On the heels of last week’s post on investing in classic cars, I thought I’d do something special.
I’m part of a Slack group called Everything Marketplaces. Run by Mike Williams (aka ‘Yoroomie’), it’s a place to share tips and ideas on marketplace dynamics. As Head of Product at Flippa, I love chatting with other marketplace makers and leaders, and Mike runs some great interviews as well.
As it so happens, Mike recently had an interesting chat with Rob Petrozzo, Co-Founder of Rally. I was so impressed with the interview that I had it transcribed into a post that you can read here on Alternative Assets.
<Mark> – So welcome back to Everything Marketplaces, where we talk with marketplace founders and leaders from some of today’s top marketplaces. So, this is Episode 21, and I’m really excited to welcome on Rob, who is currently the co-founder and chief product officer at Rally. So, if you’re not familiar with Rally, it’s a platform for buying and selling equity shares and collectible asset classes, such as cars, watches, trading cards, and even Birkin bags. And this morning, they actually just announced a $17 million funding round. So huge congrats to the team on that. So, Rob, before we jump into talking about Rally, let’s maybe start off by you sharing a little bit more about your background for those that might not know you and then what led you to start Rally.
<Rob> -Yeah. Thanks for the intro too, dude. And thank you for the congratulations. This is a – you know how it goes man with raising money is great, but that’s like fuel for building the rest of this business. So now it’s like day one all over again.
<Rob> – But to give you the quick rundown, my background was always in design and then in product. So when I got out of school, it was forever ago, but the idea of being an artist was my dream and that’s like actual fine art, but then you get out of school and there’s a lot happening around you and it’s impossible to make money doing that. So, the switch to turn to product really happened in 2007 when the iPhone came out. And this whole new ecosystem was being created around me. And I had a lot of great people around me that were sort of designers that were making this transition to Web 2.0 and into app development.
And so much of it was self-taught back then. So the degree was great, but that degree was really what led me to sort of be self-taught and self-educated on building what I wanted to see in the market and what I want to see in marketplaces. So that led me to leading product and creative at a couple of digital publishing companies working with bringing some of the earliest big magazines of the mid 2000s and the late 2000s onto the iPad and the iPhone like Vogue, Oprah Magazine, Esquire. Worked with a bunch of big pharma companies developing out their content, wound up early at a couple of start-ups leading the product team too where it was kind of just tech and then leading out what that product build would be. So wound up at a company called Kimi here in New York, which is a digital locksmith play, which is also big in the computer vision space.
Worked with a bunch of hedge funds to build their internal software. And then over the last decade or so sort of learning as much as I could about the space, about marketplaces in general, and about how consumer behaviour affects the apps that we’re building. Myself, my two co-founders Max and Chris we’ve known each other for a long time. I was in the product space. Max was at Barclays doing private placement deals for a long time. Chris was a media operator and somebody who really understood the ins and outs of this business. Together we realised that A, we should be working together, but B, we all had these individual disciplines that led themselves that really could create a great consumer marketplace if we work together on it. And that led to Rally in 2015, 2016 and then launched in 2017.
Navigating the legal issues and SEC
<Mark> – Nice. Yeah. Thanks. I’ll share more on the background on that. So, Rally is definitely, I would say it’s probably a market leader as far as allowing people to invest in alternative asset classes or collectibles. So, what was the journey like in the early days kind of starting that. And what were maybe some of the legal considerations that you had to deal with? Maybe some of the business kind of nuances and whatnot.
<Rob> – Yeah. I mean, there’s the right question and that’s the question that not that many people ask or bring up the specifics around the legal aspect of it. So, I can tell you that the first two years of our business, give it or 18 months or so it was really about understanding and navigating that legal and regulatory platform. And it was something that was still kind of brand new. So, to give everybody kind of insight into the way we build out these individual offerings, we take all these super rare assets, and we turn them into small companies. They’re essentially one company that owns one asset. That asset is whatever that collectible is. It has some market cap, its own investors, it has its own sort of liabilities and insurance and maintenance and all the things that go along with it.
So it’s a little bit tough when you’re starting from the ground up to just sell it like you would e-commerce. So, the first thing that we did was go to the lawyers, understand what Rally actually works for, which is the laws and the regulatory construct that we leveraged. It was something that was sort of spearheaded by the kick-starters of the world. And it was something that was really intended to allow for regular, everyday investors to invest in things that aren’t necessarily typical that aren’t equities. The way we did it was a brand new to the SEC who is the regulatory body that governs what we do. So, when we started thinking about what this is going to be, we took one offering, which was a 1977 Lotus Esprit, which is a $77,000 car. But it’s one that comes from an era that a lot of the Supercars, the Ferraris and Lamborghinis really started to get focus and get attention as potential investments and as cars that really pushed the envelope on design.
This was the one, this Lotus was one that not just from an investment standpoint, we thought made sense, but it was a lot of the base for what Elon Musk did at Tesla. A lot of it was based on early tests, on early Lotus designs, a lot of tests that even see today, the Roadster in particular. So, we knew what kind of had this cultural relevance that had this great investment worthiness, but also it was this thing that the SEC had never seen before. So doing that as a company meant going to sit with our lawyers, spending a ton of money out of pocket to make this work, to get the constructs in place, to make it work, presenting it to the SEC in the most easy to understand possible way, and then crossing our fingers. What wound up happening was around nine months after that first submission, we got an approved investment back. We were able to put it into the app. And then the first asset with very little marketing got funded that $77,000 from around 200 investors and around 45, 50 days give or take.
So that was the first one. Now we’re at a point, four years later where we do a quarter million-dollar asset, and it could be anything from a car to a baseball card, to a vintage handbag. We sell out that IPO and around, give or take two or three minutes usually. And then our secondary market has full trading capabilities back and forth after 90-day lockup periods for investors to exit their shares for investors to get in. All through that regulatory construct. So, the legal aspect was most important. I think that’s something that a lot of business owners don’t take into account early. It’s the worst money to spend. It feels terrible giving lawyers a thousand dollars an hour to look through paperwork and file on your behalf. And it never moving fast enough, and you never get exactly what you want out of it but without that legal construct early on, and without those checkmarks, the business probably wouldn’t exist right now. And we’re pretty confident that the industry probably wouldn’t exist right now as kind of we created that template for moving forward with investing in those alternative assets.
