On January 9th, 2024, Residents of The Garage gathered together for the first Family Dinner of the quarter. Notably, we welcomed the largest Residency cohort in The Garage’s history - 49 teams composed of over 200 students!
On this record-breaking occasion, we heard from Chris Kaufman, co-founder at StockX: a global marketplace for sneakers, collectibles, and clothing. At StockX, he helped build the company from a small startup to an influential global company within the sneaker and secondhand clothing community. He recently co-founded ArtClvb, the world’s first network-based marketplace platform created for the art world, merging marketplace and authentication technologies with social mechanics—empowering artists, collectors, and galleries to display, buy, and sell art while delivering royalties and building relationships. He is also pursuing his Master’s degree in Science in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University and a Master of Fine Arts in 2D Design at Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Chris began his presentation by explaining that he developed a love for design as a child when he noticed how certain fonts can convey particular emotions. He channeled that passion for design through college and in his subsequent UI/UX and creative roles at Quicken Loans and Quizzle, a free credit reporting tool. There, he connected how design can be effective from both a problem-solving perspective and a brand perspective.
Chris also shared his experience building another one of his startups, UpTo: a modern website calendar for groups and organizations that leveraged users’ calendars to allow friends to join them on activities. He stated that he initially did not plan to spend much time on this project, but because of his dedication to continuously improving the product, he spent five years of his life to make it work. One business challenge that he identified and overcame was that most people only had boring events on their calendars, such as doctor’s appointments or work meetings. He decided to pivot by creating a public directory from the calendars of different companies, such as sports teams, local groups, and bands, that users could sync to their personal calendars. This led to a dramatic growth in popularity for the website - to a point of securing a few million active users. However, as the company started to run low on funding, he decided to pivot to another idea that one of his business partners had in mind: a website that applies stock market theory and analytics to sneakers.
Created as a live bid-ask marketplace, StockX focused on authenticity, transparency, and anonymity. After conducting extensive user research, the team decided that sneakers had to be their beachhead market due to the robust second-hand market available for shoes. Through research and trial and error, he built a successful customer base with a large online following. Chris shared that a large part of the success of the company was due to leveraging communities, being transparent, and having a good core team.
During his time as Chief Creative Officer at StockX, Chris highlighted that the most important aspect in representing and celebrating a community is to directly involve those who are a part of said community, allowing them to create a product that authentically represents it. This also relates to the company’s transparency, as authentically representing communities builds trust with the consumer base.
Chris finished his presentation by emphasizing that people are the most important asset to a business. He explained that whether it’s the consumer base, the various internal teams, or the wider community, learning to work with people is paramount in launching and sustaining a successful startup. “A core team who has a growth mindset and is willing to learn is crucial - with those qualities, a team can take a mediocre idea and turn it into a great one, whereas a mediocre team with a great idea will always have trouble making progress in executing the vision,” shared Chris.
After posing many questions to Chris, Residents left The Garage inspired to lean on their creativity and build communities around their own startups.