June 22, 2016
Circle’s New Capital, China and Euro Expansion
We founded Circle on the vision that we should all be able to exchange value the same way we share content, information and messages on the internet. Money should work the way that the internet works -- instant, global, free, open and fun.
Executing on that vision involves connecting the world’s major currency zones. We’ve built the foundations of this in the US and UK, where we connected dollars, pound sterling, and euro to blockchain technology, machine learning risk mitigation, and cloud and mobile software advances behind a strong dedication to design excellence. Circle’s social payment app allows customers in the US, UK and soon Europe, to send and receive payments instantly, without fees, with a customer experience that builds on the experiences they have already with messaging and social media.
Now we are increasingly focused on bringing these same benefits to Chinese consumers.
Today, we announced two related milestones: a $60M strategic financing from a syndicate of major Chinese strategic investors; and the formation of Circle China, a new Beijing-based company focused on bringing the benefit of open, global, blockchain-powered social payments to Chinese consumers. We want to connect consumers using dollars, pounds, euro and renminbi the same way that the web, email and other protocols have connected consumers globally.
The $60M strategic financing was led by existing investment partner IDG Capital Partners, the prolific Beijing-based VC which has been behind many prominent consumer internet companies in China and is an influential player in global Fintech investments. Breyer Capital, a premier global venture capital and private equity firm founded by Jim Breyer, participated strongly as well in this round of financing. IDG and Breyer Capital have partnered closely in the past decade on catalyzing high-impact entrepreneurs in the United States and China.
Along with IDG, Breyer Capital and General Catalyst Partners, we have brought on a powerful syndicate of major strategic partners in China, including Baidu, CICC ALPHA, China Everbright Limited, Wanxiang and CreditEase.
We are also honored to have two prominent individuals invest in the company: Sam Palmisano, former Chairman and CEO of IBM, and Glenn Hutchins, the co-founder of SilverLake and legendary private equity investor. Sam and Glenn bring highly unique global and strategic perspectives to Circle.
These strategic partners are betting on Circle’s goal of creating an open, global model for social payments that enables consumers in China, the US and Europe to exchange value the same way we share content and communicate. We are thrilled to have these companies as partners in our global endeavors, and in our nascent expansion into China itself.
In addition to this strategic financing, we are also sharing some details about a new company we established about six months ago -- Circle China. Formed with a multi-million dollar seed investment from many of the strategic investors in this round, Circle China was formed as an independent Chinese company focused on bringing the benefits of open, global social payments to Chinese consumers.
We have taken great inspiration from China in our thinking about the future of banking and consumer finance. Social payments as a category started in China, and has enormous scale, unlike in the West. The first private banks in China are run by Alibaba and Tencent. Messaging and payments, p2p lending and novel forms of saving and investment, powered by the internet and software, are accelerating at an incredible pace in China, outpacing the West. We all have a lot to learn from innovators in China.
In the coming years, Chinese consumers will play a much bigger role in the global economy, and as a result, the RMB will become a much more important currency in the world. We want Chinese consumers to be able to get the benefits of open, blockchain-powered payments. A Chinese student or young professional working in New York, London or Berlin should be able to share value with their friends and family -- whether they are in the US, Europe or China. Again, money should work the way the internet works -- when is the last time you sent a ‘cross border email’?
While we are not yet offering a commercial product and service in China, we are committed to the development of a China-native company, with major Chinese owners and investors in both Circle China and Circle Global. Like our work in the US and UK/Europe over the past couple of years, we must ensure that our products are found compliant with the laws and regulations of the Chinese payments and banking regime. With very strong strategic partners, we are excited about what we can build and deliver for the rising Chinese consumer.
Consumers in the US, Europe and China should be able to exchange value freely and instantly, the same way we share information and content. To that end, we introduced this technology and consumer experience to Europeans. A couple of months ago we announced that we had received an EEA E-Money Issuer licence from the UK Financial Conduct Authority, and launched the Circle service in the UK with native support for Pound Sterling.
We will soon open Circle Euro support to consumers in Spain as the first part of a broader European-wide rollout to come over the coming month. We are currently working with the regulators to finalize our approach, but are excited about the opportunity.
“Lighting up Euro” on Circle’s platform is critical in our effort to enable consumers everywhere to share value, and is also important to our efforts in China. Between the US, Europe and China, there are 2+ billion consumers who will share value, and we want to enable that experience in the same way that these consumers share messages and content today. We're on track to exceed a billion dollars in transaction volume on an annual basis, and Circle's global customer base has grown by 300% over the past 12 months -- but we're just getting started.
We are still in the early days of this global transformation in value exchange, but the barriers and boundaries are slowly dropping away, replaced with open protocols (e.g., blockchain), and improved user experiences (e.g., messaging and social payments). The coming years will be exciting, transformative and no doubt challenging. We’re taking the long view and trying to build something that can help integrate the global economy and global consumers in the same way that the the internet of information and communications has brought the world together.
Jeremy and Sean, Circle Co-Founders
"Circle's powerful take on blockchain-powered social payments has attracted leading financial institutions and consumer Internet companies in China who are throwing their support behind the company's global vision for an open Internet of value exchange," said Jim Breyer, Founder & CEO, Breyer Capital. "We are very happy to be part of the team and to support Circle in this next phase of growth and expansion."
“Jim (Breyer) has been a long-time business partner and a great personal friend of IDG Capital,” said Hugo Shong, founding general partner of IDG Capital. “Working together with Breyer Capital, IDG is very bold on Circle’s vision of blockchain and social payment. Just like the success of Alipay and WeChat pay here in China, we have full confidence in Circle team building global products which will be enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people daily.”
“Blockchain technology will play a critical role in transforming the global financial services industry,” said Mr. Joseph Liang, Chairman and CEO of CICC ALPHA. “Circle is an outstanding blockchain technology startup with great vision and team to transform the consumer finance industry. We look forward to partnering with them to build a bright future together."
“Circle is one of the most impressive startups in the blockchain technology space” said Peter Fang, executive director of Baidu corporate development. “Together with other influential investors, Baidu is very excited to partner with Circle team to build its vision successfully and globally."
“As an important Chinese partner and shareholder of Circle, we highly recognize the achievements Circle has made globally” said Dr. Feng Xiao, vice chairman and executive director of Wanxiang Holdings. “Circle is an outstanding blockchain technology startup. We believe it will have a bright future in both China and in the world. We are looking forward to build a prominent presence in China with Circle."
"CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund aims to identify global leaders in the financial technology industry. Digital mobile payments and Blockchain technology are at the forefront of FinTech innovation," said CreditEase Founder and CEO Ning Tang. "We believe that Circle's unique technology and compelling value proposition will help Circle achieve its vision to change the global economy."
“We recognized Circle as a prominent venture in the blockchain arena” said James Pan, member of CEL's Management Decision Committee and CEO of EBA Investments. "Circle has its unique competitive edge in the consumer digital finance industry. It has gained the world’s first BitLicense from the New York Department of Financial Supervision (NYDFS) and is the only digital currency company to receive E-Money Issuer License in the UK. As a leader in the cross-border asset management business, China Everbright Limited is always committed to Fintech innovation. We would like to see this investment as an important step for CEL’s entry into blockchain and digital currency financial services sphere."