‘When people use the Circle product…you don’t see Bitcoins. It’s sort of underneath.’
Those are the words of the serial entrepreneur Jeremy Allaire, who is the Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Circle.
In this article, the above statement is of great interest to us. But first, it will help if we knew the company that Allaire leads. And in that case; where else to begin than what has made it to be in the news in the past few days.
Circle, at the beginning of this week, was granted an electronic money license from Financial Conduct Authority, a financial regulator in the United Kingdom. It is the first Bitcoin company-even though Allaire doesn’t view it that way, as we will see later- to receive this approval in the UK.
Quite a feat, of course…
And almost immediately after getting this approval, the Dublin-headquartered company secured a working partnership with Barclays Bank. With a spokesperson of the bank telling Reuters, “We support the exploration of positive uses of blockchain that can benefit consumers and society."
This wasn’t the first ‘first’ for the company, though.
It has been a long journey
In September 2015 Circle became the first Bitcoin business to be registered under the New York’s new Bitlicense law.
It defied the wave of Bitcoin startups exiting New York in protest to the law that they viewed to put a lot of burden on their operations, especially in regards to KYC and AML requirements.
But when did it all start…..
Circle was founded by Jeremy Allaire and Sean Neville in 2013. Like many other Bitcoin startups, it started as a simple wallet service provider before undergoing gradual but significant changes.
Aside from building on top of this simple initial model, the company has gone ahead to successfully raise capital in three rounds.
In October 2013 it raised $9 million in its Series A round from Jim Breyer and General Catalyst Partners. The series B capital happened in March 2014. Eight investors, including Breyer Capital, took part and $17 million was raised.
In April 2015, Circle raised $50 million in its Series C round from Goldman Sachs, General Catalyst Partners, Accel, Oak Investment Partners and Pantera Capital.
This interest from investors has made the company one of the most funded Bitcoin startups.
Hold, send and spend your fiat on Bitcoin
To access Circle’s services, you have to download their app from Play Store or Apple store. The Android app is integrated with near-field communication (NFC) making its use for payment even more diverse.
With the app, you can hold, send and spend money in the form of dollars, sterling pounds and other fiat currencies. By working with partners like Barclays Bank, Circle is able to give its users a seamless and frictionless way to move their money around.
“We want… to connect the benefits of digital currency with the existing financial system. And the existing currencies that people use, day to day, the currencies they’re paid in, the currencies they pay people with etc,” Jeremy Allaire has explained, “and connect that not just with blockchain technology but other major technical innovations that make doing what we do possible.”
While the company has been identified as a Bitcoin wallet service, its founders do not view it that way. “We never thought of ourselves as a Bitcoin startup,” Jeremy Allaire has told Techcrunch, “The media certainly classified us that way because we were involved with the technology.”
Is it tricking people into using Bitcoin?
With this view of Allaire of his company and considering the fact that Circle users do not see money in their account in Bitcoin units, it is not farfetched to believe that the company is ushering in an era when users do not have to know that they are using Bitcoin.
Of course, this goes against what we have always seen within the Bitcoin ecosystem. It is something new.
It goes without saying that the Bitcoin community is full of individuals and companies pushing for the adoption of the technology through explaining to would-be users how it works and the benefits it has for them. Evangelizing is the word.
And that has always had some political element to it. Indeed, in the early days, many adopted Bitcoin because it promised a new way of exercising personal freedom. The fact that it was money free from government authority and control of commercial bankers was enough for many.
But Bitcoin is going mainstream. No one can stop those who few it just as a technology to simplify business processes.
It is all about improving business processes
And in the context of business; what if we treat bitcoin as the detail under the hood? What if we build solutions on it and sell just the experience to the user? The user does not need to know they are using Bitcoin or the blockchain. That is exactly what Circle is trying to do.
For this company, Bitcoin and the Blockchain have become the back office stuff that only the technical staff needs to know about. Or those customers who really what to know how the stuff works.
Of course, that sounds like trying to tricking people into using Bitcoin. Maybe it is. But if you look around, there are far too many products that we use and like the experience, even fall in love with the experience. But we never know really how everything turns under the hood to provide that experience.
For instance, a teenage girl using her smartphone to chat with her friends does not know and does not even care to know what magic happen between her fingers and the phone’s screen to enable her, swipe, type and click smoothly.
The same goes for cars, the internet and almost everything else we use on the daily basis. Obviously, Bitcoin and the Blockchain will obviously not be the first ones.
Indeed, Circle could be setting the stage for a major shift in the application of Bitcoin and the Blockchain.