The “move-to-earn” fitness app reportedly laid off over 100 contract workers. including community moderators, ambassadors, and others, according to reports from the South China Morning Post and crypto news writer Colin Wu of Wu Blockchain. But the company tells Decrypt that these are "baseless claims that are factually inaccurate."
"The reality is that STEPN has parted ways with volunteer MODs who have not been active in the last few weeks and months," a STEPN spokesperson says. "Regarding our staff, STEPN is actively hiring for several different roles within the company."
The “Careers” tab on the STEPN website, where candidates can fill out a form expressing interest in working for the company, is still live.
Launched in 2021, STEPN is an app where users buy virtual running shoes as NFTs which allow them to earn STEPN’s native token, GMT, by logging steps IRL. The virtual shoes, which deteriorate over time, were once among the hottest items in crypto.
In May and June this year, STEPN saw a massive spike in monthly active users, logging over 700,000 in May and nearly 500,000 in June according to data from Dune Analytics.
But when July rolled around, STEPN saw a massive dropoff. It saw 50% less monthly active users in July. It had 140,000 in August, and just 99,000 in September. The number of daily active users has also sharply declined, down from a peak of 58,000 on June 21 to just 5,800 on September 15.
And per CoinGecko data, GMT isn’t doing well, either. The token is down 84% from its all-time high and down 15% in just the past month.
This exponential decline can’t be good for STEPN. It begs the question: what is the company doing to keep itself afloat?
STEPN Co-Founder Yawn Rong wrote on Twitter Tuesday that STEPN is going through a “transitional period.”
“We will be devoting all of our resources to progressing to the next stage of FSL,” Rong said, referring to Find Satoshi Lab, STEPN's parent company. “Over the next few weeks, we will be shifting gears as we evolve our vision," he wrote. "Through this transitional period, we will not leave you in the dark.”
3/5 This month, we are focusing on the road ahead. We are running on! Our team must concentrate on ongoing projects full-time, so we will not be hosting an October Town Hall. In the meantime, we will be devoting all of our resources to progressing to the next stage of FSL.
According to Wu, that means STEPN is winding down. Citing community sources, he wrote that the company is reducing its investment in STEPN, delaying development progress.
“It began to focus on promoting its parent company Find Satoshi Lab, and mainly focused on new projects to be released such as the NFT exchange market,” Wu wrote late Tuesday evening.
It began to focus on promoting its parent company Find Satoshi Lab, and mainly focused on new projects to be released such as the NFT exchange market. In addition, the large amount of GMT's investor saft will be unlocked in March next year.
But STEPN says this evolution does not mean its days are numbered.
"We remain strong and continue to build, grow, and evolve despite the bear market," the STEPN spokesperson tells Decrypt. "We pride ourselves in being transparent with our community and we are choosing to address these rumors head on to avoid any further speculation on falsehoods."
"We at STEPN are disappointed that we even have to address baseless rumors, but we will continue to do what we do best," the company added.
The challenge for STEPN is clear. When asked about STEPN last week, Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko told Decrypt that "it worked for a lot of users."
"The big unknown is, is it scalable, and can you get the economies to work out where people derive a benefit from the exercise that basically exceeds the money they're spending into the platform?"
Editor's note: this article has been updated to include a response from STEPN to the original layoff reports.
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