Eight years ago, Darren Smith was looking for a way to protect historic business districts while supporting local businesses. Smith, an urban planner and self-described “puzzle nerd,” found his answer in a gamified tour of the neighborhood, in which puzzles players had to solve. So he formed a company, Trappse, in 2018 to develop and market the concept to run it full-time. Now, he is developing a blockchain-based currency for local communities to use with his app.
“It’s about helping people understand the importance of these places and the local independent businesses that keep them alive,” Smith says.
The free app provides access to gamified walking tours that take the form of scavenger hunts. Specifically, it takes visitors on a tour of the historic city with stops at landmarks such as buildings, sculptures or locally owned businesses. At each location, there is a puzzle to solve. Example: A sculpture garden at the Statler Brothers Tribute Memorial, Stanton, VA, which commemorates country/gospel musicians with four stools on a stage, for the stool they used to sit on while they performed. When visitors arrive at the site, the app asks them to solve the following puzzle: “If the band were here singing their four-part harmonies, how many legs would you see?” (The answer is 24).
There is also a bonus puzzle with several clues that players solve as they move along the route. In some cases, local businesses offer tote bags and the like to be picked up at the end of the scavenger hunt.
Statler Brothers Tribute
So far, Trapsey has created tourism in about 20 regions, mostly in the Mid-Atlantic, with the majority in Virginia. Also in other places. , The company has also created scavenger hunts for college campuses, such as a homecoming program for Wellesley College, targeting hotels and other locations.
In 2019, the Downtown Development Association in the Staunton, VA base of Smith’s home approached him about relaunching the city’s gift card program for local businesses and replacing it with a local digital currency program. In short, they started organizing a crowdfunding campaign. But then came the pandemic, which forced him to put the project on hold. Furthermore, their progress was further slowed by the complex legal issues involved in the adoption of the dollar-pegged Celo blockchain network. Result: It wasn’t until the middle of last year that it could start developing the product in earnest.
local currency token
The currency, called My Local Token, consists of a coin with a QR code, which integrates with the Trapis app. (There’s also an app version of Gift Cards). Thus, players participating in the Traps Tour earn “MLT” points that can be used at local stores. Coins can be purchased from the Traps web site or from businesses in the community, usually establishments off the beaten track that don’t usually attract a lot of tourists.
Ultimately, Smith plans to add the ability for participants to create their own tours and stops in the Traps app, and earn My Local Tokens by doing so. Users will also be able to earn rewards for steps such as correcting information already in the app. As the user community grows, Traps will implement a decentralized governance system through which participants can vote on how the MLT prize pool will be allocated to various tasks. “The aim is to create a system for user-generated content within the game that will reward people in local currency, so it becomes a broader self-sustaining ecosystem,” says Smith,
TrapSe began testing coins in May with a group of traders and about 50 players. In anticipation of the holiday season, Smith’s is now listing more stores, preparing for a big promotion in October. He says he is also talking to other communities who are interested in introducing the system in their localities.
Trapse earns its revenue from local groups, such as the Chambers of Commerce, tourism agencies and economic development organizations, who pay the company to create tours in their areas. Clients primarily come from referrals/word-of-mouth and outreach to regional and national Main Street conventions. Last year, the company also ran a direct mail campaign to accredited Main Street organizations and local tourism/economic development agencies.