Circle Internet Financial Ltd. introduced its online accounts for sending, receiving and storing bitcoins, seeking to make it easier for consumers to use the virtual currency.
The Boston-based startup, which has raised $26 million in funding to date, has been testing the service for several months, said Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Allaire.
Bitcoin has gained some traction, with an more than 75,000 businesses accepting the digital money, including Dell Inc., Dish Networks Corp. and Expedia Inc. With Circle, Allaire is betting that more consumers will be willing to invest, and pay for goods and services using bitcoin, making it more of a mainstream payment system.
Circle is designed for new users who are coming into this world, Allaire said in an interview. We introduced a product thats free to use. Weve created something thats easier to use, better economically.
Circle, which will be available globally, will compete with offerings from other startups, such as Coinbase Inc. and Blockchain.info. U.S. customers will be able to link a bank account to their Circle wallets, where they can store bitcoins for use in transactions or as an investment. The service also lets users use credit cards to make deposits and withdrawals. Both U.S. and international users holdings are fully insured from theft, Allaire said.
So far, most bitcoin users have been technophiles who download complex software to use the virtual currency and spend days waiting for transactions to go through. Allaire anticipates that Circle will appeal to young people, and the company is focused on expanding its reach onto various college campuses, he said.
Circle is available in seven languages, including Spanish and Chinese. The site will automatically display peoples account balances in their local currency. Circle is also developing new iOS and Android applications, which will make the service accessible via mobile devices.
As it works to ramps up operations, Circle plans to expand the number of full-time employees to 50 people by the end of the year, up from the current 35, Allaire said. The company may seek more capital next year, he said.
The startups investors include Breyer Capital, Accel Partners, Oak Investment Partners and Pantera Capital, a San Francisco-based hedge fund that is investing in both Bitcoins and Bitcoin-related businesses.
To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland at email@example.com
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Circle Debuts Bitcoin Accounts for Mainstream Users