Using classic cars as a wedge into other alternative assets
<Mark> – Awesome. Yeah. Thanks for sharing more on that. So maybe let’s speak a little bit more about the early days as far as, you did mention the Lotus. And I definitely, I know now that when you guys launched IPO something, that basically, you were able to sell it out very quickly, sometimes within minutes. So if we kind of take a step back and think about, on the supply side, so the cars that you initially listed, how did you think about selecting those and then eventually kind of expanding categories?
<Rob> -Yeah, so we always looked at cars, to us that’s something that, for me, from a design perspective for my co-founders, Max is from Germany so Porsche is like a religion in Germany. And Chris was somebody that the real basis for the business, he chose to buy a house when he had enough money to do it, as opposed to buying a very specific Porsche that 10X from the moment that he bought the house. So, it would have been a better investment. All those check marks for us were cars and, we knew it made sense to start there. But what we found is that, that’s an asset class, that from an aesthetic standpoint, everybody can appreciate, even if you don’t appreciate cars, it’s something that the last four or five years, the aesthetic all over Instagram is like late seventies, early eighties, and then moving into the nineties now.
But it’s something that has this emotional connection, whether you’re into car culture or not. We felt like if we can get something approved as a car, which is this big 2,500 pound greasy dirty thing, that’s not an investment, that the whole world thinks is a depreciating asset when in fact the best versions aren’t. If we can get the SEC to understand that, our user base to understand that and get people to spend some money on it, we felt like all these ancillary items and these other categories that live right next to cars, whether it was vintage watches or vintage luxury handbags, or even baseball cards, and some of those same, what were considered the trappings of wealth before we came into the space. If we could get people to understand cars, we felt like there was an easy entryway to start creeping into these other asset classes.
How they came up with the name ‘Rally Road’
So we made the – the name of the company was originally Rally Road. Everyone thought that was based on cars, but really it was a double entendre. It was supposed to be the other Wall Street. So the idea was that you and a bunch of friends rally together, and it’s not the big, tall glass buildings in New York, it’s somewhere in the middle of the country where you might know everything about this vehicle or about this baseball card, but never had an entry lane. That’s what Rally Road was to us. We all kind of meet there and invest in these things together. So, cars was the conduit to get to everything else with the idea that if we can get cars done first and get that done successfully, it would feed every other asset class. That’s kind of how it worked out. We got lucky on that.
<Mark> – Nice. I love it. Yeah, I was actually going to ask as far as Rally Road versus Rally, but yeah thanks for sharing on that.
<Rob> -Yeah. That’s been the question we get asked a lot. But it’s something that people like, “Oh, you dropped the Road, you’re not doing cars.” And I was like, “Cars it’s in our DNA. No question.” But the name was always intended to be like a Wall Street. Not necessarily about rally cars.
<Mark> – Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. So on that note as far as making it accessible for the asset class, what is the average kind of share price that people come in at?
<Rob> – Yeah, so we average out right around 20 bucks now. So, we have three types of assets that we… Three types of offerings. I should say. The IPO’s are set up where Fridays at noon, Eastern time is always kind of a spotlight or the marque asset. So, this week it’s a quarter million-dollar Mike Trout rookie card, who’s probably the next Babe Ruth. But somebody who from auction results has gotten some of the biggest auctions of baseball cards in the last three or four years have been Mike Trout card specifically, trading in the millions of dollars now. So that was one that it hits a lot of check marks for us, and also has that brand resonance as an investment. Then throughout the rest of the week, we’ll do things that we make sure are accessible at different price points, and that always stay open.
So we have asked this, that start as low as $1. So right now, there’s a Superman comic. I think there’s a football card, is like three or four assets that are always open. We put a small share cap on those so that you can invest more than 10 or 15 or 20 bucks. But the idea is that we want this to be truly accessible to everybody. We want to make sure the price point always is accessible as well. So we do everything from dollar shares up to three or $400 per share assets and everything in between to make sure that anyone that comes into the app has the ability to sort of invest at a price point that they’re comfortable with.
<Mark> – Awesome. Awesome. And then just to maybe share a little bit more about… You mentioned, so you have a drop or a listing every Friday. I feel like you guys are almost at the point now where those almost just sell out in minutes, right?
<Rob> -Yeah. So, I think we look at things in terms of investment velocity. That’s an internal metric that we track. So right now, the investment philosophy of any one asset on a Friday is around $2 million. So that means that we can theoretically fund a $2 million asset within an hour with the same velocity and momentum that we have for some of the lower priced assets. Our goal is always to make sure that people can get in. So, the idea of selling on hype is something that we’ve tried to stay away from. We’ve fallen into that trap a little bit in certain cases because it’s impossible to tell somebody you have the best Pokémon set on earth and tell them to wait. Don’t invest right away. People kind of find their way to that asset and they sell it out quick. What we are committed to doing though, is making sure that the market cap of each of these assets, the actual total value and the way that we market it towards the individuals we care about the most is a little more concise going forward too.
Because we want sell outs. And that’s great. It’s a great measurement of success. And the whole team gets excited about it, it creates all this hype. At the same time, as a sustainable business it’s hard. We found that I found in a past life, in past commerce experience, in past marketplace experience, hype has an inevitable fall after that precipitous rise. And it’s hard to sort of find that blend. So, we’re trying to do our best right now to make sure things kind of stay open a little bit longer.
Product metrics and mechanics
<Mark> – Got it. Yeah. So maybe what are some of the ways, maybe within a product since you’re focused on product yourself, what are some ways that maybe you guys are thinking about that right now and focusing on?
<Rob> -Yeah. So, I’ll give you the biggest driver for us has always been kind of email. And email something that we’re starting to segment a little bit more based on sort of indications of interests. So, when we go into our app right now, the way we’ve created this space is this all-encompassing kind of like marketplace of everything. We’re starting to break those things out. So as a user, you’ll soon have the ability to say, I only want to be notified about watches and that’s the thing I care about most. And we’ll start building that reputation on platform. So, somebody who gets in five or six individual watch offerings, when we have that big Friday version of it, we’re going to open up and we have been opening up that early access to that watch. So, you’re the one that knows the best. You’re the one who really wants to get access. You’re somebody who’s been on a platform for a while. We want to reward you with that.
