Cryptocurrency startup Circle has raised another $110 million, one of the largest rounds yet for a crypto startup, pushing its valuation to nearly $3 billion. Longtime tech exec Jeremy Allaire launched Circle four years ago as sort of a “bitcoin for dummies” wallet and payments service.
Circle is also launching a new “USD Coin” tied to the value of the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, crypto exchange Coinbase is making its play to help institutional giants like sovereign wealth funds, pension plans or asset managers more comfortable using its platform to invest in digital money. Called Coinbase Custody, the move marks an important shift among crypto entrepreneurs to win over Wall Street — not just disrupt it.
Circle is one of the most well-funded blockchain start-ups, with investors including Goldman Sachs Group and Baidu. The fintech company operates its peer-to-peer payment network using blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin.
Circle’s new USD Coin is meant to solve a key problem in digital currencies’ use case: Volatility.
Critics including Stan Druckenmiller have said cryptocurrencies can’t be used as a means of payment because their value changes so often and so rapidly. Bitcoin, for example, has been marked by volatility in the past 12 months and has dropped by more than 50 percent since its high near $20,000 in December, according to CoinDesk.
Circle customers will be required to hold $1 for every USD Coin, keeping the price stable. Other companies, such as Tether and Basis, also have offered “stable coins” with a value tied to the U.S. dollar. But Allaire said there’s a need for a “compliant alternative” to Tether, which has a $2.2 billion market cap, according to CoinMarketCap.com.