Doing things with blockchain: How Ty Haney is reimagining community building

The Outdoor Voices founder has a new vision for blockchain-powered relationships between brands and fans.
article cover

Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: Ty Haney

5 min read

In the early days of Outdoor Voices, the cobalt blue “Doing Things” hat could only be obtained by attending events like yoga classes or local hikes. It was a physical symbol of community membership and dedication to the athletic apparel brand, and to its mission of movement as a lifestyle.

It’s the spirit of the Doing Things hat that ousted Outdoor Voices founder and CEO Ty Haney is channeling with her Web3 venture Try Your Best, a blockchain-based community management platform she founded in late 2021, and which recently became available to a broad base of brands via Shopify.

Web3 might seem like an unlikely space for the Austin-based founder, whose unique color-blocked designs helped the company she founded at 24 rise to athletic apparel fame. But it’s a pivot that makes perfect sense, because TYB digitizes a superpower she was able to unlock for Outdoor Voices: turning community into a growth channel.

“That physical blue hat becomes something that’s digital,” Haney said. “It’s a really elegant way to use [blockchain technology] to create real value.”

Building things

The road to Web3 looked like a rocky one—Haney was forced to step down from her role as Outdoor Voices CEO while on maternity leave in early 2020, amid struggling finances and a revolving door of retail elites who left executive positions at the company after very short tenures.

With TYB, which is built on the Avalanche blockchain, Haney’s skill as a community builder lives on, expanding the success of customer engagement at Outdoor Voices to other brands.

“We understand how to build affinity and emotional connection around a brand with a fan base with rituals, routines, souvenirs that they can show off,” Haney said, pointing to past experiences with Outdoor Voices fans, who helped choose new colors for the Exercise Dress and hosted events for the brand.

But she struggled to find an all-in-one community management tool that would suit the company’s needs. At one point, Haney’s team was using a medley of Google Docs, Survey Monkey, and Slack to track engagement.

“That made it really hard to show clearly the ROI of this community effort at the boardroom,”  Haney said.

Enter TYB.

“It’s a direct relationship with your community members,” Haney said. “This is important because we’re coming out of an era that we’ve called ‘direct to consumer,’ but all brands today know that direct to consumer is very much not direct.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.

Today, TYB’s brand partners—which include skincare darling Topicals and Haney’s own Joggy, which makes CBD energy supplements—are using the platform to fundraise, manage influencers, and build rewards programs.

Haney’s vision for the future takes community building a step further: “Five to 10 years out, we’re going to have the toolkit…and appetite for the next Nike, for instance, to be community-founded, community-led, and community-owned,” she said.

That’s a purposeful departure from the DTC venture capital model Outdoor Voices followed.

“I’m most interested in this idea of ownership where brands and fans can work together to build something they really care about and each have something to show for it,” Haney said.

It’s that concept of “headless brands” owned by users that Haney says TYB will one day facilitate using blockchain. But in the meantime, she sees enormous potential for traditional brands.

“What’s cool about communities interacting on-chain is you can see at all times who’s contributed the most and then empower those as formalized ambassadors or leaders of a brand,” she explained. “The measurability becomes really cool, in that we’re gonna have this distributed team that all have a stake in the game, and they’re building themselves up to be local leaders in representation of a brand.”

In many ways, TYB is an extension of the Outdoor Voices approach to community—high-tech, democratized, and with a SAAS model.

And while Haney is bringing the same passion and founder ethos with her to Web3, she’s taking a slightly different approach in building TYB, based in part on lessons from what she called a “heartbreak” filled exit from Outdoor Voices

In leading TYB, Haney isn’t just prioritizing her role as driving brand mission and purpose, but its bottom line.

“That’s something that I’ve had to state more frequently, and very much keep focused on, given the last experience,” she said.

In stepping from the worlds of fitness and fashion, to which Outdoor Voices brought a unique perspective, and into the still-evolving world of Web3, Haney sees incredible potential to be a disruptor and agenda-setter.

“Being a female founder is the greatest opportunity,” she said. “I like operating as this little rebel spirit, this skateboard kid who’s never aged past 11. I think there’s a magnetism around that. To be the pioneer into these spaces that don’t look and feel like the place that we want to play as women is part of the game.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.