Founded in 2013, Circle is a payment services company which operates stablecoin USDC, subsidiary crypto exchange Poloniex and equity crowdfunding platform SeedInvest. In 2018 it achieved ‘unicorn’ status after closing a Series E fundraising round that pushed its valuation to nearly $3 billion. Goldman Sachs has also previously invested in the company.
Circle debuted its first consumer products, a bitcoin exchange and wallet, in 2014, but emphasized that the products were intended to facilitate the exchange of fiat money into cryptocurrency and were not geared toward trading and speculation. It introduced a mobile app, which was eventually rebranded as Circle Pay, later that year.
In 2015, Circle became the first company to receive a BitLicense from the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), which enabled them to serve customers in the state. The following year, Circle became the first digital currency company to receive an electronic money license from the Financial Conduct Authority of Britain, which allowed it to work with British bank Barclays.
In 2016, Circle discontinued its bitcoin exchange and announced that it would focus on its own blockchain protocol, Spark, a smart contract platform which utilizes a combination of technologies, including bitcoin and other blockchains in addition to traditional settlement systems, to carry out payments.
In 2017, Circle revealed that it was developing CENTRE, ethereum-based technology intended to connect various digital payment wallets, such as its own Circle Pay, Venmo and Alipay, using an ERC-20 token called CENT. CENTRE later spun out into a subsidiary, and in December 2017 raised $20 million in a simple agreement for future tokens sale (SAFT).
The company acquired U.S. crypto exchange Poloniex in 2018 for around $400 million, and launched a digital investment and storage app, Circle Invest, the same year in 46 U.S. states. In 2018, Circle also announced and launched its U.S. dollar-backed stable coin, USDC, which was developed in conjunction with its affiliated CENTRE consortium, of which crypto exchange Coinbase is also a part.
In March 2019, Circle completed its acquisition of equity crowdfunding business SeedInvest for an undisclosed amount. The company had announced the acquisition in October 2018.
In June 2019, Circle announced that it would cease the operation of its mobile app, Circle Pay, allowing only withdrawals beyond July 8th. The move came less than a month after the company laid off 30 employees as a cost-cutting measure in May.
Circle’s blog has been active since late 2013.