Sneakers, whisky and Crocs: EQL raises $25m to turbo-charge retail hype drops globally

Sneakers, whisky and Crocs: EQL raises $25m to turbo-charge retail hype drops globally

L-R: EQL founders Patrick Donelan, Andrew Lipp and James Boysons. (Image provided)

EQL, a retail tech platform facilitating the drops of limited and hyped products, has secured $25 million in pre-series funding with global and local investment behemoths coming on as angel investors.

Software investor Insight Partners, known for backing high-growth companies like Octopus Deploy and Linktree, and Australian firm AirTree Ventures, led the $25 million raise to fuel EQL’s global growth and the further development of its platform.

Founded by CEO Andrew Lipp, chief revenue officer James Boysons and CTO Patrick Donelan just one year ago, Melbourne-based EQL operates a platform that retailers of limited and in-demand products can use to manage their ‘hype drops’.

Already live in international markets, the platform has facilitated more than 1,000 product launches for retailers including Footlocker, Crocs and Culture Kings.

The technology addresses problems felt universally by retailers of in-demand goods like rare sneakers, top-shelf whiskey and streetwear by mitigating site crashes and getting rid of bots that clear out stock to flip at a higher price on resale sites.

In addition to assisting retailers, EQL is on a mission to make ‘copping’ limited goods a fairer process for actual fans who often get scalped by those looking to make a quick buck on booming hype.

The funding also includes support from market leaders in digital commerce, platforms and fan engagement including Guillaume Pousaz's Zinal Growth, Harry Stebbings' investment fund, 20VC; A Cloud Guru founder Sam Kroonenburg; and the family office of Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics and co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“EQL started from a shared passion for fairness. As avid sneaker fans, we were sick of missing out while others scored in droves,” EQL CEO Lipp said.

“When we decided to build the platform, our focus was on creating more fairness. This is still our truth today. As we’ve grown, we’ve always focused on how we can give fans better access to the products they love.

“By using EQL, we’re giving brands more control of their limited release product drops and supporting more meaningful interactions with fans. This is something the market hasn’t experienced before. With us, they can own their hype and harness it. This is creating a new wave of commerce.” 

While initially focused on pain points in the sneaker space, EQL now also supports luxury brands across apparel, alcohol and accessories, and plans to soon expand into gaming, ticketing and the digital collectives space.

“Avid and loyal fans can’t get their hands on products fast enough — and that hype can create a number of technical challenges for e-commerce retailers,” Insight Partners managing director AJ Malhotra said.

“EQL’s innovative platform is helping mitigate and prevent these challenges by creating seamless product launch experiences that give retailers more control and fans better access to the products they want.”

According to AirTree partner John Henderson, EQL is a "textbook case study" when it comes to what the investment fund looks for in early-stage startups, with the company tapping into the $185 billion global streetwear market.

"When we took a look at the rigour behind EQL’s infrastructure, there were many similarities to what we see in a cybersecurity company. They share the technical challenges of verification to stay ahead of the bots and scammers while also handling large spikes in traffic. No surprises here – it’s the product nous you’d expect from ex-Google software engineers," Henderson said.

"We were not only impressed by the product and opportunity – the team also came to us with some very early proof points of traction in the sneaker market. They’d managed 46 product-launch hype sales and already signed on a key retailer as a partner.

"Their early-traction and vision got us thinking: sneakers are just the start. We could see how you could apply EQL’s infrastructure and ecosystem to any exclusive product from event tickets, clothing and social commerce." 

CEO Lipp added he was thrilled to have the support of investors for the pre-seed round.

“With the support of Insight, AirTree and many incredible angels, we’re intent on helping the global hype community, and safeguarding fairness for fans across the world, well into the future,” Lipp said.

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