Bitcoin start-up 21 Inc has raised US$116m in funding, catching many unawares

11 Mar 2015

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Bitcoin’s explosion onto the web scene six years ago has seen many businesses set up to capitalise on its growing popularity. One in particular has gained significant traction in the past year.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, investors including Qualcomm, Yuan Capital, RRE Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz are all backing 21 Inc – a business that sees far wider opportunities than just online currencies with regard to bitcoin’s construction – to the tune of US$116m.

“Unlike the currency transactions that are generally associated with bitcoin, new uses could range from lawyer-free smart contracts to tamper-proof online voting systems,” reads the report.

Matthew Pauker, chief executive at the start-up, claims Qualcomm’s involvement is key, hoping to exploit its global manufacturing strength to develop technologies that work with “blockchain”, the technology behind bitcoin.

“Bitcoin is going to change the way that people and businesses and even machines interact with each other,” says Pauker. “But for bitcoin to realise that vision we need mass adoption. It can’t just be for Silicon Valley.”

Mass adoption is no easy feat, with a many stories surrounding bitcoin relating to hacks, fraud and unstable ways to store your money, despite that fact few if any of these reports relate directly to the online currency.

Considering currency trading is in effect a popularity contest, packaged as a ‘confidence’ market, that poses serious obstacles.

In January this year, for example, European bitcoin exchange Bitstamp suspended activities after it emerged the exchange was hacked, with hackers having stolen some 19,000 bitcoins worth US$5m.

Bitcoin performance image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com