How Tradeblock is Providing a Refreshing Way to Get Your Hands on Sneakers

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The process of buying sneakers has become a rather redundant one. You get word of a new sneaker coming out that catches your attention, said sneaker is only available by way of a platform that you pretty much have to put your name in a hat for, and you either get them or you don't. If you fail at getting at said sneaker and you happen to find them on the secondary market, chances are you'll be paying double or triple the original retail price, which is simply unfair. This has been the sneaker game for a minute, and frankly it's understandably turned a lot of people off from wanting to participate. Now what we told you there's an alternate option available that's way more fair?

Allow us to introduce you to Tradeblock. A first-of-its-kind black-owned sneaker trading platform, Tradeblock is a unique opportunity to explore the collections of fellow sneakerheads (some of whom may have the coveted sneaker you are looking for), and negotiate a trade that both of you find equitable. The masterminds behind the company are Tony Malveaux, Darren Smith, and Mbiyimoh Ghogomu, who decided to join forces in 2019 to make their dreams come true. And with Penny Hardaway as a new investor, the future is bright.

We caught up with Ghogomu to talk all things Tradeblock. You can check out the interview below.

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ONE37pm: Great to be chatting with you today! Tradeblock sounds like such an exciting addition to the sneaker community. Can you tell us more?

Ghogomu: Absolutely! Tradeblock is part of a central marketplace for sneaker collectors. Basically, as sneakerheads ourselves, we really started thinking about this idea back in 2019. There was a gap in the market as far as the opportunity to trade, a lot of places talk about "buying, selling, and trading," but as things moved from buying in-person to online, we felt as though trading had been left behind. We've got StockX, GOAT, Grailed, etc., which are focused on buying and selling, so we decided to attack the trading part of it. The other piece of Tradeblock was thinking about access. The biggest pain point in sneakers today is access and end cost. You have all of these resellers and bots that are signing up for the raffles, and now you're faced with having to pay $500/$600 for the shoe you wanted.

The idea of Tradeblock is to give you the ability to leverage your existing collection as opposed to having to pay in cash.

- Mbiyimoh Ghogomu

We felt that there's a lot of passionate sneaker collectors that may not have half of a rent check sitting around to spend on shoes, but what a lot of them do have are shoes they've purchased, that they are either not wearing or selling. The idea of Tradeblock is to give you the ability to leverage your existing collection as opposed to having to pay in cash. That was a big part of the inspiration as well.

ONE37pm: Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Walk us through the evolution of the platform.

Ghogomu: The beginning is actually well before we started building Tradeblock, as I've known the co-founders since I was kid—we all grew up playing sports together. Darren and I met in junior high and we played basketball together in high school. I met Tony in highschool—we ran track together. We've known each other for a long time, and all three of us used to work at sneaker retail stores in the mall. We also all experienced the early rumblings of what would become this massive secondary market in sneakers. How it manifested itself back then—when there was a big sneaker release coming out, people would basically offer to give $50 or $100 in cash to hold their size.

There was one guy that would regularly come into Finish Line, where I worked, to do that, and one day I asked him how it made sense to spend that much to hold the shoe on top of the retail price. He told me that he would turn around and flip the shoes he would get for oftentimes double the original retail price. A couple weeks later Tony, the biggest sneakerhead of all of us, was playing around with hypothetical trades on ESPN. He said that it would be really cool if somebody took the trade machine on ESPN and applied it to sneakers, but making it real instead of hypothetical.

It would be really cool if somebody took the trade machine on ESPN and applied it to sneakers.

- Mbiyimoh Ghogomu

That was in 2009/2010, but none of us took it seriously at the time. Fast forward a decade later, we were all comfortable within our professional careers, but restless. Darren spurred it by reminding us of the idea we came up with a decade ago. We felt we owed it to ourselves to try. That was in the fall of 2019, and we hit the ground running with Sneakercons, giveaways, and trades on Instagram.

We attacked a niche that people had underestimated.

- Mbiyimoh Ghogomu

ONE37pm: How did Tradeblock become the fastest growing sneaker startup in the world?

Ghogomu: It was a combination of things. We attacked a niche that people had really underestimated. In the startup world, people talk a lot about solving the "hard problem." There's been a lot of companies that have said they wanted to create a buy, sell, trade company all in one, but in every case the trade part has been the hardest. We were very intentional on offering a truly unique service that nobody else offered, and putting all of our resources into one. Another part of it goes back to the point about access. It is unique to secure one of your really valuable shoes, your "grails," and to only spend $45 out of pocket. That is what Tradeblock really allows you to do. In many ways it's a fantasy sports app.

ONE37pm: How about the NBA component and partnering with Penny Hardaway? How is that going to work?

Ghogomu: We've really thought a lot about cultural authenticity. We wanted to make a point that we aren't culture vultures. We are collectors and former athletes ourselves. Sports culture, and particularly the NBA, is a huge part of sneaker culture. When we saw a huge opportunity to partner with not just an NBA legend, but one of the most influential figures from a unique silhouette standpoint—it was a no brainer. Penny Hardaway's impact on both the NBA and sneakers—that guy has so many silhouettes that were important to early sneaker culture in the 1990s and 2000s. We're big on what is the bigger "why" of the company, and for us it's trying to provide an example and more opportunities for people of color to get into the tech space.

When we connected with Penny, he was really excited that the company was founded by three young Black men who aren't to dissimilar from who he was growing up. He appreciated us not being willing to put on "masks" and be ourselves was important to him.

ONE37pm: What makes Tradeblock different from other sneaker platforms out there?

Ghogomu: I would say it's the nature of our product, and the fact that we are a social market place, which is something I feel makes us different. We really give collectors an opportunity to curate a public persona. If you're on StockX, GOAT, etc., you have no idea who you are buying from. That was an intentional decision they made to put a black box in between buyers and sellers. For us, we realized that being a sneaker collector is so much more than just that one transaction of buying and selling. It's about connecting with people that explore that passion.

ONE37pm: Anything else you want to add?

Ghogomu: I feel like I've covered a vast majority of everything other than to add we've got a lot in the chamber for this year. We recently brought on a new head of product who is very fantastic, and we're really excited about that. Whether you are on Tradeblock or not, there's a ton of improvements and new features coming!

You can keep up with all things Tradeblock via their official website and Instagram.

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