And that’s something that in terms of, for us lifetime value of a customer is super important. It’s not a metric that we track as closely as some of the easier top-level metrics like investment velocity and average spend. But it’s one that we know is starting to develop in a way that’s very meaningful for a lot of people. The other side of it is that we always want to make sure the assets lead, and the storytelling is important to us as well. So, telling more stories within the app, as opposed to having the email or put it on social. So then if you really do care about this asset and you care about this investment, you’re going to come in, you’re going to read that story, you’re going to be first to act. We want to make sure that that first come first serve isn’t necessarily targeting us selling out in 30 seconds, it’s targeting the people that care about it most.
So, building those stories out very intentionally, but not throwing it in front of people’s faces. And forcing them in is a big way we’ve been kind of, A, combating that hype element, but B, making sure that people do care about it most are the ones that get the first access to it as well.
The future of Rally’s secondary marketplace
<Mark> – Nice. Nice. And then you did mention that you also have a secondary marketplace, right? As far as for trading shares, could you maybe speak to that? As far as that next kind of a bit of trading that you have?
<Rob> -Yeah. So that’s a big – so the round that we announced this morning with a bunch of great partners is really about building out that secondary component. So, we’ve had… And we were first to market with a true secondary mechanism. So, the way that works right now is through standard bid-ask we do it every Tuesday. So, every Tuesday, seven or eight individual assets will trade. There’s seven trading right now. And it’s everything from baseball cards to cars, like a real mix. And every 30 or 60 days, give or take in between those assets re-trade again on a Tuesday. The way it’s set up right now is that a clear is one price end of day. So, our goal is to get the most buyers and the most sellers into one place, and then execute at a price that gives everybody best access.
So highest bid, lowest ask, it meets somewhere in between. Similar to a StockX or the way that other pricing mechanisms work, we’ll send a notification to everybody end of day, that says your ask was met by a bid. Do you want to accept this offer? If they say, yes, it’s executed through our registered broker dealers within the app. The plan for us going forward is to get to a more continuous version of that, where if you bought, three or four days ago and want to sell, because something’s happening in the market to drive that value, you should have the opportunity to do that. And what we’ve seen is that with the five or six or seven exits that we’ve had off platform right now, it’s been in that situation. So like Michael Jordan was super-hot during that… And he still is, obviously he’s a legend, but during The Last Dance on ESPN that drove this whole market for Michael Jordan memorabilia up into the right significantly.
So, we debuted his rookie card at $40,000. It was eaten up by 400 investors immediately. And then seven days later, we had somebody come in and do a qualified buyout offer at $85,000. So, you’re giving somebody a crazy return in the equivalent of a week. We want to make sure that we’re always facilitating where we can, but if you feel like you’ve bought an asset and you feel like you know a lot about it and it’s increased in value dramatically, you should always have the opportunity to sell that to somebody else who might see that same value. So, us sort of nurturing that system in that secondary market is super important going forward. That’s what we’re using a lot of this money for right now is to build out that world-class secondary market. So, its continuous trading going forward.
<Mark> – Nice. And then is that going to be – are you thinking about having an open order so that way people can see as far as availability and then kind of like price match that or something like a –
<Rob> -Yeah. I think that it’s set up in a way where it’s kind of the ability we hope, we’re talking to our legal team right now to be able to pick off those individual asks or bids. If you feel like you see an opportunity. And then for us building that out and making it feel more like the equity markets and the things that people would recognize most has always been an important part of what we’re building. So that’s the idea, is that if you feel like there’s a price that you’re okay letting it sit on the ask or on the bid for a month or two months, you’d have that ability to do that without having to come back continuously to check on it. And that bid or that ask gets hit, you’ll get that notification that says there’s a buyer, there’s a seller for your individual shares, come back in and take a look at what the price is.
How full asset buyouts work
<Mark> – Nice. Nice. So then in the other I guess like the third kind of use case that you mentioned is someone basically comes in and offers to buy out an asset, say for instance, the Michael Jordan card, right. So how does that actually work? Do they come in and make an offer and then how do you kind of – what’s the governance around accepting an offer or not to the shareholders?
<Rob> Yeah, so we have a mechanism in the app that at the very bottom of each asset, it says, do you want to buy the whole asset? And it’s a little let’s talk link. It brings up a form that allows you to fill out the price that you’re intending to purchase at. Some light personal details. It comes to us. First thing that we always do is put out a premium, especially as qualify the offer. So, we have a team here that reaches out to that individual buyer, validates that the buyer is real, validates that the money can get to us probably in two or three days. And then we’ll prepare a little miniature survey site that goes to all the investors in that asset. So, there’s one out right now, we have a 2003 Selena 7 on the platform, which is a $325,000 asset. Was just going to buy out all for a significant premium.
So we sent that out two days ago to our investors in that asset, all around 600 of them. It has the full price, what your return looks like, what the percentage gain is since the IPO and then sort of a signifier of yes or no, how you feel about that offer. We aggregate those over 48-hour period. We bring them to a third-party advisory board who works on our behalf specifically on these exits to validate that offer. While that’s happening, the money goes into escrow. If the check mark comes back from everybody involved over 50% vote, over a 50% on our third-party advisory board that makes that all-encompassing yes, no, it goes back to our investors. We let them know exactly what’s happening with this space and kind of with the money where it is. And then within a round seven days start to finish we typically pay out on our shared.
<Mark> – Nice. Nice. That’s amazing. And you guys have already – you mentioned you’ve already had a few of those, right?
<Rob> -Yeah. So other than the Jordan car, we’ve also had a Jordan Jersey, game one jersey exited off the platform, the Muhammad Ali contract from the fight of the century, which I was kind of sad to see go. It was one of those assets that’s really unique one of one, a few of the cars that we bought really well, but also ones that people wouldn’t expect that I think we’re seeing that the under $100,000 vehicles, especially from like the early nineties and even the two thousands, the big names, Ford Mustangs and stuff like that are really starting to sort of elicit a big response from the younger generation. Someone between the ages of 25 and 40 years old, who really understands his value, maybe has a little bit of money to spend that they might not have had when they were 21 years old and not in a position to really buy those things that they have that strong emotional connection.
