Bunz has laid off 15 members of its team and removed the ability for some merchants to accept BTZ, the company’s digital currency, BetaKit has learned.
A source familiar with the matter told BetaKit that only three staff remain following the layoffs, however, according to its LinkedIn page, Bunz employed 43 staff at the time this story was published, which could mean a one-third reduction in staff.
“This change to the program is not an ideal outcome and we are sorry for any difficulty.”
Following the removal of merchants in certain categories like clothing, the only merchants that now accept BTZ are those serving coffee and food. Posts from admins in Bunz Facebook groups claimed that they were not informed ahead of time of the changes. A Medium post from earlier this year promised to provide at least 30 days of notice ahead of any changes to BTZ.
“This change to the program is not an ideal outcome and we are sorry for any difficulty this may cause to individuals, merchants, and the community,” Sascha Mojtahedi, CEO of Bunz, said in a Medium post. “As a startup trying to do things differently, this was a necessary change we had to make on short notice for sustainability reasons.”
A Twitter thread from Toronto Storeys editor Deidre Olsen notes that Bunz users were not given notice to cash out BTZ into Canadian currency before yesterday, so those who saved up for a service can no longer take advantage of retailers.
BUNZ has informed makers that all non-food vendors are being paid up and removed from the app as of yesterday. The user base was not given notice to cash out BTZ into Canadian Currency before this happened. pic.twitter.com/74neiBEvuv
— Deidre Olsen (@DeidreLOlsen) September 11, 2019
Bunz launched BTZ in April 2018, calling it a cryptocurrency within its app, which it claimed had one million users at the time. BTZ could be redeemed for food, coffee, beer, clothing, and beauty services from Toronto retail partners like Cry Wolf Clothing, Drake General Store, The Fifth Pubhouse, and Halo Brewery. Its launch was met with scrutiny, as the company was pushed to admit that BTZ was not a cryptocurrency because it was not a decentralized currency run on a blockchain.
“Our community of users and local businesses have earned and spent over $1.4 million because of this program,” Mohtahedi wrote in a post announcing the changes. “This is something we can all be proud of.”
In April 2019, the company launched an in-app advertising initiative to reward users for viewing advertisements and sharing data. In exchange for interacting with the ads, Bunz would pay users with BTZ. The company also said that it raised an undisclosed Series A from Fidelity in March 2018.
BetaKit has reached out to Bunz for comment on the matter.