STEPN CMO: “NFTs Are The Future Of Fitness”

STEPN CMO, Shiti Rastogi. Fitness, Move-and-Earn App

Track your movement, earn crypto — this is the future of fitness. Using a “move-and-earn” model, STEPN is a health and fitness Web3 lifestyle app where users purchase sneakers in the form of NFTs to track their jog outdoors to earn GST (the game’s utility token Green Satoshi) which can be traded for cash or used to level up in the app.

STEPN ultimately incentivizes users to exercise daily and enhance their fitness level using token rewards and community accountability. Described as “Strava meets Pokémon Go,” STEPN hopes to inspire millions to live a healthier lifestyle, all while connecting them to Web3. With a profit earning report of $122.5 million in Q2 2022 and amassing over 3 million users in just six months, the future of fitness in Web3 has certainly arrived.

In our latest episode of The Blockchain Hustler, we spoke to Shiti Rastogi, the CMO of STEPN all about the future of fitness in Web3.

(This interview has been edited and condensed)

Give us a rundown of how STEPN works.

Our mission is to nudge millions if not billions of people towards a healthy lifestyle, connecting them to web3 and doing something to contribute positively towards carbon neutrality. There are lots of people, one third of our users to be precise, who are discovering crypto for the first time.

Not everyone cares about Web3 or decentralization, but people do care about movement and their health, and that is the gateway we’re using to get people into Web3 in a way that benefits them and creates this positive loop of habit creation, results, and accountability in social settings. Our app has one of the best UI’s in Web3 and user-clicks.

“Not only are we getting people outdoors, but we’re actively donating positively to carbon neutrality by getting people outdoors and are actively donating $100,000 every month for carbon credit removals.” 

Shiti Rastogi, CMO of STEPN

Why is it a goal for STEPN to move users away from screens and being indoors, and push them out into the real world? 

Why are we building a fitness app in web3 and why are we doing it outdoors? By building a fitness app in Web3, the users get rewarded.

These incentives make them stay fitter and they come back. It also gives them ownership and in real life transition which is frictionless. Our app has its own built-in marketplace, you can easily transition your assets because of ownership.

Then there’s tokenomics. If tokenomics are the foundation of Web3, the NFTs are the bricks and walls of Web3. Thanks to these tokenomics, there’s a constant supply and demand which maintains the stability and economy of the game.

And last but not least, networking events. Through network events we empower communities and early growth to get to a stage where we are. That is all delivered by the power of Web3, blockchain, tokenization, and NFTs. 

We are in an era of “move-to-earn” where movements are incentivised. As humans, we are not wired to exercise, we are wired to relax on a beach or sit on a couch and watch TV. These incentives help us to give that motivation, to give that extra push for us to overcome our monkey mind and get fitter.

There’s no fee to run outdoors, there’s hardware needed for running or doing pushups and yet cardiovascular issues are a massive burden on government economies. One big thing plaguing that simple problem with the most difficult solution is that of retention.

“The single biggest problem of fitness industry is not growth, it’s retention. And retention happens only when you get results. The results happen where there is accountability. For accountability to happen there have to be incentives.”

Shiti Rastogi, CMO of STEPN

That is the gap that at STEPN we are trying to fill, whether through incentives or through social settings. We feel we’re fulfilling that habit loop and that need that users have for long term rather than short term.

Who are the types of people using STEPN? What is their mindset?

There are broadly three kinds of people that use STEPN. First, are the people who are new to Web3 entirely, the person who wants to get a feel of web3 but is sort of skeptical about it. STEPN to them seems like it’s something they can touch or feel as their first experience with Web3. You move about and you earn crypto rewards.

In trying the app it looks very simple, there is easy onboarding and product icon language they can understand. There are no complicated buzzwords that would keep them away. Trying our app by checking out our social media pages becomes the gateway for these kinds of people. 

The second type of person would be the fitness enthusiast. People who have been moving about and they ask themselves why they’ve been running outside without this app. Also gamers who are interested in leveling up to access the tokens. 

