Sneaker Platform Goat Group Raises $100 Million to Fund Expansion Plans

Originally Posted On
The Wall Street Journal

Goat Group, best known for its online marketplace for sneakerheads, has raised $100 million in a Series E funding round to further its expansion into new apparel and product categories, as well as its efforts to work with more brands to sell their products directly on its platform.

The Series E funding comes from D1 Capital Partners. The deal values 1661 Inc., which does business as Goat Group, at $1.75 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company was previously valued at $550 million, the person said.

Sneaker culture has grown in prominence in recent years as young shoppers seek out rare shoe models online and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to collect them. It has helped propel the growth of new marketplaces and businesses such as Goat Group and StockX.

In July, research firm Cowen estimated the sneaker and streetwear resale market is north of $2 billion in North America, with the potential to reach $30 billion globally by 2030.

The area has also drawn investor interest. Founded in 2015, Goat Group previously raised nearly $200 million from investors including Accel, Upfront Ventures and retailer Foot Locker Inc., which last year invested $100 million in the company.

Goat Group plans to invest more to be a bigger platform for fashionable apparel and accessories beyond sneakers, including items sold directly by brands, said Eddy Lu, Goat Group’s chief executive.

More than 350 brands sell their products directly on Goat Group’s platform, according to the company. Fashion brand Alexander McQueen this month used Goat Group to help introduce its MCQ label of jackets, dresses and other apparel.

Sneakers will nonetheless remain a core part of the company’s business, Mr. Lu said.

The company will also seek to differentiate itself from other marketplaces by curating products and collections that fit its brand sensibility, he added.

“We are not a broad-based marketplace that will sell any tchotchke in the world,” Mr. Lu said. “We want to have a point of view on fashion, culture and style.”

Platforms such as Goat are attractive to brands because sneaker and streetwear enthusiasts tend to be younger, more diverse, fashionable and willing to spend money on items they covet, said Cliff Atkinson, senior vice president and executive director of digital media at ad agency RPA and a self-described sneakerhead. He cited the popularity of digital series such as Complex Media Inc.’s “Sneaker Shopping” as well as Complex’s ComplexCon event, where attendees can show up dressed in sneakers and clothes that cost thousands of dollars.

“This audience has become more mainstream and continues to grow,” Mr. Atkinson added.

Goat Group also aims to continue its international expansion efforts. The company said it has 13 authentication and distribution centers, where it verifies and does quality control on items before they are shipped to a buyer. These centers, which are in the U.S., Asia and Europe, ship products to 170 markets. It will open more centers this year and next, and plans to invest in its platform to account for more local languages and currencies, Mr. Lu said.