Today Belly closed a $10 million round of funding from arguably the world’s top venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz (or A16Z). A16Z is behind some of the biggest names on the internet, including (but not limited to) Facebook, Foursquare, Groupon, Instagram, Pinterest, Bump, Skype, Twitter, and Zynga. In addition, A16Z partner Jeff Jordan, former CEO of OpenTable and President of PayPal, will join our board of directors. Jeff wrote an excellent piece on his blog about the partnership with A16Z and Belly.
Belly is an exciting startup that I’ve devoted most my time to over the past year. What Belly does is it enables small to midsize businesses to create and retain custom loyalty programs to keep their customers coming back in. After a set of custom rewards that are shaped around the voice of the business are created, an iPad is installed in the business with an unlimited amount of physical Belly cards which are scanned on the iPad after each visit. After scanning your card for the first time and registering, it becomes your universal loyalty card for every business that has Belly. Additionally, if you’re not interested in carrying another card, you can download the Belly app on Android or iPhone and scan via your phone.
Belly began in Chicago last August with a few select partners and quickly swelled across the Chicagoland area to encompass hundreds of businesses. We started with local ma-n-pa businesses and soon after national chains wanted in. Chains like 7-Eleven, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Dairy Queen, and Nike to name a few.
In December of 2011, Belly raised funding from Lightbank and caught press in The New York Times, FastCompany, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, and TechCrunch.
By the end of the year, Belly had been installed at over 200 locations across the Chicagoland area. And that was just the beginning. At the end of January, that number increased to over 450 and expanded outside of Chicago to Austin, TX.
In Austin, Belly was a hit. Fueled by SXSW, Belly grew on Austin like Asian Karp in the Chicago River. In less than two months Austin had 100 businesses with Belly, which is half of what it took for Chicago to reach that milestone. During SXSW, when the technology/music/film world descended upon Austin, we threw a few rad parties to spread the word.
Soon after, we began expanding our offerings to more cities across the nation. What started in Chicago spread to Austin, then to Madison, Phoenix, Miami, Washington D.C., and eventually made it’s way to Dallas, Milwaukee, Boston, New York, Raleigh, and countless others.
Businesses can now engage their customers on a personal level with rewards that are more than just a free cup of coffee (although a free cup of coffee is certainly a reward many businesses offer!). They can give their most loyal customers experiences that are tailored to the voice and style of the business, because no small business is the same. Each one has a unique feeling you get when you walk in the door and get greeted with a smiling face. It’s what makes small businesses special and we love that.
We work closely with each business that is signed up with Belly to develop a loyalty program that’s centered around the personality of the business. We fundamentally believe it’s important to harness that culture, and that’s what we built Belly on. We’re helping to provide rewarding and exciting experiences for loyal customers.
Rewards range from “Create & Name Your Own Cocktail” at Halcyon in Austin, TX to “Punch Staff Member Of Choice In The Stomach” at AlleyCat Comics in Chicago, IL. Five points are given after each visit to a business with many offering promotions where if you visit during a certain time period you can get double or triple points.
Belly’s come a long way since I got involved during it’s founding. Accumulating 200,000+ users, 1,400+ businesses, 800,000+ checkins, hiring 50+ employees across the country, and moving into our own office space since our first business a mere 8 months ago.
With today’s funding, we’ll be able to extend our reach further than we could before and provide new and creative ways of rewarding customer loyalty. We’re thrilled that Andreessen Horowitz shares our vision of the future of loyalty and we’re excited about what’s to come.
Here’s to what we’ve done, and what we’re going to do,
To read more about our funding, visit the Chicago Tribune, GigaOM, TechCrunch, CNET, VentureBeat, AllThingsD, FastCompany, or Forbes.
For a full press release, visit MarketWatch.
If Belly sounds interesting and you want to set up a demo for your business, visit bellycard.com/add.