Humans are, by nature, active creatures. In the long foregone days of our ancestors, we are almost always on the move. Whether it is foraging for food, building a shelter, or running away from predators, we spend most of our time moving. Doing any activity that expends energy is “used in accordance to the original design”. However, in our modern lifestyle, we are using our body in ways it’s not optimally designed for, like sitting around all day long, which seems to be the default mode of life. While there isn’t a great need for us to return to our ancestor’s way of life, it is also foolish of us to completely discard an active lifestyle. Enter the fitness industry.
This multi-billion dollar industry includes exercise equipment, gyms, personal trainers and coaches, health supplements etc. In all these cases, the industry profits from us paying someone to help us get fit. What if we get paid to exercise instead? That’s pretty much the impetus for Move2Earn, the newest trend to hit the crypto world and the latest attempt at gaining mainstream attention, which might hopefully, transform into adoption.
Amongst the slew of dApps seeking to capitalise on this movement, StepN is far ahead of the pack.
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What is StepN?
The app is basically a step counter with extra bells and whistles for the crypto-earning part. Designed as a mobile app, it aims to incentivise users to exercise by offering them the opportunity to earn crypto tokens. These tokens can only be earned through holding a NFT sneaker, available for purchase in the app’s own marketplace.
It was the winner of the Solana Ignition Hackathon in the Gaming section. It was also the only mobile game app to win in that category. This win helped it to gain attention and funding from some heavy-duty investors.
If you’re interested to find out what all the fuss is about, let’s take a closer look at how it all works.
Getting Started – the first obstacle
I thought the biggest thing I had to worry about after downloading the StepN app to my phone is getting the sneaker. Boy, was I wrong. After the app is loaded on my phone, I am asked to register with an email address, which is somewhat standard. Then a sign-in code is sent to the email address that needs to be entered into the app. So far so good.
The next screen that comes up requires an activation code, which can only be obtained through either an existing user or the Discord channel. Here is where I had my hair-tearing moment that lasted for a few days. I didn’t know anyone initially who has the app, so the first option was out. I joined the Discord server and saw a channel just for activation codes. They have quite a strict policy about it, which you can see below:
Well, getting an activation code is nigh on impossible for me. Here’s what happened: I saw a code posted on the channel, I had to log-in with the email address and wait for the sign-in code first before I could enter the activation code. By the time I entered the code, it’s already been used. Even if I were to glue my eyes to the channel for a code to drop, I’d also have to keep refreshing the app and logging in again and again just so that the activation page can stay current for me to use the code. It was definitely a very frustrating experience.
At the time of writing, I noticed that there is a new channel for getting activation codes organised by the team. There’s a bot giving away 10 activation codes every 15 minutes. Glad to see a decent improvement to a very selective system of onboarding people. Meanwhile, there are also bots scraping the channel for codes. So I’d say, try at your own risk. Getting desperate, I asked around in friend circles and finally got one. Shoutout to @zajic12 for providing me with an activation code.
Getting the Sneaker – the second obstacle
As you saw in the image above, you can only start earning crypto if you have a NFT sneaker. Else, the app works as a not-fancy-version of your FitBit / GoogleFit / AppleWatch. In the two weeks since I’ve gotten the app, I’ve seen the floor price for the NFT sneaker go up from 12 SOL to 14 SOL. Given that the SOL token has gone from a low 3-digit to about $75 at the time of writing, the sneaker is still worth around 1k.
However, which kind of sneaker to get? Well, let’s look at the breakdown of a sneaker. First is sneaker categories: Walker, Jogger, Runner and Trainer. Despite the fact that each type of sneaker gives you a different earning rate, the price of the sneakers are based more on the attributes than their earning capabilities. This means that the floor price of a Runner can be the same as a Walker.
Like any NFT, the sneaker also has attributes. The four main attributes for the sneaker are: efficiency, luck, comfort, and resilience. Each of them come with related enhancements.
In addition to the sneakers, which are known assets, there are also Shoeboxes, ie mystery boxes containing a sneaker with no known attributes. These go for much more than the sneaker NFT itself because it’s banking on the uncertainty. In this case, it’s basically a gamble. If you get one of them and you open the box, you could end up with a rare sneaker or a basic one. Floor prices for Shoeboxes start at around 18.5 SOL for a common one and upwards to 2000+ SOL for a rare one.
At this point, once you have the sneaker you want, you can now tie the laces of your real sneakers and get moving to start earning tokens. Each sneaker gets you 2 energy, which is about 10 mins of actual exercise time. Once your energy is used up, you stop earning. The more sneakers you have, the more energy you get.
Currently, the app features the Solo Mode. This is where you run/walk/jog and get GST tokens. Watch out for your GPS signal. If it’s a weak one, you might find yourself in the Moonwalking mode. This is an anti-cheat mechanism in place so that people won’t be able to earn tokens by being on a scooter or letting the dog do the walking for you, for instance. You’re also encouraged to move within the range stipulated with your sneaker. For example, with Runner mode, you need to do between 8 – 20km/h. A pace out of this range will not get you the maximum GST you can earn.
You can also get a Mystery Box when you are in Solo mode. This is a random airdrop and it costs a bit of GST to open the box, which also takes time. The box contains Gems that are used to level-up your sneaker. These Gems come in various levels and you’ll have to watch out for the low-level Gems that may not work as intended.
The other modes being developed include Marathon mode and Background mode. The former is a chance to pit yourself against other runners and have a crack at the leaderboard. There are weekly and monthly marathons planned. The latter allows you to earn GST tokens even when you’re not moving. This is possible by linking the app to the mobile app’s Health data to count your steps, capped at 3000 daily.
