A sneaker platform raised $2 million to keep kicks away from resellers. Here's how its founders are preserving sneaker culture as resale booms into a multi-billion dollar industry.

  • SoleSavy is a platform aiming to foster a community of sneaker enthusiasts who are not interested in reselling.
  • The platform recently raised $2 million in seed funding, as part of a round closed at the end of 2020. 
  • For $33 dollars a month, SoleSavy members are granted entry into an exclusive online community and given the tools to successfully buy sneakers online.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the sneaker resale market explodes, buying a pair of new kicks at retail price is no longer as simple as it used to be. SoleSavy, a new sneaker startup, just raised $2 million to put the power back in the hands of sneaker enthusiasts who are not looking to profit off their purchases.

"Since day one, our motto and our messaging has always been no reselling," SoleSavy cofounder Dejan Pralica told Insider in an interview. "I wanted to create a place where actual sneakerheads could come together free of resell, free of that discussion, and just focus on what they are passionate about, which is wearing shoes."

SoleSavy's seed funding round closed at the end of last year and included angel investors such as Panache Ventures, Tiny Capital, Bedrock Capital, and Morning Brew's Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief. Insider acquired a majority stake in Morning Brew in October.

Read more: Inside the controversial underworld of sneaker 'bots,' where coded scripts resell for thousands of dollars and Twitter monitors can make or break a release

Pralica, who previously cofounded discounted sneaker site Kicks Deals, launched SoleSavy in 2018 with cofounder Justin Dusanj, the former director of operations at New Age Sports, a sports and athleticwear retailer. SoleSavy is a membership-based forum that offers information and tools to help people buy and enjoy sneakers for themselves at a cost of $33 a month. At the same time, members are able to connect with a community of like-minded sneakerheads without the underlying goal of flipping pairs to turn a profit.

SoleSavy currently has over 5,000 members across the US and Canada, broken down into various private communities that all live on Slack. Pralica said that SoleSavy is currently profitable and hitting an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $1.8 million from membership fees and revenue from affiliate partners. 

An anti-cook group

A general frustration with the resale-focused nature of sneaker culture spurred the birth of SoleSavy, Pralica said. Resellers often dominate sneaker drops and make thousands through sales, thanks to industry connections and bots, or software programs, that expedite the checkout process online. The result being that people who want a pair for themselves are often left empty-handed.

With the sneaker and streetwear resale industry estimated to hit $30 billion globally by 2030, SoleSavy is taking the focus away from resale and putting it back on the consumer.

"I just find that if [resale is] your driving goal and what you're trying to do, you lose sight of the actual journey and what matters. And that's the consumer," Pralica said.

In the sneaker reselling world, exclusive forums called cook groups charge hefty membership fees in return for botting services and exclusive details related to drops. These bots, which are notoriously difficult to use, allow people to purchase as many pairs as possible at checkout. Cook groups are often run on Discord, a messaging platform that has become a hotbed for sneakerhead activity. 

But even sneaker purists know getting pairs would be nearly impossible without some sort of technological leg-up. As such, SoleSavy uses certain elements of botting technology to help its members beat resellers at their own game while preventing members from exploiting the system. So while the platform provides web monitors to alert members about new restocks and technology to expedite the checkout process online, users are still limited to purchasing one pair at a time. And SoleSavy specifically weeds out any potential resellers from joining the platform through a vetting process. 

In some ways, SoleSavy functions as an "anti-cook" group. "My way to fight them is to use their own tools against them," Pralica said.

With its latest fundraising round, SoleSavy plans to launch a marketplace for members to trade and sell their kicks among themselves. 

In moderation, Pralica said reselling sneakers is acceptable to both him and the SoleSavy team — so long as it's not the ultimate goal of its members.

"I don't think [resale is] as simple as black and white because selling shoes to other sneakerheads has always been a part of the culture," he said. "It's just that the exploitation level of it has went through the roof. And it's just not fair to the average consumer."

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