Kemar Newell Is Shaking Up The Sneaker Scene With His App

Photographed by Matthew Scott

He describes it as “eBay for the Snapchat generation”

The following feature appears in the September 2017 issue of NYLON Guys. 

In 2016 Forbes reported that the sneaker resale market had an estimated worth of over $1 billion. If you’ve never camped curbside for a pair of retro Jordans or the latest Kanye-designed Adidas, this sum might seem unfathomable. But for lifelong sneakerheads like Kemar Newell, the size of the gray market has been a foregone conclusion for years. 

“I used to skip lunch to save money so I could buy the next sneaker that was coming out,” the Brooklyn-born 28-year-old says from his high-rise apartment in downtown Los Angeles. “I was that passionate about it.”

Long before the Forbes report, Newell had developed FLIP, an app that allows users to buy and sell sneakers on their smartphones. While many potential investors balked at the size of the market, Newell’s persistence prevailed. With investments from a Google director and seed accelerator Y Combinator, he was able to get FLIP through beta testing and in the Apple App Store by March of 2016. 

Though Newell has marketed FLIP as “eBay for the Snapchat generation,” the app differs significantly from its e-auction forebear. While eBay is flush with fakes, the sneakers on FLIP are ensured to be authentic. Newell has created an algorithm to detect obvious knockoffs, has staff who can verify a sneaker’s authenticity, and sellers are held responsible if a buyer is unsatisfied. Also, while you might have to relist an unsold pair of shoes on eBay, FLIP will buy them from you at a mutually agreed upon price. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the duration of each auction: 90 minutes. 

“We realized that FOMO is a bitch,” Newell says with a chuckle. “[With this auction model] we can create FOMO around products that might not have as high of a demand.”

Newell cultivated this entrepreneurial acumen during his childhood. A first-generation American, neither of his Jamaican parents could afford his sneaker fetish. “I really wanted those sneakers or that look, or I wanted to get that so I could sell it,” he says. “I was also selling candy. Anything I could do to make money, I would do it.”  

When his mother bought him a computer in the mid-’90s, Newell turned his newfound proclivity for tech into an enterprise and started coding, making music, and selling flyers for party promoters and other businesses. Before long, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates joined his pantheon of idols alongside the likes of Michael Jordan and Jay-Z. By the end of high school, he’d taught himself how to code and had built his own operating system. 

“I was going to the library to read Fortran books and stuff about assembly code,” Newell explains. “There was no Google when I was really trying to learn these principles.” 

Newell was eventually admitted to MIT, but chose to attend Morehouse College for its deep connection to black history and traditions. Still, he so impressed an MIT professor during a pre-freshman program that the professor recommended him for an internship at Apple. After his freshman year at Morehouse, Newell spent his summer at the Apple offices in Cupertino, California. By graduation, he’d landed a job with Google and was back in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, buying, wearing, and selling sneakers remained a passion for Newell. After realizing that most people waiting in line for limited-edition sneakers were going to resell them anyway, FLIP was born. “I wanted to build what people want to use,” he says.

This year, after appearing on Apple Music’s new reality show Planet of the Apps, Newell secured an investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners. Though the app is currently only available for iPhone users, Newell and his team are working to bring FLIP to Android. And while Newell hopes to expand FLIP and soon sell more high-end items (e.g., watches, designer clothes), his chief goal is much more personal: “Hopefully, [creating this company] in a very public way inspires individuals from my community to say, ‘Hey, maybe there’s another way out,’” he says. “It’s very hard to relate if you can’t see it.”

Photographed by Matthew Scott

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.


Think about all the ways you've begged for ruin

I'll admit I can get a little possessive about full moons; I was born on a full moon, you see. I'll admit there's something that makes people go mad over a full moon and there's something in that madness that situates me, gives me a place to drop my anchor. I see the full moon, her one wide open eye, and think of the first gods—the cyclops and the titans—how they betrayed each other. The full moon reminds me that each of us walks this life having inherited the stories of the lives that brought us here, we carry moments of great suffering in our DNA and we carry moments of great joy too.

A Scorpio full moon is especially prone to these sorts of reminders, dancing partner to the Sun in Taurus, since both these stars are so devoted to the past, since both like to mine a wound just to see how deep it goes and how much they can stand to endure. It's true, too, that Taurus is the sign linked to the Hierophant in the Tarot. The Hierophant is a figure in service to Mysteries: guarding and teaching the sacred. The Hierophant is pre-occupied with devotion and desecration and so is Taurus. Steadied by worship and undone by violation, a Taurus knows that a cycle is a cycle, there's always a hunger that thrives in the devotional figure, that seeks to be defiled and, in that way, tested. What better consort, what better polarity, for an Earth sign like that than the watery depths of Scorpio? Scorpio, the sign of transformation, of the occult, of karmic debts, fertile and secretive darkness. Scorpio, the snake that eats its own tail, our sexual power and our sexual shame. Scorpio rules money and Taurus loves to feel wealth, to sense abundance, to roll around in the rich black dirt.

While the Sun goes down under the star of Taurus and Uranus activates Venus, so the planet of love can pour her light over the bull's horns, the Moon rises in Scorpio and we are tasked with acknowledging the many ways we begged for ruin. Is there a heaviness on your heart, dear reader? Wasn't there a time when, green as a new stem, you begged the world to give you something real to experience, to bring you to your knees with wonder and revelation? You must have known that you had to break the bud to bloom, you must have sensed—somewhere in that ancestral memory of yours—that to love something, to pour your life into something, is to prepare to lose it. That's the deal we've made with god, or what governs time.

Have you left a cup out overnight and awoke to find it brimming with memories of betrayal, of loss, of something you felt was owed to you and never retributed? You can drink from the cup of the past searching only for the taste of it, seeking only to sate your thirst for bitterness. It's your right to feel everything you feel, to remember everything that happened to you and everything you set into motion, everything you did. But, listen. The sun is warm and generous, calling new life out of the ground. You move over the Earth like a cloud heavy with emotion and memory, threatening pour, while night waits on the other side, smelling like freedom—sweet, sharp and ineffable—full of poison blooms. You can hold the truth of this wild living world, its sacred promise to consecrate you with beauty and ruin you with it too. You can sip from the cup of the past with gratitude for your past self—the one who gave her life so that you could rise again, three times as powerful and wise.

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Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.