The app comes with its own wallet which is used for holding GST, GMT and SOL tokens. There is also a distinction between a Spending account and the Wallet account. Think of it like your checking and savings account. You have the option of creating a new wallet or importing one using the seed phrase.
Green Satoshi Token (GST)
- Leveling-up Sneakers
- Gems upgrade
- Unlocking Socket – what you need to put the Gems in inside the sneaker.
The token first listed for trading at a price of $0.48, which is also its all-time low. Since then, its astronomical rise to an all-time high of almost $10 has elicited much buoyancy amongst its fans. The bag-pumping sentiment, on full display in the Discord server, has remained strong despite its fall to a current price of $2.28 at the time of writing.
I find it slightly unusual that an in-game currency gets listed for trading. The fact that these tokens, which can be earned for free, in a way, manages to maintain the price level it has so far, is a testament to the changing nature of in-game currency and how crypto has really opened new possibilities for everyone. Players can actually ignore the exercise / grinding portion and simply buy a sneaker, buy GST to level the sneakers up and sell it to the next willing buyer.
Green Metaverse Token (GMT)
6 billion GMTs were minted on March 9, 2022 to raise funding for the project. The token distribution pattern is as below:
- 30% – Treasury/Ecosystem
- 2.5% – Advisors
- 14.2% – StepN Team
- 7% – Binance Launchpad sale
- 16.3% – Private sale
- 30% – Move and Earn (unlock for users)
GMT is earned through grinding, ie exercising with a sneaker that’s above level 30. However, you would need a minimum of 3 Energy to be eligible. The token is also subject to a halving mechanism that will see the number of tokens earned to be halved every three years.
In addition, GMT is also the governance token of the two. Coupled together with the upcoming functionality to allow for GMT to be staked, the longer the staking period, the more voting power you have. This is another way to incentivise holders to not sell.
Similar to the GST’s trajectory, GMT debuted at around $0.1 two months ago in March and rose to great heights, peaking at $4.11 in late April. It, like everything else, succumbed to the recent downward market pressure, currently trading at less than $1, according to CoinGecko. It’s interesting to note, that of the two tokens, GST has managed to retain its value better than GMT.
The app is developed by Find Satoshi Lab, based in Adelaide, Australia. Key team members are also Australian-based but the overall staff distribution is fairly universal.
One of the co-founders, Jerry Huang, graduated from Zhejiang University in China with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in 2008. No blockchain experience in sight but there is mention of experience in Human Resources, Board of Directors and Game Design.
The other co-founder, Yawn Rong, has a firmer foot in Australia and is more involved in both the Australian and blockchain scene than his partner. The involvement is usually more of a business and operational capacity. He is also the Business Ambassador for Algorand.
Jessica Duan is the only female featured in the StepN Team page. She is the Chief Strategy Officer for the project. Her resume is also a bit thin too. A graduate of the University of Adelaide with a Master’s in Architecture back in 2010, StepN is almost her first proper corporate job, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The team raised about $5 million in seed money from some well-known crypto venture backers such as Sequoia Capital, Alameda Research and Solana Capital. It’s pretty impressive given that the team in general don’t have too much experience in the crypto space and quite flimsy resumes, to be honest. However, given the amount of innovation going on in the space and the availability of capital floating around, having a solid concept is worth something.
Roadmap for the Future
Aside from the ability to stake GMT and new game modes as mentioned above, a highly-anticipated feature coming up is sneaker rental. Currently, the only way to earn is to buy a NFT sneaker. Even with the depressed market sending the price of SOL to lows not seen since August 2021, it still costs a few hundred dollars for a sneaker, more than what most people would pay for an actual pair.
One of the missions for StepN is to get millions moving with the app with zero entry barrier. I wouldn’t say that is likely, given that you’d still have to pay something to rent the sneaker. However, the cost could be considerably lower and more affordable to the majority.
Aside from the rental feature, badges will also be making an appearance sometime this year. These are awarded for completed tasks. The harder the task, the rarer the badge. Not only do you get bragging rights, you can also get other perks such as extra energy in Solo Mode, or lower minting cost for sneakers etc.
Risks to StepN
One of the risks of the project is the mere fact that it’s on Solana. Since late last year, Solana network outages has been happening in gradual increasing frequency. In a way, it’s a victim of its own success, much like Ethereum is with the gas fees. Outages on Solana affects all dApps in its ecosystem, which will naturally include StepN. There were announcements in the Discord server letting users know that their assets may not appear in the wallet, or transacting during a Solana outage might cause a delay in funds arriving etc.
While this is something that is not in the Solana team’s control, it will nevertheless affect the user experience. Therefore, they have also taken steps to branch themselves out to other blockchains. The next candidate is the Binance Smart Chain. There have been a few teething problems in the beginning so let’s hope things get smoothed out further down the road.
The other point that leaves me slightly concerned is the lack of a CTO in the leadership team, especially since the current team members themselves don’t appear to have any solid blockchain development experience. It may not be a big deal but I think it’s worth noting.
What makes StepN such a popular app, isn’t just that it’s got first dibs on the Move2Earn trend. The app’s gaming elements are quite strong, offering the possibility of multiple strategies for users to get their kicks out of it. You can choose to best yourself in Solo mode based on your own metrics, beat others in upcoming leaderboard challenges, or have fun analysing what sneakers to get to reap the maximum benefit.
They take the term “earn” to the max by offering two ways to do so. You can grind away by putting in the hard yards and get GST tokens. If foot-to-pavement is not your style, just take the NFT-flipping route without having to run a single step and you’d still be able to earn money.
It succeeded in appealing to a wide audience, allowing them to participate in different ways and get their own joy out of it. I wouldn’t go whole hog, Axie Infinity-style, and see it as a way to secure a steady income. However, given the low price of SOL now, it could be worth giving it a shot.