GOAT creates$ 5 million to help sneakerheads buy and sell covetable kicks

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Warning: Contains images some might find distressing

The rise in demand for traditional Chinese medicine that uses donkey skins to aid in blood diseases is resulting in the mass massacre of donkeys in Africa, Asia, and South America, a new report from the Donkey Sanctuary in the UK has revealed.

The brutal slaughterings, where the donkeys are killed, stripped of their scalps, and then left, is not only serious animal cruelty but it’s also threatening the livelihoods of poor communities in Africa who depend on them. The report, Under the Skin, is the first comprehensive study carried out on the trade in donkey skins.

In traditional Chinese medicine, donkey hides are boiled down to produce gelatine, the main ingredient in ejiao, which is considered to be a blood tonic to help the body with conditions that range from anemia and heavy periods to dizziness, insomnia, and a dry cough. It usually comes in dried pieces that is likely to be melted down into a herbal concoction and drunk.

Donkey skins drying in the sunshine.( c) George Knowles

Before the 1990 s, China largely its own donkeys for skins. However, price control put in place in 1994 impacted the profitability of the industry and led to a production slump. After noting an alarming rise inthe trade of donkey skins over the last three years, the Donkey Sanctuarycarried out itsinvestigation and revealed the shocking scale of this global trade as it races to keep up with an ever-growing demand for the product.

The rise in demand for ejiao in recent years is attributed to both the decimation of Chinas own donkey populations, which has halved since 1991, and the rise of the Chinese middle class, with increased advertisings for the medication online and on television, is targeted at younger, wealthier people. This has driven both the cost and the death rate up to unsustainable rates. According to the report, ejiao can now fetch up to 300 a kilo( about $370 per 2.2 pounds ).

( c) George Knowles

Donkeys are not endangered animals. In fact, current populations are estimated at around 44 million worldwide. However, they are mainly associated with economically developing nations, where they are used as essential working animals for plowing and cultivating land, packing and carrying goods to marketplace, and riding for travelling or fetching items required in the village such as water.

According to the report, 1.8 million donkey skins are traded every year, while global demand is between 4 and 10 million hides. This has increasedthe price of donkey in some countries, stimulating them unaffordable for poorer communities. The cost of a donkey in Burkina Faso has increased from $ 75 to $135 in the last two years.

IMG 3 TT Donkeys are essential for many communities.( c) Crispin Hughes for The Donkey Sanctuary

The report disclosed multiple occasions of rural villages in Africa discovering their donkey populations had been stolen, slaughtered, and skinned, with the carcasses left to rot in order to feed the demand for ejiao. It is not just in Africa that this is happening either. Donkey skins are being imported under China from countries such as Afghanistan and Mongolia, too.

IMG 4 TT Tanzanian village where 24 donkeys were stolen, flayed, and left to rot. Photo by MAWO Tanzania

Communities the world over risk being impoverished or losing their independence, Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, told The Guardian. Donkey populations cannot continue to be decimated and communities must not be deprived of their only means of survival.

The sanctuary is call for a ban on the trade of the skins until the full impact can be assessed, and in the meantime for countries affected to follow the lead taken by Burkina Faso and Niger, who have already placed a ban on the slaughterand trade of donkey skins.

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Los Angeles startup GOAT( incorporated as 1661 Inc .) has raised$ 5 million in new venture funding to grow its mobile-only marketplace for employed and collectible sneakers.

The GOAT app features everything from Adidas Yeezys to Nikes Jordans and Flyknits , in men or womens sizings, new and used condition.

Instead of operating like an open marketplace such as E-bay, letgo or Craigslist, GOAT is a managed marketplace. And its mobile-only , not a website adapting to mobile trends.

For starters, GOAT substantiates the authenticity and condition of every pair of shoes a marketer wants to listing via its app. The review of the sneakers includes an initial, online assessment of photos of every pair, use a mix of human reviewers, computer vision and machine learning.

If the companys online review finds that the sneakers are likely authentic, with higher than 90% certainty, GOAT prompts the vendor to send their kicks to the GOAT warehouse in Culver City, where the shoes are further inspected by hand, and cleaned up( if necessary) then priced, packaged and sent to the final buyer.

With about 20 full-time employees today, CEO Eddy Lu said GOAT intends to use some of its new capital to further automate its reviews process, and otherwise bolster operations with new hires, software and potentially even robotics in its warehouses.

The company will also use the funding to continue raising the brand profile for its GOAT app among the burgeoning sneakerhead community.

As TechCrunch previously reported, sales of used footwear in this category reached an estimated$ 1 billion annually in 2015. The sneaker buying and collecting tendency is growing among millennials, and other demographic groups.

Lu said, Sneakers are a very unique part of the culture and manner scenery today. As we become more casual dressers, especially for men, sneakers are a route to differentiate yourself.

Matrix Partner resulted the investment in GOAT, and was joined by the startups earlier backers Upfront Ventures and Webb Investment Network.

With his firms investment, Matrix Partners General Partner Josh Hannah has joined the board of GOAT.

The new funding round, classified as a Series -A7, brings GOATs total capital created to $12.6 million. The squad behind GOAT originally started a company in food tech, GrubWithUs , now shuttered. GOAT is not the startups first but their second pivot.

Upfront Ventures Greg Bettinelli wrote more about GOATs evolution here.

Bettinelli said now that GOAT has determined product marketplace fit, and given its funding, he expects the startup to invest in operational improvements and marketing online, while also expanding internationally.

The GOAT app has been getting traction beyond the U.S. naturally, he said, with orders shipping as far as Kuwait and Egypt.

But GOAT, which already processes tens of thousands of sneakers per month at its warehouses, wants to allow international users to sell their kicks via the marketplace in the near future.

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