Blackbird, Crypto Restaurant App, Raises $24M in Funding Led by A16z

Blackbird Labs, an app and loyalty program that’s attempting to connect restaurants and their customers via its crypto-powered app, announced Wednesday it has raised $24 million in a series A funding round led by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

Through Blackbird, which is built on Coinbase’s Layer-2 Base blockchain, customers tap their phone on a near field communication (NFC) reader (the devices which allow smartphones to connect to payment readers) and create a non-fungible token (NFT) membership. The NFT is then minted when users “tap in” to the restaurant.

Blackbird memberships unlock rewards and insider perks such as off menu items and SMS concierge, said a press release.

The project has garnered mainstream attention partly because its CEO is Ben Leventhal, a co-founder of the dining network Resy; the New York Times published a feature this week about Blackbird without mentioning the word “crypto” once.

But behind the scenes is a blockchain-based infrastructure and a decentralized ethos. Diners can also earn fungible $FLY tokens, and Blackbird’s website links to a “Flypaper” that lays out some of the mechanics.

“Blackbird will be the first decentralized platform built especially for the hospitality industry,” the paper reads. “Unlike legacy rewards marketplaces which maroon and lock earned points, the Blackbird protocol will eventually allow users to take the points they earn anywhere they go on public blockchains.”

Blackbird has partnered with Privy so that users do not need to have a crypto wallet prior to joining; they just have to sign in with their phone number which automatically grants them access to a self-custodial wallet.

Blackbird launched a few months ago and has signed up around 80 restaurants in New York City.

“Web3 enables a powerful, new way for restaurants and guests to connect, making each dining experience unique and more meaningful,” said Arianna Simpson, general partner at a16z crypto.

This comes as a number of companies have attempted rewards based systems via NFTs and struggled to maintain consistent usage.

Edited by Bradley Keoun.

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