How Traipse Wants to Tokenise America’s Historic Main Streets
Autumn in Virginia. Trees adorned with hues of red and burnt orange, jack-o’-lanterns placed strategically on spotless white porches. It’s a crisp Saturday morning and you’re about to explore Staunton’s picturesque downtown.
Using the Traipse app, you learn that this city of 25,000 people was founded in 1747 and that most of the Victorian architecture date from the town’s booming era that lasted for a good 50 years (1870–1920). Knowing a thing or two about the Staunton’s history makes you appreciate the carefully curated exploration tour even more.
Staunton is just one of the many cities one can explore with Traipse, for the team of six, based in Washington D.C., is on a mission to put America’s downtowns back on the map:
Traipse lets people discover historic business districts in a playful manner. We work together with local tourism departments and downtown business associations to create fun walking tours that highlight a city’s one-of-a-kind stores, historic sites, art installations and other points of interest.
— Darren Smith, Founder and CEO of Traipse
Not your typical city exploration app
Inspired by a local radio station in his childhood that would send its listeners on a treasure hunt and the Washington Post’s annual puzzle hunt, Traipse Founder and CEO Darren Smith believes their app can help revive the thousands of charming but often overlooked downtowns across the United States.
Traipse hopes to draw new visitors to historic business districts in small towns like Staunton, but also to those within bigger cities such as Washington D.C. and Baltimore. Darren explains:
We fully intend to incorporate big cities, partly because that’s where the users are, and if someone uses Traipse in Washington D.C. and likes the experience, they may be more inclined to travel an hour or two to discover smaller towns they normally wouldn’t visit.
Whether you select one of the predefined walking tours or you want to plan your own trip based on your interests, Traipse makes sure every tour highlights the locally owned businesses, historic buildings, colourful murals, monuments, and parks while adding a little element of fun.
Every Traipse tour has at least one “location dependent challenge”, activated by a user’s current GPS location. So if you just passed this oil and vinegar shop in Staunton, you’ll be encouraged to enter the store in order to find the answer.
Now, you may ask for a hint, but that’ll cost you two Traipse Points! And believe me, you’ll want to earn as many points as you can. More on that below.
Darren believes these challenges make you more aware of your surroundings and it puts the spotlight on the locally owned stores without blatantly advertising them.
Gamification at it’s finest, if you ask me.
So, why would one want to earn Traipse Points in the first place? Well, because they can be exchanged for redeemable tokens, and those tokens are instrumental to Traipse’s grand vision of tokenising America’s downtowns.
We expect to be the go-to travel experience app for travellers who enjoy visiting historic business districts and believe in supporting locally owned shops.
Boosting local economies through tokenisation
Traipse wants to create local currencies for every downtown, something which many business associations have tried in the past: Paper coupons, wooden nickels, plastic city cards. These initiatives came from a good place, but were often hampered by transaction fees, limited exchange venues and a low adoption rate by businesses and consumers alike.
OST CCO and Co-Founder Chris Dark wrote an excellent thought piece on why blockchain tokens should and will replace old-school loyalty programs:
One of the clearest use cases for blockchain tokens is as a replacement to the points systems used in loyalty programs…medium.com
With the dawn of blockchain, Darren believes Traipse can create a web of tokenised downtowns that spans across the entire United States, allowing local businesses to attract new costumers in a playful way while cutting down on transaction fees.
Traipse seems to be onto a “win-win for all” type of business model: Its users get to explore and appreciate historical commercial districts while the locally owned businesses can tap into a new niche of potential customers by joining Traipse’s mini-challenges free of charge.
For every riddle solved, the user gets rewarded with Traipse Tokens which can immediately be redeemed at the store, at any other participating business in town or even in a different downtown hundreds of miles away!
To make this web of local ecosystems happen, Traipse teamed up with Chiedo Labs. The plan is to launch a pilot of what the duo calls “Local Token” in Staunton, in collaboration with the Staunton Downtown Development Association and the Virginia Main Streets program.
With Local Token, cities get a flexible, secure, and convenient local currency, along with powerful reporting tools, very few operational considerations, and easy management via an intuitive interface. The possibilities for incentivising various traveller actions are practically endless.
— Darren Smith, Founder and CEO of Traipse
Traipse and Chiedo Labs worked together on Traipse’s submission for the OST KIT Alpha III: Embedded Wallet-Lite Challenge. In the video below Chiedo gives a demonstration of how Local Tokens can be sent between parties and spent at participating restaurants.
While My Local Token will exclusively facilitate Traipse’s web of local ecosystems at first, I can see it being adopted by many, if not thousands, of downtowns all across the country.
Merchants will no longer have to deal with credit card and bank transaction fees, while consumers enjoy the convenience of making daily purchases using only their smartphones, with the added feel-good bonus of knowing that they’re contributing to the local economy.
Earn Tokens, Support a Local Charity
Traipse Users can earn Tokens by simply using the app, sharing tours on social media, voting and commenting on local points of interest, completing the challenges and by contributing new content to the app.
As explained earlier, these Tokens can then be redeemed for freebies and discounts at local participating vendors, from mom-and-pop stores to restaurants, hotels, and museums. If you’re (planning to become) a frequent explorer of America’s small downtowns, you may want to save your tokens until you can pay for a cheese platter at Traipse Partner the Blackburn Inn.
One thing I really appreciate about Darren’s ambitions is that his platform won’t be solely focusing on boosting local commerce. Traipse also hopes to encourage tourists to donate their earned Tokens to a charity nearby.
In town for the Heifetz Festival in Staunton? Why not show your support by donating to the Heifetz Music Institute? If your balance doesn’t allow for a generous contribution, you can always buy more tokens.
Last but not least, there’s always the possibility to turn those hard-earned tokens into fiat money, but…
The idea is that people spend their earned tokens within the local economies, but they will be able to exchange their tokens for US dollars through the future OST Branded Token Exchange.
Still, we want to make it more attractive for users to spend tokens at locally owned businesses and points of interest. After all, that’s the whole idea behind Traipse: Get out there, discover unique downtowns and support the local economy.
— Darren Smith, Founder and CEO of Traipse
Darren Smith sat down with José Mota to talk about how he started Traipse four years ago, how blockchain will boost America’s downtowns and why they chose to partner with OST.
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OST blockchain infrastructure empowers new economies for mainstream businesses and emerging DApps. OST leads development of the OpenST Protocol, a framework for tokenizing businesses. In September 2018 OST introduced the OpenST Mosaic Protocol for running meta-blockchains to scale Ethereum applications to billions of users. OST KIT is a full-stack suite of developer tools, APIs and SDKs for managing blockchain economies. OST Partners reach more than 200 million end-users. OST has offices in Berlin, New York, Hong Kong, and Pune. OST is backed by leading institutional equity investors including Tencent, Greycroft, Vectr Ventures, 500 Startups.