And they’re coming in with strong offers to buy off platform. And a lot of times we look at what we do as having the best possible example of so many of these vehicles, all these pieces of memorabilia. So, for us, we really are building a museum quality collection. And a lot of times people didn’t even know these assets existed until they saw them on the platform. So if somebody with money and with sort of influence or with sort of this emotional connection, all three of those things hit comes onto our platform and sees it more often than not, they’ll reach out and make that offer. And then we’ll bring that back to our investors to close up that deal where possible.
<Mark> – Nice, nice. Out of curiosity, what’s like the average age of the investors.
<Rob> -It’s around 28 right now and that’s gone, that’s skewed a little bit lower than it was previous to COVID. I think the start of Q2 2020 was very much this, a lot of people in the house and this emotional nostalgic sort of find the things that you care most about and dive a little bit deeper. And we saw that happen really, really quickly. And that was something that we didn’t intend to sort of capitalize on by any means. It just so happened that we were well positioned to tell the stories that a 27 and 28 year old wanted to hear or wanted to see, and that’s the stuff in their childhood and stuff that’s really accrued in value where you can Google and find the auction results and see what’s happened to something like Pokémon cards and see what’s happened to things like Michael Jordan sneakers and the stuff that really makes sense to that younger demo. And those are the people that have gravitated towards the platform most in recent months, especially.
Do investors keep cash on hand?
<Mark> – Nice, nice. And then yeah, I’m quite fascinated by this. So basically, if I’m, say for instance, we’ll just say, hypothetically, I’m a 28-year-old, I invested in the Jordan card or the Jordan Jersey and I receive a return. Are you seeing that those typical investors are then redeploying their capital back into other listings that you guys have? Or what are you guys seeing on that?
<Rob> -Yeah, that’s a perfect question. Yeah, I suppose. So, we’ve never seen significant dips in cash on hand, in the dry powder since we started this business. So right now with a decent chunk of money, not to get too much into the details, sitting in dry powder, the money more often than not what we’ve seen from that investor, once they make an exit or trade out or get some sort of realization on those gains, it stays in their account to either be deployed to new assets and they kind of waited out. Sometimes they’ll wait for a month or so to see the ask they like where we deploy, or they’ll deploy it immediately in the next IPO that goes live. We’ve seen that more often than not. And again, that 26, 27 year old, they’re becoming such savvy investors and savvy spenders in a way that I think I definitely wasn’t when I was 23 or 24 years old, 25 years old, I wasn’t thinking about investing alternative assets.
I was thinking about buying sneakers to wear them and have everybody think I was cool. And I had the coolest sneakers on the block type of thing. And now we’re seeing that this 26, 27-year-old, now they understand what equity is, they’ve come from the Robinhood, the coinbase. They know that what is the equities? What is the cryptos? Alternative assets should be a part of that portfolio as well. And they make it really smart. I should say really savvy decisions with the cash, even when they exit. It’s not that quick flip, it’s more of a medium-term investment for that person right now.
<Mark> – Yeah. Awesome. And then so I’m kind of fascinated by what I would say recently just the more people that I speak with, just the different categories. So a lot of people, I feel like get into sneakers and now it’s kind of like a gateway into maybe like watches or art or even just other people that are my age, our age that just know about Birkin bags, right?
Deciding on new categories of alternative assets
<Mark> – I’m just fascinated by how much overlap there is with the different kind of categories that you have. So how do people typically kind of like come into the app and start to learn about all the different categories that you guys offer? And how do you guys kind of think about that? Like introducing new categories?
<Rob> -Yeah. I mean, what you just described is exactly kind of what happens with our investor. And we’ve seen it the same way with like, we have a merchant store now and we’ve been doing pretty well. We’re doing close to five figures a week out of merch that we’ve created. That’s really individual collections based around these assets. We’re seeing people translate from coming in, just for clothing, into investors at a rate that we never expected. I think the biggest driver for us has always been that emotional connection. So, we talk about what we do and the stuff that we put in the app as a passion led investment. And your passion might be classic cars. It might be baseball cards. It might be books, rare literature. It might be these things that you have this emotional connection to, the story drives people in, a lot of times they’ll put some money to work just to see how it all works and how the whole process goes.
They’ll see some returns or they’ll start seeing other assets on the platform and they become big researchers in what we do and what those individual assets are. So, whereas you might come in for a pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, that’s a perfect example, make your first investment and then realize it’s sold out really quickly. You got in before anybody else did. And now you’re starting to see some gains in the secondary market around other Michael Jordan stuff. You come back into the app and you find yourself looking at The Great Gatsby or you’d find something else, something from that same time period, a big rotation that we saw and a big overlap on the Venn diagram is people on the 1980s. And Michael Jordan memorabilia, because Michael Jordan was kind of synonymous with Ferrari’s too, at the time.
We had those same cars. So, we’re seeing people come in for one thing, but the rotation becomes really active quickly. And now we have an average investor that’s again, 28 years old, give or take, but has around three and a half to four assets in their portfolio. And it’s completely diversified. It’s rarely just one asset side.
<Mark> – That’s incredible. I mean, it’s such a great business. I love it.
<Rob> -I appreciate it.
Watches as an alternative asset
<Mark> – Yeah, so I can only imagine just the watch market right now. I mean, is that, where do you guys kind of seeing with that as far as the demand?
<Rob> -Yeah, that’s a good example of kind of like demand in a space that’s led demand inside categories inside of our app. We always try and look for the genesis, like the version of what came first for all these individual assets like that block of time, or that asset type, that kind of set the tone. So, for us, that was the 70s era Audemars Piguet series A, rather A-series, which was like, Joel Jensen’s first design that really is what everyone expects to see from Audemars now. That opened up a whole world of watch collecting for us and for real collectors come in and understand what we were doing. They were met with the same people who look at the stainless-steel Rolex, is the things that are really front of mind right now for so many people.
People that understand the story, people that love watches and the purists and the historians around the asset. So, we’re always trying to hit those three kind of buckets for any asset class that we go into. I think we did a pretty well with watches and the direction that we’ve gone, and it’s a very eclectic mix of pieces that we have in the app right now for watches.
