In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Nick Lo, co-founder of RAYA, a global running community. Nick shares how his own experiences as a physical therapist, specialty run shop owner, and founder of a web3 consultancy for lifestyle brands stoked his mission to get more people running.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at RAYA?
Nick Lo: RAYA—an acronym for Run As You Are—is a technology platform for runners. It’s a free move-to-earn app, where users sync an activity tracking app (such as Strava) to start earning points by running and/or participating in a variety of fun missions. Points are used to redeem discounts, products, contests, events, and impact-driven initiatives curated together with our brand and retail partners.
We will have a premium experience available in the form of a collectible membership (NFT), where members will receive a unique digital collectible avatar with different traits and rarities. The avatar is an animated runner with a variety of different traits, such as gender, background, color, and brand association (officially licensed shoes and apparel).
The collectible membership will unlock special missions, redemptions, and rewards. For example, if you own a collectible with a pair of adidas shoes on the artwork, you will unlock adidas-specific missions and redemptions.
We’re utilizing blockchain technology to gamify running in order to build an inclusive and diverse community, offering a unique value prop that currently does not exist in the market.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
NL: My co-Founder, Rob Smith, and I own and operate a specialty run shop in Vancouver, BC called Vancouver Running Co. As a small business owner trying to build a strong community, it has been challenging because of how fragmented and backward the run industry feels.
We saw an opportunity to create a collaborative network of mission-aligned retail shops that want to share resources and ideas in the hopes of building a community of runners from all around the world.
The best way to do this is to utilize technology and its inherent ability to scale. Our goal was to explore the benefits of blockchain as an infrastructure to build community and then deliver it in a way that is easy to understand for non-web3-native runners.
We set out on this journey about 18 months ago, and we’re determined to scale the first web3 product designed for runners, by runners, that connects the dots between brands, retailers, and community.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
NL: We signed an agreement with our first major brand, On Running, who believed in what we were building from the very first pitch. Of note, adidas, Salomon, Ciele, and Satisfy eventually followed on, but this was after months and months of pitching brands on our idea.
After signing with On, we traveled to NYC to attend NFT.NYC. Through an activation at On’s flagship location in SoHo, we introduced RAYA to the world as a web3-enabled tech startup.
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
NL: There are 621.16M runners in the world, and the market size of the sport is $11.56B based on running gear sales (numbers from 2017). Since then, it has only grown.
Our strategy to capture the market is to go run with local running communities by partnering with specialty retail shops around the world, setting up pop-up experiences with each of these locations, and hosting runs that allow the local community to experience our platform.
We have four retail partners to start: Vancouver Running Co. in Vancouver, The Loop Running Supply in Austin, Metta Running House in Mexico City, and Renegade Running in Oakland. We will continue to add retail partners as we grow.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
NL: Our core customer is the more tech-savvy runner who may be trying the sport for the first time. This runner is generally 18 to 35 years old and is a beginner who’s seeking motivation, encouragement, and a community to run with.
We are acquiring customers primarily through our retail partners, run ambassadors, and local run crews. The golden thread that connects everything is running.
We plan to grow our customer base by targeting other communities who may or may not be runners but have a parallel interest. This includes the tech community, the fitness community (who typically run to meet cardio needs but could use more encouragement), and the mental health community (who use running as a way to stimulate neurophysiological responses in their nervous systems).
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
NL: We just launched our beta, where anyone can join and start earning RAYA points with runs. We will be launching our premium collectible membership in the next two weeks, which unlocks additional features and redemptions.
After that, our next two phases will include launching a full end-to-end marketplace that allows trading RAYA memberships directly on our platform with others in the community. We’ll also debut both a content hub and social community platform that allow comms and engagement directly on our platform (to replace Discord and Twitter).
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
A little more about me, which provides some color to our mission to get more people moving…
My background is in the health & wellness/rehabilitation industry, where I was a licensed physical therapist for 16 years and, notably, the former COO of Myodetox from 2017 to 2021.
I stepped down from its day-to-day operations in 2021 to start OddFutur3, a web3 consultancy helping lifestyle brands adopt blockchain technology. If you want to learn more about this space, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Related reading from Fitt Insider: Issue No. 192: Sweat to Save
If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Startup Q&A series, send an email to email@example.com.