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Analysis By Position: Circle

Company Overview: Circle

Founded in 2013, Circle is a global payment and investment platform, built on blockchain technology and powered by crypto assets. Based in Boston, they have grown to 247 employees with offices in New York, San Francisco, Dublin, London, and Hong Kong.


About the Co-Founders:

Jeremy Allaire (CEO) & Sean Neville (President) have been working together on and off since 2000 when Sean joined Jeremy's startup Allaire as a Senior Engineer. Jeremy and his brother, JJ, founded Allaire in 1995 and created ColdFusion, the first database-driven web-content server. In 1999, the brothers took the company public and then in 2001, they were acquired by Macromedia (inventor of Flash who was later acquired by Adobe in 2005). Jeremy stayed on at Macromedia as CTO for two years while Sean stayed for five years. In 2003, Jeremy became an Entrepreneur in Resident at General Catalyst (who has since invested in all funding rounds for Circle) and then in 2004, he founded online video platform Brightcove, who distributes video content across devices. Sean joined Jeremy at Brightcove from 2006 to 2008 as a Senior Architect before leaving to found gaming startup Wicked Games. Then in 2012, Brightcove went public with a valuation of $290M. The next year Allaire stepped down as Brightcove’s CEO to serve as Chairman of the Board and a few months later would found Circle alongside Sean.


Funding: $246M VC from Breyer Capital, General Catalyst, IDG Capital, BlockChain Capital, Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Goldman Sachs, Bitmain, & Accel via CrunchBase

Valuation: $2.9B in May 2018

Traction: 7M customers as of May 2018


Business Lines: 

Circle Pay - App for sending money between currencies, countries, & friends

Circle Invest - App for retail investing in cryptocurrencies

Circle Trade - OTC exchange with $2B+ monthly volume

Poloniex - Crypto exchange

Centre - Joint-venture with Coinbase aimed at establishing a standard for fiat on the internet and providing a governance framework and network for the global, mainstream adoption of fiat stablecoins. Their first product is USDC, a US dollar-backed stablecoin. Read their whitepaper.


Acquisitions:

  • Oct 2017 - Trigger Finance, a mobile-first investing platform

  • Feb 2018 - Poloniex, cryptocurrency exchange ($400 million deal)

  • Oct 2018 - SeedInvest, an equity crowdfunding platform (subject to FINRA approval)


Stated Goals: 

  1. Register as a brokerage and trading venue with the SEC in order to sell security tokens.

  2. Obtain a federal banking license allowing them to supersede state rules covering crypto.

To hold reserves with the Federal Reserve, to natively access the central-banking system without intermediaries, to directly settle with other banks in other markets around the world through those networks — that can improve the efficiency of what we deliver, it can reduce the costs.
— Allaire from Bloomberg article published in June 2018

In the graphics below, we look at how Circle has grown in the first five years of their existence and how their hiring has aligned with their overall strategy:

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Trey SheltonComment