<Mark> – Nice, nice. Yeah. I’m obsessed with watches. So definitely I’ll check it out and see what you guys got.
<Rob> -Everybody is, they should be. It’s something that’s it’s crazy because you look at a watch and the definition of rarity and the definition of sort of a craftsmanship is really specific to a watch more than anything else. It is the same way you would sort of build a Ferrari from the ground up or that one artist and would make one of these crazy a hundred thousand-dollar Birkin bags. A lot of extra effort goes into watchmaking that I think gets lost on the surface, there are stories, where we’re trying to tell those stories as best as possible.
<Mark> – That’s a great point. So yeah, so we’re going to jump into a question here with Dan in the second. But before, we do it, it might be a little bit lengthier conversation, but I definitely – so we were talking about, I would say the kind of like in-app experience and a lot of the kind of purchasing kind of tendencies, but you did mention as far as the merch and then you are sitting in the retail space, which I can see behind you a nice car, but yeah. Could you maybe share a little bit more about your guys’ showroom and how you’ve kind of coupled that with your app and with the merch and kind of think about that?
Rally’s New York showroom
<Rob> -Yeah, so we launched this business when we first started and we first wanted to… Our coming out party was in 2017. We want to get a pop up here in New York, a place that we could fit a couple of cars in, maybe sell some sweatshirts and just kind of get some people around that were friends and family to show them what we’re up to in a more tangible way. So, for us, we realised when we did that with very little marketing, we did it on a Thanksgiving weekend. We had a lot of people come out, a lot of great questions. Like some celebrities popped up and it was a great foot traffic. And a bunch of sponsors came in and wanted to do liquor for us or do food or… It just opened up all these great conversations. And we realised that so much, especially now, everything’s kind of closed.
You realise how much it sucks and not be able to interact with people, one-on-one. Everybody looks at communication as something that’s not scalable, but for us personal communication for us, that’s such an important part of what we do. And for me in any marketplace business, in any business I’ve ever been in with a consumer, you have to over-communicate that. For us to do that effectively, just in the act with these assets that are impossible to understand without seeing them sometimes, wasn’t going to work. So, we rented our new office two years ago in SoHo, on a block of Lafayette street. That’s right in between Supreme is one block [Unclear 00:29:35] and every important restaurant is one block south. StockX opened across the street from us. So, it’s this hub where you have all this mix of consumers, investors, people with money, tourists, people that are just strolling around the neighbourhood and want to be in a cool part of New York.
For us to not have this space, which is right below our office now, once it became available, it made no sense not to. It had the structural integrity to hold the car. We knew we could build it out, however we want. And we have a great landlord who said, “Do whatever you want with it.” And for us, the billboard value alone was great. But to be able to have that communication with people off the street where we literally just open it in the middle of the week and say, “If you want to come in.” But you keep one security guy at the front, but it’s not intimidating. It’s just $340,000 cars here. And a hundred thousand-dollar Birkin bag is in that one case and a Babe Ruth signed baseballs in this other case. And they all have these crazy stories around them. They will tell that story one-on-one, let people actually see the asset understand it was always the most important part of this business for us.
And we kind of got that with our storefront and we translate that as best we can to the items that we sell in our retail store, either here or online. And it’s worked really well for us in terms of communicating and creating conversation outside of just the app. I think that that’s always been super important to us, but it’s been more important now that we realise we can’t have it open for the time being.
<Mark> – Yeah, no, that’s amazing. I mean, I couldn’t imagine just walking by and not checking it out. So-
<Rob> -That’s that we want to create that moment, because we get so much foot traffic. We do around 350 people a day on a good weekend before all this happened. But the whole idea is that people walk by and maybe they’re going to StockX or going to Supreme or go [Unclear 00:31:09] next door to us. Or we’re just going to dinner across the street, but they walk by and they kind of look inside and stop and they’re like, “What is what’s going on in here?” And that’s been the driver of conversation. Those people come in and they stay for 20 minutes and have a conversation about every single asset here with our retail staff. And that’s been a really important part of building this business.
<Mark> – That’s amazing. And I mean, I’m sure when you even kind of break down the high rent for user acquisition it’s a deal of considering the performance [Unclear 00:31:35].
<Rob> -And honestly it’s expensive, I’ll give you that. That being said, the way we could justify it is based on impressions, foot traffic. We do enough merch in our story here and now online to justify, to break even a little bit. But we all started running events here too. So, we had a bunch like hedge funds and start-ups and people that want be around cool stuff. And we staffed that, we have a bar set up here, so you can come in and we kind of started renting it out and making a little bit of money on it as well. But more so one door down on the side of our building is Gucci’s billboard, which is their big New York billboard. It’s around 300 feet high. But it’s there, every month they change it up and they paint some new thing that they have with the new campaign. So, they pay $116,000 a month for that.
So, for us to pay a little less than 30 a month for our retail space, it made no sense not to do it. It just was justified by the fact that this neighbourhood and the traffic in this neighbourhood is so important to spending habits, that we’re able to justify that to our board and to the powers that be internally to spend the money on our storefront.
Future expansion to Los Angeles
<Mark> – Nice, nice. And is an LA store coming up soon or?
<Rob> -That’s the plan. We were going to do Fairfax. And we had a couple of spots that we were looking at specifically, we thought about Santa Monica, no matter what, that’s definitely next, how quick we get there we’re not sure yet. But we have some spaces picked out and I’d much rather be in LA in February and then be in New York. I can tell you that much.
<Mark> – Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. Definitely, I look forward to checking it out when you guys are here.
<Mark> – So, Hey so we’re going to do a little bit questions here in a second. I actually have a few more questions myself, so I’ll probably jump in there. But Hey Dan, did you want to come on?
<Dan> – Okay. Can you hear me?
<Rob> -Dan, What’s up, man.
<Dan> – Hey, you guys, can you hear me? Okay. First of all, absolutely fascinating. One of the great things about this, Everything Marketplace is that getting to meet you and hear your idea and-
<Rob> -I sincerely appreciate it, man.
Inspiration from comic books
<Dan> – I’m a little older than you guys. When I was in college, my best friend, when we graduated, started a magazine when desktop publishing was just getting started called Wizard, The Guide to Comics. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.
