Even though concerns remain about the digital currency‚ staying power, bitcoin startups are attracting more dollars from well-known venture capitalists.
In the latest move, Blockchain, a bitcoin wallet provider and software developer, is expected to announce on Tuesday that it has closed a roughly $30.5 million fundraising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital. The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date.
Since it was founded in 2011, Blockchain, which is based in Britain, has gained respect in the industry for adhering to the virtual currency’s original philosophy of anonymity and decentralization. Roger Ver, a libertarian known in some circles as the Bitcoin Jesus, was the first backer and supporter of the company.
The price of one bitcoin, which reached a peak of about $1,150 last year, fell over the weekend to its lowest point of the year after tumbling 20 percent, to about $286, according to CoinDesk, a virtual currency website. Bitcoin was trading on Monday evening at about $330.
But despite the failure of some bitcoin-related sites and new regulatory challenges, more than $250 million has been invested in bitcoin companies, most of that in the last 12 months, according to Wedbush Securities, a financial services firm.
“Over the course of the next 10 years, bitcoin is going to have a big impact,” said Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed who will join Blockchain’s board. “Where is the central nexus of value creation in this whole industry? It has to be the wallet,” he said.
Blockchain’s financing round follows a spate of big investments in bitcoin companies, particularly those that offer storage services. Coinbase, for example, secured $25 million last year in a financing round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Another bitcoin company, Xapo, said in July that it had raised $40 million from investors including Greylock Partners and Index Ventures.
For bitcoin to become more widely adopted, supporters say, the virtual currency must find a unique application that will take it beyond the realm of speculation. And for that to happen, companies must first build a robust platform, which is what Blockchain says it is trying to do.
Blockchain says it tries to make it easier for people across the globe to use bitcoin. The company has 2.3 million consumer wallets, making it among the most popular wallet services in the world. It has also developed a search engine that allows users to verify transactions quickly in the currency’s public ledger, known as the bitcoin blockchain. Most of the company’s revenue comes from advertising.