Playing Footsie with AI: GOAT Helps Sneakerheads Cop Authentic Kicks

Startup puts athletic shoe aficionados a step ahead in the search for genuine footwear.
by Allison Toh

Some may say that boots are made for walking, but they’ve clearly never worn Jordan 1s.

GOAT Group helps sneaker enthusiasts get their hands on authentic Air Jordans, Yeezys and a variety of old-school kicks with the help of AI.

These sneakers are serious business for collectors and investors alike. Earlier this year, the startup landed a $100 million investment from athletic footwear retailer Foot Locker.

It’s the latest chapter in what’s shaping up to be a classic entrepreneurial tale.

The startup, based in Culver City, Calif., was founded in 2015, after cofounder Daishin Sugano bought a pair of Jordan 5 Breds off eBay only to discover that they were fake.

That heartbreak turned into inspiration and a series of innovations that have turned the hobby of buying and selling sneakers into a thriving market.

“We’ve pioneered this ship-to-verify model,” said Michael Hall, director of data at GOAT Group, in a conversation with AI Podcast host Noah Kravitz.

GOAT is now the largest market for buying and selling authentic sneakers, with over 12 million users and more than 35,000 sneaker styles listed on their website.

“We have a marketplace, we have buyers, we have sellers,” Hall said. “Once the buyer decides on the shoe they want to buy, we consider them matched up. The seller sends us the shoe and the buyer gives us the money, and once we receive that shoe it goes through a very rigorous authentication process.”

According to Hall, one benefit of receiving fake shoes was that their dataset on counterfeit sneakers would grow, helping their AI authentication process. However, “people have stopped sending us inauthentic sneakers … because they know how good we are at catching them,” said Hall.

GOAT is also tinkering with an AI-based algorithm to recommend new sneaker styles to users.

“We have a unique audience at GOAT,” said Hall. “Sneakerheads will be the first to tell you they know exactly what they want when they come on our site …. But as we grow, we need to open this up to users that may be newer to the sneaker community.”

With the modern-day sneaker hype gaining more momentum, Hall believes machine learning will continue to play a huge role at GOAT and in the overall sneaker industry.

“Machine learning is at the core of discovery and personalization and really making sure we are showing the right shoes to the right people,” said Hall.

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Featured image credit: Kevin Wu. Some rights reserved.