<Rob> -Yeah. And I’m familiar with it. That’s awesome.
<Dan> – And he created-
<Rob> -[Unclear 00:33:42] a comic history, man. That’s awesome.
<Dan> – Yeah. And so, one of the things he did was the last like 15, 20 pages of the magazine was a price guide. And he created essentially the market, though already was a diamond guide, but it was really the yellow pages.
<Dan> – And the market exploded. And he had such an unbelievable understanding of it that ultimately, they wind up creating assets like individual cards because the comic book publishers were so beholden to his magazine, that they were interested in making one-off cards. And he was able to – obviously his business itself, it was not [Unclear 00:34:25] unlike yours, really a market-maker in these categories. But their revenue was on subscriptions and it drove subscription, but by creating these assets, they all of a sudden were in a way printing money.
<Dan> – And I’m wondering, I mean, you’re obviously similarly gaining unbelievable information about similar markets. How are you making money? And then are you finding that you’re getting information that is teaching you how to actually create assets?
Video games as an asset class
<Rob> -That’s such a poignant and perfect question because what we’ve seen and a lot of people that paved way, which it was one of them with the idea that information wasn’t accessible. So, there was a small group that has access to everything and they’re the ones that trade the information between them. But now, like the newest iteration of Wizard is like go collect and a few other platforms that really surface the data, but the same way you see where the trends are going by doing a little bit social listening around us. So, what we’ve seen, I’ll give you the real tangible example is on video games. So, video games are kind of a new frontier. It’s something that hasn’t gotten the same traction yet as baseball cards and comics, but it’s starting to become a burgeoning asset class in a very real way.
The population reports are so hard to find on individual games. So, no one really knows how many exists in inbox sealed with the right grade. No, one’s a hundred percent sure, but they do know that for someone like me and for what it’s worth, everybody over age 25 is the same age. Basically, we’re all the same age to some degree. Everyone remembers the nineties and the eighties, but Mario Brothers is a brand that everybody recognises. And for us, we started making purchases in the video game space a little over a year ago before a lot of the big open to the right moves happen, with the idea that A, as a business, we do a small sourcing fee on individual assets, but typically we have the seller pay that so we don’t pass it on. But we’re investors in these assets as well.
So we’re not necessarily a hedge fund, but we want to make smart bets. We invest up to 10% of our money into each asset off of the operating books. And we can’t sell until the asset sells. But we are in a position, I happen to have it next to me, the same way your friend did it. We knew that Mario was going to be big and we made these really heavy kind of gold coins around it as our own version of a collectible. We numbered them to 200. They sold out immediately. And now they’re on eBay at 3X. We priced them incorrectly, basically. So that [Overtalking 00:36:45].
<Dan> – [Overtalking 00:36:45] giving a few out to a buddy and saying, listen, go to this thing and just report back to me what your experience and how much you get for it.
<Rob> -Absolutely. A hundred percent. We’re always down to do that, we do it. So that’s one element of it. So, we have the merchandise and the sourcing [Unclear 00:37:01] around it. The second aspect, we always want to sort of earn our user’s money before asking for it. I’ve always looked at that as a really – that’s something that a mentor told me a long time ago, but it’s something that it translates to every marketplace. The idea of brand loyalty is so much more important now because there’s, to your point, access to information, isn’t like it was back then. If I want to go somewhere else, I could easily Google where it’s available for a cheaper price and I’ll go there. It’s how Amazon made all of their money. So, for us creating that brand experience, the brand loyalty is super important. As these individual users and members of our platform build reputation will open up some of those subscription fees and it’s going to be a bunch of private syndicate deals that you and a bunch of friends know something that’s coming up.
Licensing to museums
You want us to source on your behalf. That’s one way to do it. Another way is we’re starting to talk to a bunch of museums and third-party institutions now. Our users want access to what they have. They need a little bit of money to sort of to keep the doors open right now, more than anything else. If we meet somewhere in between and do some sort of almost like a licensing deal, but for us to get access to their stuff, they’ll pay us for the opportunity to put them on platform. That’s another method of doing it. And then the institutional component. So all those things together, we have a lot of optionality around it, we have a great group of investors who funded our business in a way they know that building the platform, getting to a million investors and getting to a point that we are really monetize in a way that’s aligned on both sides is important.
And we’re slowly getting there now. It’s rapidly increasing quickly, but we’ve done well in making money off the assets right now. And that’s something that we can continue to do moving forward as well.
<Mark> – Awesome. That was a great question. Thanks for sharing more on that too. Cool. Hey Yuan, do you want to come on?
<Yuan> – Yeah, no, definitely. Yeah. I downloaded the app. Looks nice. I really like it, the experience definitely a great job there.
<Rob> -Thank you.
Where and how does Rally store their assets?
<Yuan> – Do you store all your assets in a building or anything like that? I don’t know [Unclear 00:38:53]?
<Rob> -Yeah, we do. We keep anything that either hasn’t gone public or it’s kind of the spotlight offering that we want to give people access to typically stays in our museum space here in New York. That will be for short periods. Typically like everything that’s here right now goes down to our Delaware facility end of this week and we’ll rotate out anything that’s coming new and we’ll do like private visits and stuff right now as we can’t kind of open to the public. But we’ll be opening again soon. That’s one aspect of it. The other side… And that we usually do that as well as sort of to-
<Yuan> – Make sense.
<Rob> -[Unclear 00:39:20] content, Then the bigger space that we have, we have two, one is in New Jersey and that’s a 24 hour concierge space for our vehicles, for all the cars. So, we have around 60 cars there right now. There’s a closed-circuit camera that we’re going to start surfacing into the app as soon as sort of the legally we’re permitted to do it. And we can work out some of the licensing around the feed. And then we have a Delaware facility. That’s more of like a fine art stores. That again, similar situation, 24-hour security, full-time concierge, temperature controlled, everything maintained with some of the most expensive pieces of art in the world.
<Yuan> – [Unclear 00:39:51].
