Christopher Hall, who recognizes a good market opportunity when he sees one, wants to be to sneaker lovers what Bill Ackman is to shareholders.
The 22-year-old has a start-up, Kickster, a mobile and desktop platform designed to keep users on top of all the latest sneaker release dates and sneaker news – in other words, a sneakerhead's paradise – but that's not all.
Barely a year old, the company is currently developing partnerships with boutique stores, designers and even shoe companies. As Hall says, Kickster wants to be a consumer's "complete beginning-to-end service for buying shoes… everything from knowing a shoe exists, to getting it to your door."
It's a daunting task, but there's little doubt the U.S. shoe market is a goldmine. Shoe enthusiasts and the athletically inclined are willing to pay top dollar – which can run to thousands of dollars in the resale market – to own some of the flashiest brands like Nike's blockbuster Air Jordan's. SportsOneSource estimates that U.S. sneaker sales topped $23 billion last year, and has grown by more than 30 percent since 2004.
The upstart Kickster "harnesses the insatiable community behind the high-end sneaker and fashion market to bring more value to everyone," Hall told CNBC in a recent interview.
"These markets are desperately underserved and pathetically underrated, and Kickster is solving their most fundamental and complex problems by putting the community first, and backing it up with the best technical systems on the planet," Hall said
Kickster began as iSwapp, an app that ultimately was never released to the public but was originally envisioned as a user-to-user marketplace for the vast secondary sneaker sales market. Yet it wasn't until a fateful meeting with an Instagram employee that the company's leadership team decided to reorient its focus.
"We had firsthand experience with people buying and selling shoes, and it became clear that this was a great market to start with," Hall told CNBC. "People are so super-passionate about it. They can make a lot of money, there's a lot of volume, and it's very culturally integrated. It's an enormous part of pop culture, in hip-hop, sports" and fashion," he said.
In the vast ecosystem of Apple operating software applications, Kickster cracked the top 300 in sports apps, and was downloaded at least 30,000 times in the first 24 hours of its release back in September. It is one of the iOS App Store's top 30 sports applications and has been downloaded at least 150,000 times, Hall said.
Hall has a near evangelistic way of speaking about Kickster's mission, which can be useful since it can be tough to find converts. Recently, he and his co-founders competed to land a spot in New York University's coveted startup incubator, but didn't make it.
That, however, won't stop a young entrepreneur who idolizes Bill Ackman, the billionaire activist and hedge fund manager of Pershing Square Capital Management.
"I was watching these interviews with him, and basically learning how he was able to generate so much money and value for his shareholders, simply by looking at the assets of a company and restructuring them," Hall said.
And like Ackman who demands more shareholder value for the companies in which he invests, Hall wants more for his startup. Kickster already offers a feature that aggregates sneaker news from some of the largest outlets who cover the scene, but is now starting to author its own original content.
For the impatient souls who don't want to wait in line for those new Jordans, Kickster can do it for a nominal fee. The company also plans to develop artificial intelligence into its interface, which will determine a user's favorite brand, colors and shoe size, the better to expedite orders.
As much as Kickster aims to represent the sneaker culture, there are reminders that it's still just an upstart – and an underfunded one at that. Nobody on the 12-person team is compensated yet, and Kickster's still trying to work out a revenue model that fits.
In that vein, much of what Kickster intends to do comes down to receiving funding or relies purely on only promised ideas. But like many other starry-eyed entrepreneurs, Kickster has a vision and for its leader, that might be just enough.
"We had barely put any effort into this, and it's already doing pretty well," Hall said. "Imagine if we put in some work… we could make something really cool, and definitely much more useful."
Correction: This story was revised to correct that Kickster has received more than 150,000 since its inception.