant says. “So when we create experiential events, it actually has a bigger effect digitally than whatever the revenue of the physical events does. So if 1,000 or 100,000 people come to our event, there’ll be millions of people online who engage with the content. You can’t escape these really immersive events, so we want to leverage that power.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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