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Bitcoin Startup Raises Another $17M, Debuts Consumer Service

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Circle Internet Financial, a startup aiming to make the digital currency Bitcoin more user-friendly for merchants and consumers, has raised another $17 million, bringing its total funding to $26 million.

The Boston company also plans to announce the debut of its initial consumer offering, which will be available only to select users until the official launch later this year. Forthcoming products aim to reduce "much of the friction and risk that is currently associated with Bitcoin," the company said in a press release.

Circle started in October 2013 with a $9 million Series A round of financing backed by Breyer Capital, Accel Partners, and General Catalyst Partners. Oak Investment Partners joined these existing lead investors in the second round in March.

Other investors in the second round include Pantera Capital; the Bitcoin Opportunity Fund, run by Barry Silbert, who also is the founder and chief executive of the broker-dealer SecondMarket Inc.; and Leonard Schrank, former CEO of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

Circle board member M. Michele Burns and Fenway Summer, a consumer finance advisory and venture firm led by Circle board member and former regulator Raj Date, also invested in the Series B financing.

As Circle moves into its commercial phase, "investors and strategic individuals" have pledged a vote of confidence, showing interest in digital currency transactions is accelerating,said Jeremy Allaire, Circle's founder, chairman and CEO in the press release. Next, it is critical "that we have the capital and leadership team to execute on our vision for consumer finance and global payments built on Bitcoin.

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