The third kind of user is a crypto native. They have to see what’s going on and what are the hottest apps in crypto right now. The core user base we started out with was the crypto native, followed by the fitness enthusiasts, then the new users of Web3.

The community element of STEPN is key. Talk to us about the benefits of being part of the STEPN community in regards to fitness, connection and web3 onboarding.

Community is one of our single biggest trends. Every decision we make is measured by two things: product and community. Startups have one element that exceeds very well and works like a machine – that is community. 

There is a STEPN website that was made by our community that has organized events all over the world. When you go to the event, it’s all different types of people onboarding each other, at least 4-5 people per user, which explains our growth having next to nothing worth of paid marketing. This has been the single biggest driver of our group: organic onboarding. 

Our app creates a feeling of community belongingness in real life, and the health and physical impact it has had on people. There are people recovering from physical and mental health issues due to being more active over a 6-8 month period. They found STEPN at a time when nothing else was working due to COVID and job losses. 

STEPN has several anti-cheating systems in place. Can you talk to me about those?

We have a system called SMACK in place, which is a machine learning algorithm that prevents cheating. Essentially, we are not trying to store anybody’s data, so we deploy cutting edge technologies that very few companies deploy currently.

“The quality of output depends on the quality of input. We access the data on cell phones but don’t store it and anonymize it. The machine-learning algorithm basically draws patterns and anything that stands out of the pattern, we’re able to catch.”

Shiti Rastogi, CMO of STEPN

We take cheating very seriously because it’s important for longevity and sustainability. We want to be around for at least a few decades if not more. We want to make sure the game plays fair, is robust, and long-term is important.

It was recently announced that STEPN will expand into the Ethereum ecosystem. How will this move welcome new communities to STEPN?

One of the game’s missions is adoption, getting the next hundred million users onto Web3 with us. And for that scale of adoption to happen, you have to join hands, you can’t stand alone.

The Web3 vision is not an isolated island, it’s that of community. When we started looking on the Ethereum chain, we were looking at communities to draw towards us. The only driving factor was inclusiveness and adoption, and what better community than BAYC [to mint a free pair of NFT sneakers on Ethereum]. 

Our startup excels in community growth, and we have an easy onboarding process which creates this fitness habit creation loop. This results in that community, an empowered community that belongs to each other and to STEPN.

That further leads and drives us to brand collaborations, and this welcomes in new users who are then onboarded easily to the app and get into those loops. This is a beautiful win-win for communities and collaborations for us that we’ve created and want to keep building on.

What is the long term vision of STEPN?

Our vision is built on four pillars: establish, grow, unlock, and accrue. Establish is the driving mindshare of STEPN growth. We’re still only a few months old brand. While we’re still only in Web3, our mission is much beyond that.

So driving this mindshare through further idea collaborations and partnerships is part of the establish pillar. This particular pillar is growing by whatever we establish in Web3 and outside of Web3 through different experiences such as entertainment and social experiences.

The growth pillar means we want to build a super app which offers different kinds of experiences to STEPN users. The third pillar is where we want to unlock new experiences within our product for our users such as new game plays and social experiences.

Last, is the pillar of accrue where all of these products and initiatives along with any collaboration that we do finally has a unifying thread of GMT, our token. All of the value accrues back to the token.

How do you see the utility of NFTs evolving the fitness industry?

I think we’ve only scratched the surface of NFTs as far as utility is concerned. The characteristics of NFTs are transparency, divisibility, transferability, and interoperability. The two use cases are secular and broad. Secular-use cases are limited to the ecosystems of the NFT projects whereas broad are broader applications to humanity at large.

Secular use-cases which is where we and the industries act would be staking, exclusive benefits, redeemability, breeding, memberships, etc. This is phase one. As we move into the next phase of broader usership as the technology matures, that is when we truly unlock the potential with things like authentication, IP, real estate, ticketing, insurance. And one application that I’m specifically interested about is music. 

“So yes, as the tech matures, we definitely discover more and more use cases. As the utility grows, so will adoption and it’s an inevitability. Like I said, if tokenomics lay the foundation of Web3, NFTs are the bricks and the walls of Web3.

Shiti Rastogi, CMO of STEPN
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