MVMT (pronounced 'Movement') disrupted the timepiece community because it did what few other big names were doing. First, MVMT ditched retail to focus on ecommerce and digital marketing. Second, MVMT captured the millennial market. 

Founded by Kramer LaPlante and Jake Kassan, these serial entrepreneurs were on a mission to bring stylish timepieces to millennials on a budget. Despite these sky-high dreams, these co-founders were deep in the hole — over $20,000 in debt. Learn how the duo entrepreneurs overcame this challenge to build a watch startup from the ground up before selling it for $300 million.

MVMT Highlights

  • College dropouts Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante were $20,000 in debt in their twenties when they founded MVMT in 2013.
  • By focusing on digital marketing, MVMT built a large and engaged community targeting millennials. Its millennial appeal is stylish, luxurious-looking timepieces without breaking the bank.
  • Forbes included Jake Kassan and Kramer Laplante on its 2017 list of 30 under 30.
  • 2014: the company reported one million dollars in revenue. In 2015, it went up to $30 million. And in 2016, that figure doubled to $60 million.
  • 2018: Movado Group acquired MVMT for $300 million.

How Two College Dropouts Created a Movement Within the Watch Industry

MVMT Company History

Who are the co-founders?

When Jake Kassan was a teenager, he was already experimenting with ways to make money. At only 17 years old, Kassan created an ecommerce t-shirt business that brought in $10,000 per week. When we say these t-shirts were niche, we mean it. These t-shirts featured a microphone and lights. When the t-shirts sensed noise, they lit up. During the summer, Kassan would drive to Santa Monica and sell t-shirts. 

Next, we have Kramer LaPlante. LaPlante also brought some business experience to the table before co-founding MVMT. He launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance his wallet idea. This campaign raised over $100,000 from nearly 3,000 backers.

Kassan's ecommerce talents and LaPlante's crowdfunding skills provided the right background to start the MVMT story.

"Growing up, Jake and I were always both entrepreneurial," LaPlante told Forbes. "We both always had a side hustle. We were always trying to make money any place we could."

The inspiration for MVMT

Kramer and LaPlante discovered a millennial pain point: stylish, quality watches that didn't cost this month's rent. 

"We've both always been passionate about watches," LaPlante told Forbes. "But none of the existing brands resonated with us or our friends in a fashion forward Millennial way." 

That's when Kassan and LaPlante thought about starting a watch startup. The two shared a Santa Barbara apartment and bounced ideas off each other. They researched watch suppliers through Alibaba. They also talked with different suppliers to understand their costs of production.

Ultimately, they realized that most watch companies were marking up the price insanely high. If they cut the retail middleman and sold online directly to the consumer, they could deliver watches at a lower price.

"We are online shoppers. We started this business when we were 21, 22 years old. Being millennials, shopping online, seeing the growth of e-commerce before it really blew up ... we saw that coming," Kassan told CNBC Make It.

At this time, both LaPlante and Kassan had already dropped out of college. After just three months of researching, Kramer and LaPlante designed six watch samples. It was time to secure some capital for this startup.

Crowdfunding their watch startup

Here's something you may not know. Kramer and LaPlante pitched their idea to Kickstarter twice and got rejected each time. After the second denial, they went to Indiegogo, another crowdfunding platform.

The initial funding goal: $50,000

The result: Within 50 days, they raised $300,000 from over 3,000 backers. At the time, MVMT was the second most-funded fashion brand. Encouraging people to "Join the MVMT," this watch startup was rapidly amassing capital and hype. 

The conversation with Shark Tank's Daymond John

After winning a Shopify contest in 2014, LaPlante and Kassan had an opportunity to speak with Shark Tank's very own Daymond John. The pair were thinking about growing their presence within department starts, such as Macy's and Nordstrom. Considering John's extensive retail experience, they thought him the perfect mentor.

When LaPlante and Kassan shared their idea, his response shocked them. John told the co-founders that they'd regret it. Instead, John encouraged LaPlante and Kassan to focus on the online presence. 

"'You guys are successful online, continue to build that. Do not go to retail. It's dying. It's dead,' LaPlante shared with Forbes, recalling what John said. "That conversation killed that (vision) for us."

Doubling down on ecommerce

LaPlante and Kassan were doing what other watch brands weren't. They were cultivating a massive online presence and marketing their brand to millennials. MVMT had a social media presence on every platform. The brand sold with Facebook ads, broadcasted on Twitter, and featured on Instagram. There was no direct mail marketing or billboards — all their advertising was online.

"We didn't actually know it at the time that what we were doing was totally against the grain. . . People felt cool wearing our watches, and they told their friends about it, and it all just snowballed from there," LaPlante shared.

And snowball it did. MVMT's first year alone brought in one million dollars. In 2015, it more than quadrupled to $30 million. Then it doubled to $60 million in 2016.

These revenue figures are more than multiplying. MVMT's sales were explosive.

By the way, this was all done without outside investment and 25 employees. 

"We're completely self-funded," LaPlante told Forbes, "It's pretty incredible. We slowly took our steps and forecast the best that we could, and now we're putting everything back into the company. We don't owe anyone a thing, so we can continue to build our company the way we want to."

Movado Group acquires MVMT

MVMT was making waves, and it attracted the eye of Movado Group, the parent company of expensive brands like Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, and Hugo Boss. Movado wanted to expand its digital portfolio and use MVMT to capture the millennial market.

In 2018, Movado Group acquired MVMT for a total of $300 million. This payout consisted of an initial $100 million payment. The remaining payment would be split between two $100 payments, Forbes reported.