<Rob> -So it was one that from an insurance perspective, everything we do, we do it at scale. And so we’ve been able to drive prices down, for us the cost, to us on the insurance storage maintenance in a way that I think eventually that can become a profit centre and we can do something where we pay dividends back to investors on the fact that Heggerty is the preferred sponsor, insurance partner of this particular SMR, something like that. That’s something we’re experimenting with as well, but always maintain in a professional facility, bonded, ensure a 24-hour security, all that type of stuff. We’re going to do more to surface the actual camera feeds into the app sometime soon as well.
<Yuan> – Oh, very nice. I had a question, I’m curious, what’s the percentage of your investors actually purchased the product or the asset as you call it.
<Rob> -It’s weird because the people that buy a whole car or buy a piece of memorabilia, they’re typically not users. We’ve gotten a lot of interest from those individuals, but we’re trying to make a world where if you have four friends and you want to sort of source the best possible asset and we have, need to have access to it, or have it on platform, doing the way where you can make that investment. But it becomes yours for X amount of time where it’s something where it’s in one space for you and your friends to be a part of, that’s always an important part of what we do. That’s going to be a bigger part of 2021 for us as well. Thinking about how to create real, tangible access to these assets the whole way.
<Yuan> – Got it. No, that makes sense. Thanks.
<Rob> -Yuan. I appreciate it man.
<Mark> – Awesome. Hey, so Rob, so I actually did have a question as far as you were talking about the… I guess you could call it like a holding cost or whatnot. So, what does that like? We’ll just use for instance; the example of cars and you have the storage facility and whatnot. So, what is the typical – the process look like for my time and resources for purchasing an asset. So, for instance, a car and then listing it and then storing it.
<Rob> -Yeah. So, start to finish right now, which we’re around 14 days all in. And a lot of that includes the SEE submission was right now, we shrunk it down to around 10 days. So, the first four or five days, typically we have this 18-point checklist that has all the things that are important to us in the acquisition. And for something like a car, it has all the tangible things like mileage and history and provenance, ownership records, making sure all the documentation is in place. That’s the initial check mark and we’ve run through that pretty quickly. The next part, which is almost a bigger part, if not a bigger part to this point has been the idea that we do this social listing to make sure that it’s relevant socially and culturally as well. And that there’s going to be enough activity around that vehicle, whether it’s going to auction or from the manufacturer in question to make sure it’s front of mind, without us having to push a narrative on that individual asset as well.
Rally’s consignment model
So that’s another day or two. And then in terms of the processing and actually acquiring the vehicle, we have three different methods. One is a pure consignment model, which we rarely do at this point where somebody has an asset is priced correctly. We’ll put it on platform. More often, we’ll either buy opportunistically or for credit line that we use a facility that we have just for buying, not from the operating capital or an owner of that asset who’s made some money on paper, but hasn’t necessarily gotten into liquidity out of it. Will securitize, maybe 60 or 70% keep 30% of it and play the upside with everybody else because they still believe in the asset. But they want to get some money out of it without loaning against it. So that’s been a really interesting wrinkle for us to last year, more specifically, that we’ve seen more individual owners of assets move towards it.
Then part of that sourcing fee, that a lot of those people that we talked to are sort of immediately on board for it because they went to an auction house is a 25% premium, we’ll charge somewhere around 5%. Some of that money goes into the bank account for the car, for ongoing storage and maintenance, which is typically under a thousand dollars a year for us right now for an individual asset.
<Mark> – Nice, nice and then so another question that I had for you is just given that you’re across so many different categories right now and I’m sure that a lot of the existing players in the spaces are super interested in what you guys are doing, kind of leading the way and trying to work with you. How do you guys kind of think about and approach partnerships? Because I actually just noticed, I think you guys partnered with Topps recently.
<Rob> -Yeah, that’s a good question. I think it’s something that we’ve always looked at the leaders in the space, the people that we want to work with. So, when we think about someone like Topps, we’ve been having the conversation with them for six or seven months, let’s say. A lot of it was on the legal and regulatory side because we’re not broker dealers right now. We’re not a position that we want to be selling stock or have someone else selling stock on our behalf. We just want to tell the best stories, put it in front of the most people and have them make the decision. Those investors make the decision whether or not to invest. When we think about partnerships, someone like Topps makes sense because, A, they’re the category leaders, the same way we feel like we’re the category leaders in alternative investments. They’re category leader in baseball cards and soccer cards, which are two of the spaces that for us are so super important.
They have access to the inventory. They have access on social and sort of through the channels that they use right now, it’s articulate why something’s important. And they also have the best inventory. So, for us to go to them and say, “We want to do something really unique for our investors, they’re so onboard.” Someone like Topps and every partner that we want to work with is so onboard and understanding that the purist mentality around some of these asset classes and baseball cards, the perfect example, isn’t always the best method for acquiring a new set of eyeballs. And trying to find a 17 or 18-year-old who cares about baseball cards it’s a little bit easier now than it was a year ago. But it’s not like when we were kids and you’re nine or 10 years old and you had a bunch of friends that baseball cards, you trade them with each other, you’re not thinking about it as an investment. Now it’s become a true investment.
And someone like Topps, I think really understands that to be the leader in that market and stay a leader, you have to continue to innovate and do things new and partner with platforms like ours. And we feel the same way about them, some of the legacy platforms. So anytime you have that sort of crossover where everybody sort of has those same principles and values, understands where the space is going, those are the people that we want to work with. And they’ve gravitated towards us a lot. So, it’s worked out both ways.
<Mark> – Nice. Yeah. Thanks for sharing more on that. Yeah. I think it’s a super interesting, as far as you just see the new kind of, even partnerships that they do as far as like Ben Baller cards and then what does it… Gregory Siff and it’s-
<Rob> -Yeah. Great. And then like King Saladin and all these individual [inaudible 00:46:08] and Don C and these are all people that are in our network too. So, it made no sense not to be a part of Topps. Topps is talking to Ben Dunn and Saladin and all the people that we keep close. So, it makes no sense not to have those people who recognize that value. For us to not recognize it would be stupid and for Topps and not see that we’re part of that wave as it would have been a little bit weird too. So, I’m glad that that one worked out.
What does Rally’s organizational structure look like?
<Mark> – Yeah. Yeah. So, what does your guys’ team or the org kind of structure look like, just given you have so many categories, seven-year relationships. I can only imagine, everyone from fashion to Birkin bags, to cars, to watches.
