Boston-based Circle Internet Financial said it has closed a $17 million Series B financing round to allow the digital currency company to expand its offerings to consumers.
The new funding comes from a range of new investors, including Oak Investment Partners. The company has raised a total of $26 million in a short time, including from Breyer Capital, Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners. Pantera Capital, the Bitcoin Opportunity Fund, SecondMarket CEO and founder Barry Silbert and others also invested in this round.
Along with the new dough, Circle also said it would offer its new consumer product called Circle in a limited invite-only launch to consumers. It will become generally available later this year.
“There are not a lot of credible companies building what we are, and we saw the opportunity to bulk up to bring bitcoin to the mainstream,” said Jeremy Allaire, Circle founder, chairman and CEO, who compares his service to a stored value card. “We mean to get beyond the bunch of amateurs and enthusiasts that have dominated the early development of digital currency and make it easy for regular people to use.”
Thus, Circle has focused on making online tools to allow consumers to transact easily and safely, the company said, “reducing much of the friction and risk that is currently associated with Bitcoin.”
Friction, indeed. The controversies around bitcoin have been loud of late — especially after the collapse of one of its most prominent pioneers, Mt. Gox — even as venture money being poured into bitcoin companies has grown exponentially. Most recently, that has included $20 million in funding to longtime entrepreneur Wences Casares for the new bitcoin vault and wallet Xapo and $25 million into bitcoin wallet Coinbase.
To assuage user worries about digital currency, Circle is painting itself as the company that can work with government regulators and banks in a trusted relationship, replacing the fly-by-night feel of some early players.
Founded only last fall with a $9 million Series A round, Circle has a war chest in line with its rivals, all of which are betting that bitcoin and digital currency will eventually be as commonplace with consumers as the Internet is today.
Allaire, of course, was the founder and CEO of video service Brightcove, where he remains chairman. But he has long been a student of economics, he said, and thinks that bitcoin is “at the foundation of changing how the world operates in the same way the early Internet was.”