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Bitcoin pioneer Circle bulks up in China

Jeremy Allaire, the founder of Circle Internet Financial, at the company's offices in Boston.
Jeremy Allaire, the founder of Circle Internet Financial, at the company's offices in Boston.Gretchen Ertl/The New York Times/File

Circle Internet Financial Ltd., a Boston company that uses the digital currency bitcoin to manage worldwide money transfers, is getting a $60 million cash injection from a group of Chinese and American investors. Circle also announced the launch of Circle China, an independent company targeting the Chinese money transfer market.

Circle allows users in the United States and the United Kingdom to send money free of charge from a computer or smartphone to people anywhere in the world. The system instantly translates US dollars or British pounds into computer-generated bitcoins, and transmits the money electronically to a recipient’s e-mail address or phone number. The recipient can get paid in dollars, pounds, or bitcoins.


Founder Jeremy Allaire said the company has grown rapidly since its launch in 2015. “We’re on track to meaningfully exceed a billion dollars in transaction volume this year,” Allaire said. Circle will soon launch operations in Spain and expand throughout the European Union.

Allaire said that the Chinese market is ripe for expansion because people in that country are already accustomed to using smartphones for money transfers. “This whole category of social payment apps came out of China,” Allaire said. “The West is several years behind China in terms of this behavior.”

Major Chinese investors including IDG Capital Partners, Baidu, CICC Alpha, EverBright Investments, WangXiang and CreditEase are participating in the deal, as well as Breyer Capital and General Catalyst Partners. In addition, former IBM Corp. chief executive Sam Palmisano and Glenn Hutchins, the co-founder of venture investment company Silver Lake, have made personal investments in Circle.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.