Bitmain, the largest of the Bitcoin mining operations, is putting its muscle behind mobile payments and cryptocurrency trading firm Circle by leading a $110 million Series E round of funding, the companies announced on Tuesday, March 15, 2018, at Consensus in New York City.
Several other venture capital firms, including Breyer Capital, General Catalyst and Accel, joined the round, which now pushes the value of Boston-based Circle to $3 billion, from a reported $480 million in 2016, according to a statement by Circle.
Bitmain is also joining forces with Circle to create a so-called “stablecoin,” a cryptocurrency that is pegged to a stable asset. The goal is to eventually have lots of stable tokens, all backed by different fiat currencies, but the first will be Circle USD Coin (USDC), a coin backed one-to-one by the U.S. dollar with the fiat to be stored in an auditable bank account and redeemable by verified buyers.
The tokens will be based on Ethereum’s ERC20 standard and developed and governed by CENTRE, a foundation that will manage a collection of new, fiat-backed tokens. CENTRE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Circle, but Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said that the foundation would become more independent as other members joined.
Alongside Circle and Bitmain, other CENTRE members will be able to produce their own fiat-based stablecoins and help set rules around how the coins will operate. According to the CENTRE’s whitepaper, governance of the network will include a type of voting that will leverage a forthcoming CENTRE-specific token that is separate from fiat tokens.
The way Circle sees it, a price-stable token is critical for enabling mainstream adoption of blockchain technology for payments and supporting financial contracts built on smart contract platforms, such as those for controlling token securities, loans and property.
Circle’s new stable token joins a growing list of stable tokens meant to ease volatility of cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, which can fluctuate wildly in value over even a few hours. Tether (USDT), introduced in 2015, is the biggest of the stablecoins, with about $2.2 billion in circulating supply.
Circle made news earlier this year when it purchased cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex. Circle plans to offer USDC through Poloniex. It will also incorporate USDC in its social payments app and over-the-counter (OTC) trading desk.