I met Nick Lo years ago playing basketball in a men’s league at a time when he was running a very successful chain of physiotherapy clinics in Vancouver, Canada. He has since created a web3 creative agency called Odd Futur3 with the goal of supporting companies and brands making the move into web3. His latest project Run As You Are (RAYA) is one that I’m personally very excited about as a runner myself and I haven’t seen many NFT projects out there going after the running community and creating technology and brand partnerships that provide value to this group of people. With that, here’s my interview with Nick Lo at RAYA.
What is RAYA?
RAYA is a technology platform that enables everyone and anyone to run for rewards with zero obligations, unlock elevated token-gated run experiences together with our brand partners in a premium membership offering, and of course connect with other runners around the world within our custom built social platform and marketplace.
Why a running NFT?
As a run shop owner, I saw an opportunity to use technology to connect an otherwise fragmented industry, from brands to retailers to community. Collaboration, in my opinion, is key to unlocking innovation.
As a runner, I wanted to be a part of a community that is not only welcoming, but one that is inclusive of all, with the end output being a collective of individuals rich in diversity. Art is the perfect vehicle to depict such a world (which currently doesn't exist within run culture).
By combining the most accessible sport in the world together with the latest in technology (which can feel rather inaccessible at times), we’re able to put our best foot forward and support the adoption of Web3 while making it available to as many people as possible.
You have an interesting professional background in the physio world - how has your background working with athletes contributed to what you’re building at RAYA?
I’ve been extremely lucky to be a part of the health and wellness industry both as a practicing clinician as well as an entrepreneur for over 15 years. It has been the foundation for which our mission at RAYA has been built on. My passion has always been in movement, but my curiosity has been in technology. It really feels like a match made in heaven, taking something rooted in history and combining it with something that will hopefully blossom in the future.
Is targeting non-web3 natives a challenge? What has the experience been trying to onboard runners to this space?
This is very challenging. Web3 uses blockchain technology, something that is brand new to most of us. But learning about it isn’t what makes it challenging. It’s unlearning and relearning how to interact with the internet and digital experiences that makes it exceptionally challenging. As they say: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It's kinda true.
What are you doing differently to lower the barriers to entering web3?
The RAYA platform is free to join. It’s a Web2 experience, where you don’t need a wallet, cryptocurrency, or an NFT. Our mission is not to onboard tens of thousands of runners, but millions and millions of runners all around the world.
The NFT will be offered on our platform as a digital collectible membership, where the experience is token-gated and will include premium features. The same mechanics of NFTs will exist, but the tech architecture we’re using will abstract most of the Web3 experiences that can feel rather clunky for the average person. You don't need a wallet to purchase our membership, you also don’t need cryptocurrency. But if you are Web3 native, those options will be available to you as well.
Ultimately, the user on the other side of our membership should be someone who loves to run. To find runners who are also into NFTs? That’s a needle in a haystack.
You posted about building utility first and then dropping the NFTs/digital collectibles. What can holders expect from the RAYA marketplace? Can you give any examples or alpha about what a RAYA brand experience might look like?
Long term, we see NFTs as the primary driver to evolve retail and commerce into its next iteration. I think what RTFKT is doing with minting NFTs and forging them into physical items is fascinating. But at the same time, it’s still early days. There is no way they could have predicted consumer behaviours that took place during the time period between the mint and the forge. This is not something that is backed by historical data and analytics. And hence, everyone is still learning.
We see a world where physical products will always pair with digital twins on the blockchain. The ability to verify and authenticate ownership is much needed in commerce. Instead of shipping and flipping products back and forth, the ability to trade NFTs until the end user wants to claim the product makes a lot of sense to us. It removes many of the unnecessary steps in the middle. Imagine a world where our digital wallets are filled with digital collectibles (NFTs) that can be claimed whether it's a product or tickets to an event. Ownership can be easily transferred without the clunkiness of 3rd party platforms to verify authenticity and/or shipping/receiving logistics.
At RAYA, we’re building a full end-to-end marketplace that will facilitate all of these interactions. But more than that, RAYA is just an evolution of run culture and everything that comes with that. In the end, we see a community of runners rich in diversity who share a common goal: To build a supportive environment to help each other in our own respective run journeys.
Where should people go to learn more?
***About the Author
***Dantheman (@niftymillennial on twitter) is the Co-Creator of Average Sunday, a lifestyle and culture brand developed to commercialize Azuki IP and tell a story. Follow along on twitter and instagram.