Move-to-earn running app STEPN secured $5M in seed funding on Thursday.
Sequoia Capital, Folius Ventures, Solana Capital, and other major web3 investors participated in the round.
A Running Start
Innovating at the intersection of fitness and web3, STEPN is built on the blockchain platform Solana and rewards movement with cryptocurrency.
To participate, users can purchase or rent a digital sneaker from its NFT marketplace, then walk, run, or jog outdoors (tracked by in-app GPS) to earn tokens. Users can spend their earnings within the STEPN ecosystem or swap their tokens to withdraw earnings to an external account. Factors that multiply earnings include walking/running speed and the attributes of the NFT sneakers they’ve selected.
Since launching its public beta in late 2021, STEPN has steadily gained traction:
- The app has 1,500 daily active users from over 90 countries with a daily retention rate of over 80%; its biggest markets are in China, the US, and India.
- As of January 2022, STEPN is ranked by Solanalysis (Solana’s ticker of top NFT collections) in the top five under the gaming category, with a market cap of about $6.5M.
Notably, STEPN won’t require NFT ownership for users to start earning. Rather, users will be able to rent sneakers from others for free, provided the user meets an activity requirement. This opens up access to those who may be unfamiliar with the crypto space.
From wearables to at-home gyms, there has been a flood of new health and fitness innovation. Yet, despite more fitness tech, our health is in serious decline.
Offering an extra incentive, pay-for-fitness startups nudge users to make healthier choices and build a more consistent workout habit. As we covered last summer, the segment is slowly picking up steam, though it hasn’t quite caught on at scale.
Now, the budding web3 movement is injecting the category with new life. Besides STEPN’s recent raise, a number of move-to-earn startups are leveraging crypto and gamification:
- Genopets, a move-to-earn mobile game, raised $8.3M last October. The startup transforms real-world movement into digital tokens that players can use to upgrade their digital avatars.
- Vietnam-based Calo Metaverse layers on an AR/VR environment where users can convert burned calories into tokens; it secured $1.95M in a private sale round in December.
- Active since 2016 and 2017, respectively, Sweatcoin and Clinicoin pay out in crypto for steps and healthy activities.
A slightly different approach, CommitPool allows users to stake cryptocurrency on goals that they set for themselves — a lot like personal fitness betting platform Cadoo. Those who hit their goals get their money back, plus a small reward.
Looking ahead: Over the past decade, fitness has evolved from gyms to studios to connected fitness. Now, web3 startups are helping develop, gamify, and incentivize a new fitness community — full of apps that pay you to work out.