<Rob> -Yeah. We’ve been lucky in that. We kept a lot of great people around us. So, we have a lot of people that have been around since day one that in each individual asset category that are essentially our liaison to that world. And they’re the ones that make those a lot of the qualifying decisions for us when we’re at a coin flip decision. With like auctions and with the way baseball cards, sports cards and moving, we kept a lot of great people around us from those spaces. So, we work with the team that a bunch of the major auction houses, but more so with a lot of the individual collectors who are the brokers that live in the middle. And they know what we’re looking for, they know the price that we’re willing to pay. They know what they want to be a part of this business.
In some cases they’ll have a little bit of equity or they’ll have some sort of consulting agreement that makes sure that they’re part of this process in a way that if we have success, they have success. And they’re the ones that kind of come to us after we have that checklist. We’ll put that out for like if it’s eighties era football cards, for example, we’ll have three or four individual people that are working on or with our team that are always constantly sourcing. Once weekly, they’ll send us the checklist, here’s what we found, here’s what’s available, here’s what the deals might look like and here’s how quick we can get them done. And if that meets our criteria, we tend to move really, really quickly, which I think has been really encouraging.
And it’s been helpful for us to bring those third parties in knowing that we’re not going to sort of beat around the bush, we’re not going to be in situation that where we know the value, they know that we don’t negotiate on certain things. They know we will negotiate on others and that’s been really helpful to have that criteria set in place for them to go out and do what they do best while we maintain the platform, which is what we do best.
<Mark> – That’s awesome. Yeah. I mean, let me know if you guys are ever hiring for the liaison that sounds like a dream job for a car or someone like me.
<Rob> -Yeah. I mean, honestly, we… Dude, we need more watches. I might throw you a check at some point and try to figure this thing out.
Personal motivations and favorite items
<Mark> – Yeah, that’s awesome. So yeah, I mean, it sounds like you’re have a personal kind of interest and obsession as far as the asset classes like I do. Could you maybe speak to that? What keeps you motivated personally and kind of with the business and your interests and yeah, maybe some of your personal kind of favourite items you guys have listed too.
<Rob> -Yeah. I mean, when we started this business, there’s a Jaguar XJ220 on our platform right now, which is my dream car as a kid, but more so, I have a lot of memories. I had a great childhood, right. I grew up in Brooklyn and [inaudible 00:49:04] my grandma’s house, there was always people around. But I was so into design. I was so by myself drawing all day, that was this car that I would always draw, I have a scale model in my room. And that was a thing I remember when I was a kid. Getting access to that car was one of those things that made this very real for me, very early. And then it turned into these obsessions I didn’t know I had. I’ve always loved technology obviously. And I love art and I love… And baseball cards, some that I collected as a kid and have so many great memories around.
But to able to be around and hold and see, and be able to sort of access these things that I didn’t even know existed. So, we have one of the first ever Apple Mac IIs that is signed by Steve Jobs and the whole team that created this particular model. And it was a really weird inflection point for Steve between NeXT and Apple and Apple and backs to NeXT. When that came to the office, it shut the entire office down. Everybody was hovering around it and looking at the documentation that came with it, that type of stuff is what motivates and drives this team. I think right now too, to get access to stuff that no one even knew existed and have that show up here is really important.
So to do things in a more tangible way, with things like this store and some of them popups that we’ll be doing and tell that story is really important. And that’s especially true for technology, for some of the NASA stuff that we’re getting right now, which is one on one type stuff and the Apollo 11 missions, things that really are history, but at the same time, not the history of that in high school, you were forced to learn. It’s like brand new history, I didn’t really understand it from the ground up. That’s kind of what drives a lot of the motivations here.
<Mark> – Yeah. That’s awesome. I mean, that’s definitely a worthwhile, and I would say that you guys have successfully been able to, I think take that same kind of like feeling in realization to others or your community and users.
<Rob> -Thank you man.
<Mark> – Awesome. Well, cool. We’re about to wrap it up here because we’re almost out of time. But is there anything that you wanted to kind of share with us, maybe some learnings along the way that would be helpful for us as marketplace founders?
<Rob> -Man. I mean, I think that one of the biggest things like – this is going to sound crazy, but one of the biggest questions that we had to ask ourselves early is do you want to get super rich? Or do you want to build something in a space where it doesn’t exist and really build something from the ground up? That’s something that we were very deliberate about early, and I’ll be honest in building any marketplace, it’s something I wish I’d thought about more in the beginning. It’s not wrong to think that way, if you want to make a ton of money doing something, that’s completely fine, there’s exitable opportunities to do that. But it will change dynamic of your business. So if you’re putting together a team, half the people are there for money, half are there to really build, it’s never going to be that same mission.
So really focusing on that mission is one thing that I think we did really well with Rally. Nobody wants to build something that was potentially generational and not a cash grab was a really important part of the earliest possible conversations. And I think there’s still something to be said for that. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but to not have that clear vision, especially when there’s a founding team of more than one person is the most important part of what we built with this business so far, I think. And that’s something that I’m going to take, regardless of whether I’m here forever, start something new, or go open a coffee shop somewhere, which is hopefully I can do at some point in my life and not worry about making money is one of those things that should always be thought about early on and that we were very deliberate about early on as well.
<Mark> – That’s great. Well, we could not end it on a better note. So just quick kind of plug, where can we keep up with you.
<Rob> -So on Instagram, we’re @Rally, Rallyrd.com is our website. It tells a little bit of everything. I’m Rob on every platform. And honestly, my phone number, my email everything’s already out there, text me, call me, email me. Any questions, feedback, anything about this business or any business, I’m always down to have the conversation for sure.
<Mark> – Awesome. I greatly appreciate your time and yeah, thanks for joining us. This is definitely great, super insightful. I’m a huge fan of what you guys are building and we’ll keep rooting for you guys.
<Rob> -Likewise man, huge fan of what you’re building too. And I said it before this call started, there’s so many different sort of groups and marketplace groups. This is one that’s been really successful and it’s great to see how much activity is on that platform and how much people are sort of engaged and learning on the way. So, anything to do to help push from behind, let me know.
<Mark> – Awesome. Really appreciate it. So, thanks again for joining us. All right.
<Yuan> – Thanks Rob.
<Mark> – See you.
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