Leisure sports icon Ty Haney is raising $9.8 million in new funding for his blockchain rewarded startup.

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Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney made a name for herself making sportswear the most popular trend among non-athletes. Now the 33-year-old entrepreneur is betting that she can bring together another undervalued duo – consumer brands and cryptocurrencies.

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Haney joined TechCrunch Chain Reaction Podcast this week to talk about her latest endeavor, Try Your Best (TYB). The startup is using blockchain technology to help brands build customer loyalty without relying on buying expensive ads on third-party social media platforms, Haney said.

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Built on the Avalanche blockchain, brands are using TYB to create their own online communities of loyal customers, Haney said. Through TYB, these brands can reward their customers for participating in the community with virtual coins, similar to loyalty points, which they can redeem for physical products.

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“We allow brands to create their own community channel where they can bring any number of people from their existing audience to that channel,” Haney said. In contrast, when brands use platforms like Instagram to build communities, they don’t own the relationship with their customers and can be hit hard by platform-wide ad price and user experience changes.

On the Chain Reaction podcast, Haney announced for the first time that her new company is about to close its second round of institutional funding. Since we recorded this episode, TYB has closed a $9.8 million round, with new investors Unusual Ventures and Sogal Ventures leading the funding along with existing investor Castle Island, a company spokesperson told us.

haney, who left Outdoor Voices in 2020 amid mounting losses and internal disagreements with the company’s then-chairman, last spring launched TYB in pilot mode for the first time. TYB came out of the gate with $2 million in funding from blockchain-focused Castle Island, a relatively modest amount compared to the more than $60 million in venture capital raised by Outdoor Voices since its inception in 2014. haney has since commented on some of the lessons she’s learned from managing Outdoor Voices in the past, saying the company grew too fast and raised funds too fast.

With TYB, Haney hopes to apply some of these lessons in building a new company that uses its experience in building strong customer relationships. The platform has already debuted a sold-out NFT for one of its partners, Joggy, a wellness brand launched by Haney herself that sells CBD-based wellness products. According to Haney, each Joggy collectible figurine was sold for $250 to 500 founding buyers. Those 500 customers will have access to 5% of Joggy’s income as it continues to grow, Haney said, and will eventually receive a free product as well as discounts for friends and family.

Haney designed these perks with a key lesson she said she learned from working on Outdoor Voices in mind. “In terms of brand building, the community really works,” Haney explained, but added that most consumer companies don’t have the right set of tools to make the most of their community. At Outdoor Voices, managing thousands of customer relationships across a fragmented set of channels, including Slack, SurveyMonkey and Google Docs, makes it difficult to measure community strength and gather customer feedback, she says.

The second big takeaway she brings to her new startup is that traditional customer acquisition channels for consumer brands are too expensive and end up “not bringing in valuable customers.” According to Haney, Outdoor Voices has recognized four times the value from customers it has acquired through experiential strategies such as local events compared to online advertising.

“[At Outdoor Voices]will spend 30 to 40% of our dollars raised directly to large [social media] platforms. I think it makes a lot more sense to take, say, 5% of that amount and distribute it directly to people who will continue to spend dollars on your brand,” Haney said. She learned that involving customers in the product development process and allowing them to choose colorways and prints for the brand’s new designs often resulted in high collection conversions and resulted in its most popular styles, including the iconic exercise dress, remaining tacky.

The community channels for each brand TYB works with will be available exclusively to customers who own those brands’ NFT collectibles, Haney said. Once customers become part of the community, they can earn loyalty points that work differently depending on each brand’s preferences, such as the revenue-based Joggy rewards program. TYB has also created a “play to earn” mechanism called a “reputation card” where a brand can set a specific mission or goal for its customers to increase engagement, and can reward them based on their progress towards that goal – for example, sportswear. A brand that works with TYB can reward its customers for working out seven days in a row, she said.

For now, Haney said TYB’s main focus is on providing experimental features to its collectible NFT holders rather than expecting assets to accumulate value based on brand awareness alone.

“We are not optimizing flip or aftermarket collectibles. We really focus on brands representing useful collectibles. And so I deliberately use the word ‘collectible’ because I know that NFT has some kind of baggage and we really need to re-introduce what this technology can do so that people will be more likely to accept,” Haney said.

TYB is working with more than 30 brands in its pilot program, Haney said, including Hill House Home, maker of the viral “sleep dress,” and jewelry company Vada. She added that the company has about 300 potential customers, which are not limited to companies with the DTC model.

“Of course, there are companies that already have a very enthusiastic and active fanbase, and we are starting from there,” said Haney, noting that she wants the first few launches to be an obvious success.

Not surprisingly, Haney is aiming for more ambitious long-term goals for TYB.

“I am very interested in bringing this younger, in particular younger female audience into the web3 space because of the potential for real financial growth,” Haney said. “And for me, there’s no better way to do that than with the brands they love.”

Episodes of the Chain Reaction podcast air every Thursday at 12:00 pm PT. Follow us at Apple, Spotify or your alternative podcast platform to keep up with us every week.

Credit: techcrunch.com /

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