Sunday 4 December 2016

Dublin-listed Circle gets €54m for China expansion

Published 28/06/2016 | 02:30

Online payments firm Circle’s co-founder Jeremy Allaire
Online payments firm Circle’s co-founder Jeremy Allaire

Circle, the online payments company that lists Dublin as its headquarters, has raised $60m (€54.4m) in a fresh fundraising round.

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The new investment, which is aimed at helping the company move into the Chinese market, brings Circle's overall funding to $136m (€123.3m).

Circle was set up by internet entrepreneurs Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire and is run mainly from Boston. However, the company counts Dublin as its headquarters, despite only having a small office here.

Its service allows for the free sending of money using virtual currency technology.

Already operational in the US and some European countries, Circle is to set up operations for commercial services to Chinese consumers. There, it will come up against Chinese e-commerce giants Tencent and Alipay once the company gets regulatory approval and finds banking partners. Tencent's WeChat has more than 760m users worldwide. Alipay is owned by Alibaba's finance affiliate and has 450m users.

"There is an opportunity to connect Chinese consumers to the rest of the world, and to connect to consumers around the world and to bridge the RMB with the dollar, the euro, pound sterling," said Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire. "As we went in and spent a lot of time in China it became clear that that was a unique opportunity."

In the past year, online money transfer start-ups have seen significant funding activity, with Dublin-based CurrencyFair raising almost €20m and London-based Transferwise raising over €20m.

Investors behind the current Circle funding round include the former IBM chairman Sam Palmisano and Spotify executive Alex Norstrom.

IDG Capital Partners also participated, as did Breyer Capital, CICC Alpha and China Everbright.

"In China there's already incredible domestic companies, Tencent and Alipay," said Allaire. "We don't have any belief that we can come in and dethrone those products, but there's an opportunity for Chinese consumers that want to share value globally with friends in other parts of the world."

Circle uses bitcoin's blockchain technology so customers can instantly send payments in a message that can be accompanied by emojis or GIFs.

Last year, Circle raised $50m (45.4m) in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs.

Irish Independent

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