Circle Internet Financial Ltd. announced today it has opened its initial service – online accounts for sending, receiving, and storing Bitcoin – to the world, following months of working with customers in an invite-only phase.
In a company blog post, Jeremy Allaire, the Boston-based startup’s CEO, wrote that Circle’s aims were simple for its initial product launch: create an experience that is fast, beautiful, and enjoyable to use; reduce the friction that so many individuals – even tech-savvy ones – often face when receiving and spending Bitcoins; and make digital currency the same as other major Internet services for consumers – instant and free.
As of today, “anyone can enroll, and they need to go through very basic security set-up and verification,” said Allaire in an interview with the Guardian. “Once they do that, they really have a cloud wallet: a service where they can send, receive and store Bitcoin very easily with a very simple interface in their own language.” (Circle is now available in seven languages: English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish).
“The benefit is going to be for people who want to use an online service, and don’t want to worry about managing and securing private keys and so forth. They can store as much as they want, there’s no fees, and it includes all the offline storage we provide as well as full insurance on all deposits.”
Allaire elaborated on Circle’s insurance offering in his blog post, writing:
“Back in May, we were excited to announce that we were offering customers insurance from theft on 100 percent of their bitcoin account balances. Since May, we’ve continued to build out our insurance program, acquiring more underwriters for both our online and cold storage/offline assets. Today we offer this unprecedented insurance coverage to every Circle customer. Circle customers will have 100 percent coverage of their full deposit value. Our insurance broker is Marsh, one of the largest insurance brokers in the world. The underwriters for this insurance are all highly-rated. Insurance on Bitcoin is a new market, and we’re proud to be a market maker in establishing this valuable service to users of digital assets. And this 100 percent insurance covers deposits for any user in the world holding bitcoin with Circle.”
Circle is also developing new iOS and Android applications, which are still in beta and are “a critical piece of the puzzle and companions to Circle’s Web-based service,” wrote Allaire in the blog post.
Bloomberg reports that with Circle, Allaire is betting that more consumers will be willing to invest and use Bitcoin for purchases, making it more of a mainstream payment offering.
“Circle is designed for new users who are coming into this world,” Allaire told the news outlet. “We introduced a product that’s free to use. We’ve created something that’s easier to use, better economically.”
Allaire told Bloomberg he anticipates that his company will appeal to young people, and that it is focusing on expanding its reach to various higher-education institutions.
As Circle works to boost its operations, it plans to expand the number of full-time staff to 50 people by the end of 2014, up from the current 35, said Allaire to Bloomberg. He added the company may seek more capital next year.
Bloomberg reports that Circle has raised $26 million to date. The news agency notes the company’s investors include Breyer Capital, Accel Partners, Oak Investment Partners, and Pantera Capital, a San Francisco-based hedge fund that invests in both Bitcoins and Bitcoin-related businesses.
Images via Circle.com