Blackbird Labs, a crypto-powered app and loyalty program, has successfully raised $24 million in a series A funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). The company aims to bridge the gap between restaurants and customers by utilizing its innovative blockchain-based app.
The Blackbird app, built on Coinbase’s Layer-2 Base blockchain, allows customers to tap their phones on a near field communication (NFC) reader at participating restaurants. This action creates a non-fungible token (NFT) membership, which is minted when users “tap in” to the venue. These NFT memberships unlock exclusive rewards and insider perks such as off-menu items and SMS concierge services.
The project has gained significant attention, and not solely because of its unique crypto approach. The CEO of Blackbird Labs, Ben Leventhal, is a co-founder of the dining network Resy. A recent feature in the New York Times highlighted Blackbird’s innovative approach without explicitly mentioning its crypto foundations.
While Blackbird operates using blockchain technology and embraces decentralization, it also allows diners to earn fungible $FLY tokens. The company’s website provides further information on the mechanics of its operation through a document titled “Flypaper.”
The document states that Blackbird aims to be the first decentralized platform designed specifically for the hospitality industry. Unlike traditional rewards marketplaces that restrict the use of earned points, Blackbird’s protocol intends to enable users to transfer their points across public blockchains.
To simplify the onboarding process, Blackbird has partnered with Privy. Users are not required to have a crypto wallet before joining; instead, they can sign in with their phone number, which grants them access to a self-custodial wallet.
Although it has only been a few months since its launch, Blackbird has already partnered with around 80 restaurants in New York City.
Arianna Simpson, a general partner at a16z crypto, expressed excitement about the potential of Web3 technologies in revolutionizing the relationship between restaurants and customers. She believes that Web3 enables a new and more meaningful way for them to connect, thereby enhancing the dining experience.
Blackbird’s success comes at a time when other companies have attempted to implement rewards-based systems using NFTs but have struggled to maintain consistent usage. Blackbird’s innovative approach, coupled with its strategic partnerships, positions it as a promising leader in this space.
As the app continues to gain traction and expand its reach, it has the potential to reshape the loyalty and rewards landscape for the hospitality industry and beyond.