Transformation as a Tech Entrepreneur

 
In November 2022, the biggest and brightest of Detroit’s business sector gathered for
Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under Forty event. DisruptED’s Ron J. Stefanski was in
attendance to seek out those tech disruptors who, in his words, get stuff done (okay, he
uses a different S-word). And one person who garnered a lot of attention, with their transformation as a tech entrepreneur at this year’s event was, Chris Kaufman, Co-Founder of StockX. StockX provides access to the world’s most coveted items, from sneakers and apparel to electronics and collectibles, known in some circles as the stock market of things.

Stefanski noticed the large gathering around Kaufman, eager to hear him talk about his
industry, and it didn’t take Stefanski to realize why. Kaufman’s passion, enthusiasm,
and down-to-earth nature are compelling traits, and Stefanski knew he needed to do a
deeper dive with Kaufman on DistruptED.

Detroit is quickly becoming a city on the rise for disruptors and entrepreneurs in many
industries. Stefanski wanted to know how Kaufman, a man with Michigan roots, began
his transformation as a tech entrepreneur.

“For me, it’s always been about problem solving,” Kaufman said. “And something that
led me to the tech and eCommerce worlds, and looking at the trajectory of my career in
everything I’ve built, it’s been way more about the problem than the product. Even when
we started StockX, it wasn’t so much about sneakers as applying a hypothesis to a
market, building a platform around that, and seeing if we could disrupt the market.”

Stefanski and Kaufman touch on several things throughout their conversation, including:

● How paths leading to successful ventures provide learning lessons from projects
that don’t always work out

● The genesis of StockX

● How innovators like Michigan’s Dan Gilbert help entrepreneurs realize their
visions

“When you look at any good investor, they’re focused on the team, and they’re focused
on the founders,” Kaufman said of Gilbert. “Dan has always done a great job with that
and has empowered people to do great work.”

 
In this second of a two-part episode. Stefanski asked Kaufman how
his company aggregated so much data on pricing, bids, and asks and how he knew
technology would be the key to unlocking the full potential of StockX.

“For StockX, technology provided us with an opportunity to build a platform that
supports everything the company does,” Kaufman said. “Part of that was leveraging the
stock market mechanics and data, creating a better buying and selling experience, and
using technology to execute those transactions and connect buyers and sellers. But it
was also a great way to feature that data in a digestible way, and could be used to
make intelligent decisions, and give buyers and sellers a way to feel confident that they
were doing the right thing.”

Bringing transparency to a fragmented market used to making its own rules ruffled a few
feathers along the way, and Kaufman believes StockX helped democratize the process.

Stefanski and Kaufman’s second conversation includes:

● Attracting talent to create a culture within an organization that contributes to high
growth

● Kaufman’s desire to learn more and go back to pursue his MBA and a design
degree

● Creating circularity to expand the life cycle of products

“I believe over the past century we have shifted from a muscle economy to a brand
economy, and now we’re going into an economy of the heart,” Kaufman said. “I think
people who are caring, passionate leaders that lead with vulnerability will be the
success stories of the next fifty-to-hundred years because that’s what this is going to be
about.”

Chris Kaufman is the Co-Founder and former Chief Creative Officer of StockX. As a
creative leader, entrepreneur, designer, and investor, Kaufman focuses on women and
minority-led businesses and initiatives that positively impact Detroit and the surrounding
region.

Kaufman is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in 2D Design at the Cranbrook
Academy of Art and Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change at
Northwestern University.

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