Outside Voices Tae Hani has made a name for itself by making sportswear the most popular fashion trend among non-athletes. Now, the 33-year-old entrepreneur is betting that she can combine another underappreciated duo – consumer brands and cryptocurrency.
Haney joined TechCrunch’s Chain Reaction podcast this week to talk about her latest project, Try Your Best (TYB). Hani explained that the startup uses blockchain technology to help brands build customer loyalty without having to rely on expensive advertising purchases on third-party social media platforms.
Haney said brands are using TYB, which is built on the Avalanche blockchain, to build their own on-chain communities of loyal customers. Through TYB, these brands can reward their customers for participating in the community with virtual currencies, similar to loyalty points, which they can exchange for physical products.
“We allow brands to create a owned community channel, bringing any number of people from their existing audience to that channel,” Hani said. In contrast, when brands use platforms like Instagram to build communities, they do not have the relationships with their customers and can be severely affected by changes at the platform level of ad pricing and user interface.
On the Chain Reaction podcast, Haney announced for the first time that her new company is about to close a second institutional funding round. Since we recorded the episode, TYB has closed the $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.
Hani, who left outside voices in 2020 amid mounting losses and internal disagreements with the company’s then-chairman, launched TYB into beta mode last spring. TYB has come out of the gates with $2 million in funding from blockchain-focused Castle Island, a relatively modest sum compared to the additional $60 million in venture capital that has been raised since its inception in 2014. Haney has since commented on some of the Lessons I’ve learned from managing outside voices in the past, saying the company grew too fast and raised money too quickly.
With TYB, Hani hopes to apply some of those lessons in building a new company that builds on its expertise in building strong relationships with clients. The platform debuted with the all-sold NFT drop of one of its partners, Joggy, a wellness brand that Haney launched herself and that sells CBD-based wellness products. Each piece of Joggy’s collectibles sold for a total of $250 to $500 from established customers, Haney said. These 500 customers will be able to access 5% of Joggy’s revenue as it continues to grow and eventually get a free product and discounts for friends and family, Hani said.
Haney designed these franchises with a key takeaway she said she drew from her time playing outside sounds. “From a brand building perspective, community really works,” Hani explained, but added that most consumer companies don’t have the right set of tools to get the most out of their community. At Outdoor Voices, managing thousands of customer relationships across a fragmented set of channels, including Slack, SurveyMonkey, and Google Docs, has made it difficult to gauge community strength and made collecting customer feedback difficult.
The second big insight she offers to her new start-up is that traditional customer acquisition channels for consumer brands are too expensive and ultimately “don’t attract critical customers.” Hani added that the Outdoor Voices program has recognized four times the value it brings from customers through high-touch experiential strategies such as local events compared to online advertising.
“[Outdoor Voices] You will spend 30%-40% of our dollars we raise directly to major companies [social media] platforms. “I think it makes more sense to take, let’s say, 5% of that and distribute it directly to the people who are going to continue to spend dollars on your brand,” Hani said. I’ve learned that involving customers in the product development process and letting them choose colors and prints for the brand’s new designs often resulted in high-converting collection dips and led to the sticking of its most popular styles, including the iconic workout dress.
Hani explained that the community channels for each brand TYB works with will be available exclusively to customers who own NFT collectibles for those brands. Once customers are part of the community, they can earn loyalty points that work differently based on each brand’s preferences, like Joggy’s revenue-based rewards program. TYB has also created a play-to-earn mechanism called a “delegate 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 toward that goal – for example, an athlete said that a brand working with TYB can It rewards its clients for practicing seven consecutive days.
For now, Haney said TYB’s main focus is to provide experiential features to collectible NFT owners rather than expecting asset value to accrue based on brand recognition alone.
“We don’t optimize for the face or the secondary market for collectibles. We really focus on brands that offer collectibles that have a utility. And so I use the word collectible on purpose, because I know NFTs kind of have baggage, and we have to re-introduce what these can do technology so that people are more willing to adopt it,” said Hani.
Haney said TYB is working with more than 30 brands on its pilot, including Hill House Home, the creator of the “siesta dress,” and jewelry company Vada. She added that the company has about 300 potential customers in the pipeline, which is not limited to companies with only the DTC model.
“There are definitely companies that already have a very enthusiastic and engaged fan base, and we’re starting there,” Hani said, noting that they want the first few launches to be a demonstrable success.
Unsurprisingly, Haney has set her sights on more ambitious long-term goals for TYB.
“I am very excited to bring this younger audience, especially younger females, into the web3 space because of the potential for a real financial improvement,” said Hani. “And for me, there is no better way to do that than with the brands they love.”
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