Posted on Wednesday, Aug 15th 2018
Recent reports from analysts suggest that the global cryptocurrency market will grow to $1 trillion in 2018 from an estimated $417 billion in 2017 in spite of the growing regulatory concerns. But the skepticism has not stopped the US FinTech firm Circle from reaching the Billion Dollar Unicorn status.
Boston-based Circle was founded in 2013 by Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville. Prior to founding Circle, Jeremy had set up online video platform Brightcove. He set up Circle as a mobile Bitcoin wallet. But today, Circle has expanded its focus to social payments.
To help users make it easy to invest in crypto currencies, Circle offers Circle Invest. Its Circle Pay service allows users to send money like a text. Its biggest offering, though, is the over-the-counter crypto desk Circle Trade that sees more than $2 billion in trades each month.
More recently, Circle made big news when it announced the acquisition of Wilmington, Delaware-based Poloniex for an estimated $400 million. Founded in 2014, Poloniex is one of the world’s most active cryptocurrency exchanges. Poloniex offers trades in 68 different coins and is among the top 20 crypto exchange by 24-hour volume on CoinMarketCap.
Circle is a visionary in cryptocurrency products as it works on a vision of integrating “the existing financial system with cryptocurrency as a hybrid, digital model”. It was the first startup to be awarded a BitLicense, a certification for virtual currency businesses issued by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It was also the first Bitcoin outfit to earn an electronic money license from the UK Financial Conduct Authority.
It is only recently that Circle has become financially viable. After reporting losses till last year, it appears that the company is making a turnaround. Circle is privately held and does not disclose detailed financials. But recent reports suggest that both revenues and profits appear to be on the rise. The biggest drivers for the change have been Circle Trade and the Poloniex acquisition.
Circle Trade operates with a minimum deal size of $250,000 with some trade deals running as high as $2 million in value. It is estimated to have earned Circle $60 million in revenues a quarter. The service has been available since 2016, but it appears to have picked up steam last year. Additionally, the Poloniex acquisition is expected to add significantly to the top line, taking it to an annual revenue run rate of more than $1 billion.
Circle has raised $246 million in funding so far from investors including Breyer Capital, General Catalyst, IDG Capital, Tusk Ventures, BlockChain Capital, Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Bitmain, and Accel. Its last funding round was held in May this year when it raised $110 million at a valuation of $3 billion. It plans to use the funds to continue the development of new products including a new product called USD Coin that will be a virtual coin with its value tied to the US$.
Circle needs these products to battle the competition that Coinbase has to offer. San Francisco-based Coinbase runs broker exchanges of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Litecoin with fiat currencies in nearly 32 countries. Coinbase is estimated to be valued at $8 billion.
More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns.
This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns
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