Cryptocurrency Exchange Circle Valued at Nearly $3 Billion After Poloniex Deal
Circle, one of the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency startups, has raised a new round of funding that lifts its private valuation to nearly $3 billion—more than six times what it was worth in 2016. The deal comes just a few months after Circle purchased Poloniex, a Boston-based cryptocurrency exchange, for roughly $400 million, as Fortune’s reporting first revealed.
Bitmain, the biggest Bitcoin mining company in China, has led the $110 million funding round. The investment has linked two of the biggest cryptocurrency companies from the world’s two biggest markets.
Jeremy Allaire, Circle’s CEO and co-founder, told Fortune that he sought new funding to support his company’s continued expansion as well as to establish a new value for its equity. Moreover, he said, Bitmain’s view of the digital evolution of the financial industry aligns with his own.
“There’s really a shared vision that crypto infrastructure is going to be the foundation of a new global economic order that’s going to restructure how economies work and how capital works,” Allaire said.
Jihan Wu, Bitmain’s cofounder and director, echoed Allaire’s sentiments in an interview with Fortune. Right now, he said, “financial markets are quite segmented inside each nation. The blockchain can connect these financial markets together and improve their efficiency.”
A key part of the that shared vision involves Circle’s plan to release a so-called stable coin, a virtual currency whose price is pegged to the U.S. dollar and can serve as a digital medium of exchange. This project, called Circle USD Coin, or USDC, will initially take the form of tokens minted on top of the Ethereum cryptocurrency network.
Tether, another virtual currency that has attempted to tie the price of its tokens to U.S. dollars, has faced criticism for its opacity. Circle’s Poloniex is a major venue on which Tether is traded.
Bitmain is planning to help Circle create a variety of stable coins based on different currencies around the world, like the Chinese renminbi or Japanese yen. As part of its investment, Bitmain said it would join Circle’s Centre initiative, a subsidiary focused on making payments interoperable between digital wallets online.
Wu said he is bullish on what these coins may enable. “I think in the future the markets are not only about cryptocurrencies and ICOs”—or initial coin offerings—”but about stable tokens and traditional verticals like bonds and stocks.”
Allaire agrees. “We’re racing to get this launched,” he said of the stable coins. “The next wave of growth in a broader range of tokenized assets depends on this existing.”
Circle’s new valuation makes it one of the highest privately valued U.S. cryptocurrency startups. Rivals include Coinbase, which was last valued at $1.6 billion but is said to be seeking new valuation of $8 billion. Robinhood, a stock trading app that recently entered the cryptocurrency market, is now privately valued at $5.6 billion.
Founded in 2013, Bitmain has swelled to a private valuation of $12 billion with revenues of $2.5 billion last year, said Wu.
Other investors in Circle’s new round of funding include IDG Capital, Breyer Capital, General Catalyst, Accel, Digital Currency Group, and Pantera, along with new investors, Blockchain Capital and Tusk Ventures. Notably absent from the term sheet is former investor Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs recently announced its intention to create its own Bitcoin trading desk.