Meet the former teacher behind Arbit, the tech startup using AI to find the best sneaker prices

Abu Mubarik May 31, 2024
Photo: Arbit/Jordan McNear

Get to know Venita Cooper; she is the founder of Silhouette Sneakers & Art in Tulsa, OK. She opened the sneaker store after working as a K-12 educator in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America.

Prior to launching her business, Cooper had no entrepreneurial background, and the thought of launching a business did not cross her mind until 2018 when the idea of opening a sneaker store was presented to her, she told AfroTech.

“At first I thought it was crazy ’cause I was like, ‘I’m not an entrepreneur. I’ve never done anything like that before,’” Cooper said. “One of the things that I’ve learned is that to start a business and to run a business, to me, the No. 1 skill is the ability to make good decisions consistently and quickly.

“I always ask investors and other founders who have successful companies, what is the characteristic that they can identify as that No. 1 characteristic for a successful entrepreneur, and aside from obviously not giving up, it’s just the ability to stack good decisions essentially. Working in education taught me that.”

She launched Silhouette Sneakers & Art in the historic city of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. She sells shoe releases from Nike, Jordan, and Adidas, among others. Also, her store has prioritized selling apparel products from local Black-owned and native businesses.

In March this year, Cooper announced that the store is being sold to Kellen James, a third-generation Tulsan, Market Place reported. The platform said that the decision was a long time in the making, partially because of the store’s location in Greenwood and its history.

“Silhouette, from the moment that I opened it, I always felt like it was something that I hoped I would be able to pass on to ideally a native Tulsan, ideally a Black native Tulsan with roots in the community,” Cooper expressed.

“I found that person, the new owner, Kellen James… And I think there’s something really beautiful about this. I actually told him, he shouldn’t just be stepping into my vision and carrying that forward. I think the beauty of it is to have this business on Black Wall Street that evolves with the next person. I’m really excited about the potential for Silhouette in the community.”

On her part, Cooper is turning her focus to the tech world with her venture called Arbit, a data and resale price-prediction startup powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Arbit aggregates supply and demand indicators like historical sales and uses an algorithm to determine current fair market value and forecast future prices, it said in a release. Arbit is the first pricing algorithm application to use an unbiased predictive valuation tool for sneakers, the release added. Cooper developed the idea for her tech startup while running her sneaker store.

“My painful experiences with price uncertainty in the sneaker market as both a sneaker business owner and collector inspired me to launch Arbit,” she said. “Arbit’s algorithm will change the landscape of resell markets like sneakers by empowering smarter transactions and a more efficient marketplace. Our users are saving money and making money.”

In the last quarter of last year, she raised $1 million in venture funding to scale the platform and team, joining a short list of Black female founders who have raised more than $1 million in venture capital. Also, the company makes revenue by partnering with marketplaces to receive a commission from their sales. It hopes to disrupt the sneaker resale market that is expected to reach $30 billion by 2030.

Cooper is also exploring the possibility of expanding to other sectors. She and her team are already collecting data to build algorithms that will be useful for the luxury handbag sector.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 31, 2024


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