STEPN’s mission is to be a bridge to Web3

We remain committed to making Web3 an inclusive place bringing in a diverse set of consumers

The new internet

In the past few years, the web3 movement has taken the internet by storm. Blockchain enthusiasts have trumpeted the arrival of a new, democratized internet — one that shifts the power away from traditional gatekeepers and back into the hands of users.

Indeed, blockchain tech could revolutionize the digital world as we know it. Constructing decentralized economies, projects now have the ability to build trust and align incentives, reducing the need for third-party intermediaries. This is powerful for creators, communities, and everyone else in between — now, strangers from across the world can collaborate and work together, faster than ever, to build world-changing projects.

The power of web3 is already manifesting all around the internet and its reach is growing at a blinding pace. One popular example is Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) which is one of the biggest NFT projects in the game. It was launched less than a year ago, in April 2021, and in less than a year the team had crossed a whopping $1 billion in sales. To put that in perspective, Rolex, which accounts for 25% of all Swiss watch sales and has been in the luxury business for over a century, generated around $8.5 billion in annual revenue in 2020.

Elsewhere, DAOs have exploded this past year as well, with decentralized treasuries eclipsing $8.2 billion on Ethereum and $1.3 billion on Solana. According to Soocial.com, the total market cap of DAOs as of January 2022 was a massive $21 billion, with the top 5 DAO tokens holding around $13 billion in value.

These are incredible numbers to see from an industry that is only just starting to catch fire. Looking ahead, as the market matures and more and more people get onboarded onto web3, it seems inevitable that crypto will soon become integrated into our everyday lives. But as crypto goes mainstream, many are starting to call attention to a growing problem.

The question of diversity

As it stands, web3 has a major diversity problem. A Quartz survey of 378 venture-backed cryptocurrency startups found that a mere 8.5% reported a female co-founder or founder on the team. Another survey, this one from CNBC and Acorns, found that twice as many men invest in cryptocurrency than women.

Indeed, it seems that web3 more or less mirrors the existing finance industry in many ways — the majority of the community is white and male. Even as recently as 2021, a McKinsey report found that women in North America are “dramatically underrepresented in the financial-services workforce.”

The narrative gets worse for women of color. In what some have dubbed the “broken rung,” Asian, Black and Hispanic women are significantly less likely to be promoted from entry level to manager, a trend that persists across the financial services industry, from commercial banking to asset management to insurance.

Zooming out, a similar story plays out when it comes to founders and leaders. A study from Deloitte found that, across the globe, the fintech founder community is dominated by men. Women make up a tiny fraction of the group — just 7%. And in 2019, the firm found that only six out of America’s 107 largest institutions had male CEOs.

This is, of course, a centuries-long battle. Gender and ethnic inequalities have persisted for decades around the world, particularly in corporate America.

Building a better web3

A major component of web3 is its promise to revolutionize the internet and transform existing financial systems. So why should its community and founders look the same?

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, the world of web3 can seem intimidating, confusing, and difficult to navigate. Those who don’t have existing foundations in financial knowledge may find it challenging to overcome knowledge barriers and decode the mystifying jargon that the crypto community loves to use.

Others, who might just want to play a blockchain-based game, may find it confusing to set up a wallet or even understand what an NFT is. It can take many stops and starts to set up the infrastructure, buy some coins to pay gas fees, etc. In the end, despite showing interest, many beginners end up giving up altogether — especially those who don’t have the social circles in place to help guide them when they get stuck.

Currently, we stand at a crucial juncture in how the “new internet” will play out. While blockchain has undeniably permeated the cultural zeitgeist, experts estimate that only 1 in 10 people are invested in cryptocurrency. That presents a massive opportunity as more and more consumers are onboarded onto web3.

Medha Kothari is a co-founder at she256, a nonprofit that aims to increase diversity in the blockchain space through providing mentorship, education, and community. Kothari described the rationale behind starting her company eloquently:

“We [are] convinced that blockchain technology [is] going to fundamentally change the way our financial systems run and our societies are governed. So, we thought it was absolutely critical that those building these systems represent the diversity of our global population.”

Going forward, it’s time for more diverse projects to be built on blockchain, beyond just PFP projects that tend to benefit a privileged few.

Financial inclusion in the web3 world

Fortunately, the fundamental nature of crypto is already starting to build inclusion and lift up communities that have been traditionally excluded from economic privilege. For example, crypto assets have already begun to help Latin Americans hedge against inflation in countries like Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, and more.

Elsewhere, in Southeast Asia, cryptocurrency has seen massive rates of adoption following the popularity of games like Axie Infinity. Crypto wallet provider Metamask reported that a sizable 20% of its 10 million active monthly users came from the Philippines alone, prompting Brain Lu, partner at Headline Asia and Infinity Ventures Crypto, to make a bold prediction:

“The biggest driver for crypto over the next few years is not going to be DeFi, it’s not going to be opening up centralized exchanges. It’s going to be GameFi.”

Indeed, blockchain-based games are starting to find that they can capture a much larger TAM than other projects when they champion inclusion and ease the onboarding process for non-crypto natives. At the same time, they’re also onboarding a much more diverse group of people onto the web3 world.

Currently, the play-to-earn gaming market is blowing up, which shows promise in bringing more diverse perspectives and operators to the crypto world. But taking it a step further, one startup has plans to go even bigger.

STEPN, championing inclusion

STEPN is a move-and-earn app that rewards users for moving outdoors. To earn tokens, users purchase a digital sneaker from its NFT marketplace and walk, run, or jog outdoors. By marrying real-world activity to digital gameplay and achievements, STEPN has designed a powerful app that incentivizes daily use and encourages healthy habit-building.

By doing this, STEPN has attracted a uniquely fitness-oriented audience to the web3 world. Even beyond running enthusiasts, anyone who likes talking walks outside is drawn to the idea of getting rewards for building healthy habits. This effectively renders web3 adoption appealing to a much wider audience than before. Improving one’s health while earning crypto is a strong incentive.

To make things even easier for non-crypto natives, STEPN has plans to roll out a rental platform soon. New users will be able to rent NFT sneakers from existing users without even needing to have a wallet or much knowledge about the crypto space. This does multiple things:

1) It reduces barriers of affordability for those who don’t have the spare funds to buy a sneaker yet. It then allows them to build up the capital slowly and eventually get a sneaker of their own.

2) As new users get situated with the platform, it allows them to get used to the platform, without feeling pressured, and use the STEPN framework to understand how web3 transactions work. For example, they can understand that they setting up their wallet would allow them to buy an NFT sneaker in the future.

3) Perhaps most brilliantly, this also endows new users with a “pseudo-mentor” of sorts. Similar to how guilds in Axie Infinity help educate, fund, and mentor new players, users who rent their sneakers out effectively become “mini-guilds” that can help their renters — and are likewise compensated for their time through profits from their rentals. This creates a strong, social ecosystem where users can interact with each other, sharing profits and creating value and community.

Acting as a bridge between the crypto and non-crypto market, StepN has the potential to usher in a huge population of runners and walkers into the web3 world while improving the health of millions of people around the world.

Closing thoughts

web3 was founded on a vision of a more equitable financial system — the people who are building, investing, and benefiting from this system should be representative and inclusive of all. As writers at TechCrunch ask, “Why re-build hierarchies of exclusion in this new era?”

Web3 is about democratizing financial systems as we know it through and through, not just in the technology and structure, but in the makeup of its users and community as well. Countless studies have found that greater diversity leads to stronger outcomes and better problem-solving. STEPN is helping fulfill that vision.

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