Bitcoin Startup Lands Goldman as Investor, Has China in Its Sights

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Circle Internet Financial, a Bitcoin wallet provider, is looking to expand to China with the help of new investor IDG Capital Partners, which joined the $50 million Series C investment the company just secured.

The investment was co-led by China-based IDG Capital and Goldman Sachs. IDG Capital has invested in Tencent, Baidu and a handful of other Internet startups, prior to this.

"China is today the center of innovation in mobile apps and digital finance," said Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Circle, in an April 29 blog post. "We have a lot to learn from them, and we're excited to bridge the dollar economy to the yuan economy using global digital currency."

The sentiment echoes that of many Silicon Valley-backed startups that want to reach the tech-savvy early adopters in the Asia-Pacific region.

And while China is loosening some of its restrictions on outside providers, Allaire notes, "This will take time, as companies and services like Circle's must address a complex and evolving legal and regulatory landscape in China."

Circle is also gradually adding the ability for consumers to hold U.S. dollars in their account. Users link their bank account or credit card to the wallet to add U.S. dollars, which can then be sent and received for free in near-real time, the same way Circle handles Bitcoin funds. Dollar account balances are FDIC insured and Bitcoin balances are also insured.

On the back end, Circle performs a number of conversions to facilitate the movement of funds. If a user is holding U.S. dollar balances and a merchant wants to accept bitcoin, Circle will handle the conversion at the time of payment. Circle can also handle the reverse of this scenario, converting bitcoins to dollars at the time of purchase.

"This way, customers can choose to view Bitcoin not as a new currency to replace the dollar, but as an Internet payment network that enables secure, instant, global and nearly-free payments," Allaire said.

Users can withdraw Circle balances onto a credit or debit card or into external Bitcoin wallets.

And the Chinese yuan will be next. "We believe in a hybrid digital economy in which value moves freely around the world and converts into other currencies — including both crypto and fiat currencies — seamlessly, safely and instantly," said Allaire.

The notion is similar to the early model of the Ripple protocol. Ripple Labs' vision was to use cryptocurrency to facilitate digital transactions, with the sender and recipient using whichever currency they wish. While the idea remains at the heart of Ripple's business model, the company has stepped away from labeling itself a cryptocurrency startup.

"Consumer finance is undergoing a profound transformation with the rise of mobile payment applications and a growing appetite for financial products from non-traditional providers," said Quan Zhou, managing director of IDG Capital and Circle board member.

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