"I, along with the 39 associates at MVMT, share in the enthusiasm to be part of Movado Group," LaPlante announced. "We expect Movado Group's scale, relationships, and expertise in the timepiece category to accelerate the growth and development of our business."

Initially targeting men, the brand expanded its target market to women with MVMTForHer. Launched in 2019, this women's line of accessories includes watches, jewelry, and sunglasses. 

Kassan and LaPlante are still involved. Kassan is the CEO, and LaPlante is the COO.

A Deeper Dive Into MVMT's Marketing and Branding

Style shouldn't break the bank.

Style on a budget is MVMT's unique value proposition. Popular watch retailers before MVMT included Rolex, Citizen, and Timex. These watches were certainly high-quality and luxurious — the $1,000+ prices reflected that. However, it priced out specific markets, like millennials. 

And so, "Style shouldn't break the bank" became part of the branding. They made this clear from the very beginning when they started their Indiegogo campaign. In their campaign video, Kassan said:

"Some of you may not know this, but that really expensive watch you've always wanted only cost a fraction of the price to make. Brands create artificially high prices and invest heavily in marketing to craft an image of luxury and quality." 

Immediately, Jake describes a pain point among millennials: attractive timepieces without high markup prices. This made it easy to position the brand as the solution they needed.

MVMT is completely online.

After receiving Daymond John's advice to focus entirely on ecommerce, Kassan and LaPlante did precisely that.

  • MVMT is everywhere. LaPlante and Kassan invested heavily in social media to get their message out. MVMT has a presence on nearly every platform — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more. 
  • MVMT Instagram strategy. Inspired by #DWMoment by the watch brand Daniel Wellington, MVMT came up with their own hashtag: #JoinTheMVMT (currently over 160,000 posts). Influencers and consumers alike would post to their social media profiles using this hashtag. The increase in user-generated content allows their customers to market MVMT products for them.
  • Facebook ads: MVMT expands its reach with Facebook ads. Many of their ads focus on product photos over videos, redirecting the customer to the product page. Even influencers invest in paid advertising to promote MVMT products (and boost their commissions).
  • MVMT email marketing: Email allows MVMT to market their brands straight to the consumer's inbox. Right off the bat, they give you 10% for signing up. This attractive incentive helps consumers make that first purchase. MVMT then sends more emails about new promotions and collections to help drive more sales.

Use influencer marketing.

Part of MVMT's marketing strategy was working with influencers. Starting out, they specifically targeted influencers with smaller audiences for a few reasons:

  1. Working with big influencers costs a lot of money. (In MVMT's early stages, they did not rely on outside financing).
  2. People tend to trust smaller influencers. It's easy to spot a big influencer or celebrity and suspect this was just another brand deal. (Although, eventually, Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie Jenner sported MVMT watches).

MVMT also highlighted their ambassador program. On their website, influencers can sign up to join the MVMT Creator Community. Influencers can earn a commission by promoting MVMT products through their social media platforms or blog. 

Sell a lifestyle.

Sell the benefits, not the product. This is nothing new. 

MVMT doesn't just sell watches. They sell to millennials a lifestyle of luxury, style, adventure, boldness, confidence, and daring — without the exorbitant price. When you sign up for MVMT's newsletter, you'll eventually receive an email titled: "It's not a look, it's a lifestyle."

Take a look through MVMT's Instagram reel. You'll see models posed in front of cars, sitting at the beach, exploring polar ice caps, and relaxing at the lake. 

MVMT is bold. Sleek. Minimalist. 

MVMT even has a video of models going deep-diving wearing their water-resistant watches. Millennial men (their target market) feel like they own a private jet when wearing a MVMT timepiece.

This type of visual branding tells consumers: wear a MVMT watch, and this lifestyle of high style and adventure will be yours.


Is MVMT a luxury brand?

MVMT offers stylish, minimalist watches at an affordable price — perfect for millennials on a budget. Other luxury brands, such as Rolex, sell watches at over $1,000. Many MVMT watches are in the $100 to $200 range, allowing customers to gain a stylish timepiece without breaking the bank.

What does MVMT watches stand for?

Read as "movement," the word is pivotal to MVMT's community-building strategy. It encourages its target market — initially millennial men — to #JoinTheMVMT. The movement tells you that you don't need to be rich to be stylish.

How much is MVMT worth?

MVMT generated one million dollars after its first year (2014). Just three years later (2016), MVMT more than quadrupled its sales to $60 million. Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante sold MVMT to Movado Group for $300 million in 2018.

Was MVMT on Shark Tank?

MVMT was never on in a Shark Tank episode. However, Shark Tank's Daymond John featured Kassan and LaPlante on his blog, helping the watch startup gain exposure. 

What's wrong with MVMT watches?

According to Ben's Watch Club, watch brands like MVMT deliver products that are "overhyped and oversold," according to Ben's Watch Club. MVMT apparently relies more on marketing than delivering a quality product to make "quick, easy cash."

Who owns MVMT?

MVMT was founded in 2013 by Kramer LaPlante and Jake Kassan. MVMT later sold to Movado Group for $300 million in 2018.

Did Movado buy MVMT?

Movado Group, an American watchmaker, acquired MVMT for $300 million in 2018. 

The Bottom Line

Don't think that you need to take on tons of outside financing to build the business you want. While not ideal, debt certainly doesn't block the path of entrepreneurship. If you're creative, scrappy, and have a marketing eye, you can still build a business. 

Kassan and LaPlante leveraged online marketing to the fullest to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. They then used the same digital marketing tactics to transform their watch startup into a wildly profitable enterprise.