Meet STEPN, the crypto app that promises to pay you to get in shape

What would motivate you to exercise more? The obvious answer, say the founders of STEPN, is cold money. Their running app offers its users cash rewards for becoming more active and has already convinced millions of people to sign up in just a few months.

It’s a pretty simple principle, explains Yawn Rong, co-founder of STEPN. “We wanted to get people to change their behavior and exercise more,” he says. “It’s a way to share the benefits of Web3 technologies with a diverse new pool of fitness enthusiasts.”

To participate, users must download the STEPN app and then purchase a virtual pair of sneakers in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT). Once they’ve done that, STEPN’s GPS tracking and motion sensor technology will track the distance they’ve walked and reward them with tokens every time they go for a walk, jog, or run. These tokens can then be spent in-game, for example on upgraded sneakers, or redeemed into hard currency.

The potential rewards sound enticing. Rong says the minimum users can expect to earn is $25 for 10 minutes of activity, with some users earning up to $4,500 per day. But many people don’t take all the money, he adds. They use their earnings to acquire new in-game NFTs, trade with other players and choose to donate some of their money to charities.

If this all sounds too good to be true, there’s a catch. To start playing, you need to buy these NFT sneakers, which are priced in Sol, the native cryptocurrency of the Solana blockchain, on which STEPN works. And they are expensive: The daily price in fiat currency fluctuates with the value of the land, but the cheapest sneakers cost hundreds of dollars – and sometimes the entrance fee has risen well above $1,000 dollars.

In the coming months, STEPN hopes to introduce a sneaker rental feature to get around this high initial cost of joining. New players would rent sneakers from someone already in the game, and split the income they earn with the sneaker owner until they earn enough to buy their own NFT sneakers. This would encourage more people to participate – and help STEPN enter new markets; it is currently most popular in rich countries like Japan, France, US and UK where users can pay for that first NFT purchase.

For the time being, however, the barrier to entry of high initial purchase prices does not appear to be an obstacle. Since the launch of STEPN last December, the app has registered 2.3 million monthly active users, of which half a million use the app every day. This has caused the value of STEPN’s tokens to skyrocket, with trading volumes in the GMT governance tokens surpassing that of Bitcoin and Ethereum on some days.

Indeed, STEPN is attracting a lot of interest in the world of cryptocurrency investment, with the tokens posting hundreds of percent gains at their peak, albeit with significant volatility. As new cryptocurrencies have come and gone at a dizzying pace over the past two years, some investors are betting that the move-to-win principle underlying STEPN will give it a longer lifespan.

As for STEPN itself, it is cutting its NFT trading fee by 6%, generating significant revenue for the company in a very short time – the company made a profit of $26 million in the last quarter of last year alone and already has a valuation of over $1 billion with some analysts.

Yet Rong and his co-founder Jerry Huang are not resting on their laurels. They see STEPN as a first step towards a broader Web3 offering, believing that users who get used to the concepts of cryptocurrency and decentralized finance will develop the confidence to participate more widely. “Users can expect more exciting developments from STEPN in the future,” says Rong. “The app plans to integrate more socialfi elements into its platform and will roll out exciting features for non-native crypto users to facilitate their integration into the Web3 world.”

The founders are also eager to showcase their green credentials. In addition to STEPN’s use of Solana, which is widely regarded as a more environmentally friendly blockchain, the company offers users the option to donate a portion of the profit pool towards the purchase of credits.

More traditional sportswear companies are taking notice. Last month, STEPN announced a partnership with footwear giant ASICS, which released a limited-edition set of branded sneakers on the app. “The STEPN app is an incredible achievement in technological innovation and we believe ASICS’ immediate and long-term partnership with them will help millions of people around the world have a healthy mind in a healthy body,” said Joe Pace, CEO. development manager at ASICS.

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