The mainstream-focused bitcoin wallet, Circle, has had a perfect storm of good news lately as it greatly expanded its territory and announced a major new banking partner, new upgrades, new licensing, a new currency, and a freshly loosened policy.
The company announced a partnership with Barclay’s bank in the UK on Tuesday, providing the opportunity to include the British Pound as a second native currency within their application. UK citizens can now use Circle in the same way that U.S. citizens already could.
According to a company blog post, Circle plans to add the Euro as a third native currency very soon too, also backed by Barclays bank. The addition will give Circle the ability to move into the rest of Europe, a market with roughly 500 Million smartphone users.
The Boston-based company has received over US$76 million in funding, over three funding rounds, valuing the company at US$250 million. The investments have been from a wide range of sources, including Goldman Sachs in April 2015.
The Barclay’s news comes as the Financial Conduct Authority, the top financial regulator in the UK, granted Circle the first electronic money license awarded to a currency not sponsored by a state. Without it, according to UK laws, the company would not be able to establish a banking relationship with Barclay’s, nor have access to the country’s legacy ATM network.
“For the first time any consumer in the U.S. and the U.K. will be able to beam sterling and dollars back and forth, instantly for free,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told the NY times. “That’s just never been possible.”
Barclay’s PLC is a British multinational bank founded in 1690, currently valued at £1.120 trillion by assets. It has almost 5,000 branches with 129,400 employees located in 50 countries today, and claims 48 million customers worldwide.
The bank has been on the forefront of banking history for both good and bad reasons. In 1967, Barclay’s was the first bank in the world to deploy an automated cash dispenser, however, the megabank was a central figure in the 2012 LIBOR scandal, leading to fines totalling £290 million, for manipulating the interbank exchange rates.
Together Barclay’s and Circle appear to be uniquely positioned to bring bitcoin wallets to all of Europe, especially those that have never been introduced to bitcoin before.
The elaborate bitcoin wallet sends money to both email addresses and phone numbers, and is available on both Apple and Android. It allows users to send dollars, and now pounds, from end to end seamlessly. The app will even let users pull fiat currency out of their bank account, through a debit card, and send it to a recipient directly.
To accompany the new changes and make room for the new customers, Circle also announced that they have lifted the limits on how much verified users can spend or withdraw from their Circle account.
As Coinbase’s primary competitor, Circle has worked towards rebuilding its image as a social payment app; an emerging class of smartphone applications that include PayPal’s Venmo, Facebook Messenger Payments, and China’s WeChat Pay. These applications are a step between chat and online payments, and usually have lots of images and even emojis tied into their chat-like interface.
“Social and personal payments have been cumbersome, awkward, and highly local, unlike the Internet… we envision a new experience for money that builds on the experiences and possibilities we have with messaging, social media, and other forms of communication and information sharing that billions of people have become accustomed to online.”
The result for Circle looks less like Coinbase and more like Venmo, although while using it, you are never more than a click or two away from being able to send or receive funds. The fees are also smaller than other social payment apps, since it uses bitcoin as the value transfer backbone.
Some part of the new facelift appears to be working out nicely for Circle. In another bout of good news for the company, the Circle Pay app made it’s way up the iTunes stores’ “Best New Apps” list in the finance category.
The highly-sought after position will ensure it is seen by millions of Apple iOS users as they enter the iTunes store’s featured apps page on their iPhones, iPads, and even desktop computers.
According to third-party App rankings website Top App Charts, Circle Pay is currently the #29 app in the overall finance category, trending upwards. Ironically, that is two positions above Barclay’s Barclaycard app, and four positions above Google wallet’s app.
“When is the last time that you sent a ‘cross border email’, or conducted ‘an international Web browsing session’? The Internet knows no boundaries or borders; money is merely data and banks are regulated database operators.”