NTWRK, is a fascinating experiment in buying live videos for the whole iPhone. It’s been described as a mix of QVC and Twitter and Twitch and they only got a new chunk of money from investors like Drake and Live Nation to expand into physical events.
There have been a ton of attempts at this type of hybrid event buying experience, but none of them have hit a home run yet. NTWRK was a pretty compelling experience even at launch last year. The main experience is a live show featured only on the NTWRK app, where guests can discuss the products that are available on the app as the show airs.
There was a built-in opportunity to offer limited-availability streetwear and sneakers, and an audience that founder Aaron Levant knew all too well from his time running ComplexCon and Agenda, two great street and marketing shows.
One of the first shows starred Ben Baller and Jeff Staple, and featured a drop from a new color palette of Nike’s iconic Staple Pigeon Dunk. . I went online and found the experience compelling in its own way. The live show provided the context for the product and the interface allowed you to shop in a couple of taps of a button (the shoes were sold out immediately and the app was inevitably crashed by the onslaught of hyped beasts). The streaming and the app have become more stable since then.
Since launch, NTWRK has experimented with various areas of products and promotions. The latest funding is allowing expansion into physical events and some new angles on the NTWRK model.
After being expelled from high school in 10th grade, Levant (who had a passion for graffiti) worked in graphic design, sales, and marketing for a Los Angeles streetwear brand. That led to her attending a trade show and eventually Levant, who founded her own program, Agenda in 2003. The Agenda grew larger in the next 10 years, becoming one of the biggest action sports events, street fashion and lifestyle in the world. It sold the majority of Agenda to ReeedPOP, which owns Comic Con and was kept in a development role. Eventually, he developed other programs, including ComplexCon, a successful culture, and a sneaker program in partnership with Complex.
Last year, Levant left to found NTWRK.
“That transition actually happened through a conversation I had with Jimmy Iovine in September 2017, ”Levant told me in an interview last year. “It was introduced to me by a friend. He expressed interest in a new company for him and his son, and we had similar interests and ideas about it. That night I met him, I went home, stayed up all night at 4:00 in the morning, and wrote the full business plan for NTWRK. “.
Iovine ended up as an investor through the MSA Enterprises vehicle, along with Warner Bros. Digital Networks, LeBron James, Maverick Carter and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jimmy’s son Jamie is Co-Founder and Head of Fandom at NTWRK.
One of Levant’s great takeaways from his time with ComplexCon and Agenda was that physical audiences were valuable, but a digital audience was created to nurture these lifestyle events through earned media and user-generated content. .
“There are 50,000 people in the room, but I think there are probably a million people online who want to engage with those products and that content.”Levant said. “Maybe I felt a bit like I was using my skill set and I wasn’t extracting all the value because I wasn’t in the electronic communications or digital media business in the past. I think it was a key unlock for me, how do I best do phase two of my career? “
The last few months have seen a number of high-profile releases and collaborations with people who wear sneakers and street clothes. And now, the Live Nation and Drake union will lead to artist-driven collections sold on the NTWRK app, exclusive access to tickets, NTWKR-developed promo packages, and, yes, a new live event called NTWRK Presents to be held. will launch in the fourth quarter.
In recent months, Drake has sold some of his touring merchandise exclusively at NTWRK.
They have also been holding auctions for rare items from the resale market such as guitars and Supreme sneakers.
The concept of shopping as entertainment is far from new. There’s a reason people from the easy buzzword attached to NTWRK is’ QVC for millennials. ‘ But there hasn’t been a platform yet that has managed to match the right culture with the right delivery mechanism at the right time. NTWRK has the opportunity to do this, I think because Levant has a taste for doing it, but also because it is stepping back on this from a place of understanding when it comes to culture.
Too many times we see platform technology taking center stage – a smart delivery mechanism or good design. But fundamentally, most tech companies are absolutely bad at culture. They are too homogeneous: they do not allow or stimulate the influence of the spaces they serve.
Black twitter done Twitter. Creators of Color Vine. Asian and Indian users dominate WhatsApp. But when there is an attempt to involve even niche cultures in commerce or monetization, the lack of inclusion and understanding causes them to go bankrupt over and over again.
Having started with live events that existed primarily as a framework for the culture to create its own moments, Levant and NTWRK are in a better position to figure this out. If you’ve ever been to an Agenda or ComplexCon you know what I mean. There is happening this acrid mix of culture, music, money, rare goods and fleeting moments. The challenge is getting it to work in a digital context, of course, and then ordering one “re-export” to go back to event formats.
“I think, as I have said countless times, physical events have a huge organic waveform, but we needed the digital platform to be established and scalable before we implemented physical events, to have an effect on the larger digital platform.”. “Levant says about moving NTWRK to an IRL context. “In my previous roles, I spent 15 years really focusing on the events of physical experience and towards the end of my career having me come to the conclusion that I was doing it the other way around.”.
I don’t necessarily think this model is going to work for everyone. I think Levant and his colleagues have a unique ability to bring people together and I think the celebrity thing is a strong general angle, right down to investors.
“Obviously, Drake is an icon that has a massive influence on all of pop culture and I think there are few people in that category who can capture the consumer’s imagination.”says Levant. “I couldn’t think of someone better than him to be involved with our company”.
However, there are also other angles that still have the same thing at the core. NTWRK is creating this engaged audience and giving them value and then offering them an honest and straightforward transaction: “Look, this is what it is. If you buy it, we benefit. Thank you peace “.
That type of interaction model is foreign to the media due to this idea that advertising is the only gain and the only way to build that monetary relationship. I think people are going to start to realize that, but they are still very resilient.
“We were there, talking to all the brands and all the agencies in the world, and it is very interesting to see who receives it and who is totally confused”Levant said when we talked about the launch. “It’s really fun to have these conversations because people say” Wait, what are you doing? “
They have a hard time understanding it and they don’t know who we should talk to. Should we be talking to the media buying team? Should we be talking to the wholesale team? Should we talk to the PR team? I’m like, ‘No, we’re talking to everyone “.
“Companies tend to divide their business into these silos, these business units and these internal categories and they usually don’t collaborate or play well, and when these big global organizations get together, their head is spinning because they don’t know who they are. . we should talk because no one has done this one by one yet “.
Right now, as I write this, I’m watching Bobby Hundreds speak live about his memoirs. This is not a t-shirt, as I sell a package that includes the book and, yes, a t-shirt. Hundreds (Bobby Kim), created a streetwear brand when it was definitely not a thing to create a streetwear brand.
The package costs $ 50. I’m thinking of buying it.