Can Circle Bridge the Adoption Gap?
You know that trope about article titles? The one that says that any rhetorical question in a title is intended to be answered with a “no”?
I’m quite glad to finally say that it has been flipped on its head. This question shouldn’t be answered with a “no” – or with a “yes” – but with a “definitely.” It definitely can.
The adoption gap is a common phenomenon seen in emerging technology. Essentially, there are a few big booms as a technology begins use. The first is the innovators – the very first brave few, who see something incredible and step on board, ready to ride that ship to shore. They have to rally the courageous troops – the early adopters. They, in turn, must find ways to connect with mainstream audiences. And therein lies the gap. Between the early adoption phase and the mainstream use phase, there is a large period in which some technologies fail. Bitcoin has been stuck there for a little while, but all it needs is a catalyst – and Circle could be that singular mainstream use-case.
For those not yet in the know – or, in other words, those not connected virally via cell phone to the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency news cycle – Circle is a company headed by Jeremy Allaire aimed at being an extremely simple, consumer-friendly, one-stop-shop for Bitcoin purchasing and management. While I hope to see Circle – and Allaire – open up their doors to other cryptocurrencies in the future, for now it’s just Bitcoin. Still, it’s a bigger deal than you might think. Some have even called it a “Coinbase-killer.” It’s still a little early to make bold predictions like that – as Circle and Coinbase are, to be honest, aimed at slightly different groups of users – but Coinbase has such a strong and positive brand within the community that even the concept of another company as its impending doom ought to be enough to turn heads.
The big news this week is that Circle has just launched out of semi-private beta into full retail mode. I got my invite just a week or so before launch, set it up, and immediately understood what everyone had been raving about. Forgive my temporary slip into Shibe, but such simplicity, so agile, much usability, wow.
So what’s the big deal?
Thought it’s not available anymore – Circle gave away completely FREE MONEY.
They were giving away Bitcoin, of course – but sowing the idea that Bitcoin is money is a strong plan to begin with.
Probably the BEST promotion I have ever seen – not just by a Bitcoin company, but by any company. Do you know what banks do as promotions?
“Get a FREE $250 dollars when you open an account and deposit $1000! (some terms and conditions may apply)”
Terms and Conditions:
Only available to alpaca farmers from northwestern Utah (defined in subsection 14c. 1a. of the agreement) with yearly earnings of greater than $100,000 and less than 14i to the power of Cthulhu.
Offer phases in and out with the alignment of the stars and the current phase of the moon. Consult an astrologer before opening account to ensure that lunar flux does not currently prevent us from offering this.
Should you qualify, $250 will be paid out in kumquats distributed over the lifetime of the account holder.
Not valid if the current day of the month is a prime number or the product of any two prime numbers.
Purposeful hyperbole – but I’m sure you get the point. The terms and conditions of most deals offered by banks are frequently bizarre and commonly well beyond the realistic capability and desire for understanding possessed by most sane people.
Not so with Circle. They were just giving away $10 for free, in Bitcoin, to anyone and everyone who signed up, for the entirety of the beta phase and for a limited time afterward. No strings attached, no silly problems, nothing. And the sign-up process was (and still is) super simple. Circle did it right – they offered something too good to be true so that everyone thought there were going to be strings attached… but there weren’t. Just free money to promote Bitcoin.
The other big deal? Ease and swiftness of use. Circle is beyond incredible relative to the competition in this arena – they’ll let you sign up, link a debit card, credit card, or a bank account, and then immediately – BAM. You can buy up to $2500 of Bitcoin instantly. They still have to limit you in order to protect their liability, but they ratcheted it up a notch from what we’ve seen in the past.
Funds you purchase have a waiting time of… 0 seconds from purchase.
Fees? Circle charges $0. And they appear to have managed to make the banks charge $0 as well. With credit and debit cards – and some bank accounts – this won’t be the case, but for my linked bank account, it is.
It would seem like total insanity, if it wasn’t so obvious what was going on. How is Circle possibly going to make money?
By being a bank. They’re going to lend out funds. They’ll probably add some minor fees in as time goes on, as well. Perhaps they’ll create value-added services, perhaps they’ll offer Bitcoin CDs or other investment options. But ultimately, I can tell from how they’re promoting themselves that all of this comes secondary to what they’re really doing.
But most of all? They’re profiting simply by exposing the mainstream public to Bitcoin. That, in and of itself, can generate profit for the investors and operators of Circle. The wondrous attribute of a speculative commodity-currency like Bitcoin is that simply getting other people to use it is value for its owners. Circle’s owners are very clever, in that sense. They recognize that Circle itself doesn’t have to profit very much – although it undoubtedly will – it can just be thought of as an advertising campaign; a PR move. By making Bitcoin more easily available and usable to people, they WILL profit. There is no question of that. To reference an old piece by Daniel Krawisz of the Nakamoto Institute, they’re following the correct strategy of Bitcoin entrepreneurship.
And so that is just what they’ll do. Circle will bridge the adoption gap; they will complete the metaphorical circle of innovators, early adopters, and mainstream consumers–and in doing so, all of them will profit.
Images via Circle.com’s press section