For Bitcoin to go mainstream, the average person needs to understand it. Right now, Bitcoin’s fanbase consists largely of cryptocurrency nerds and financial whiz kids excited to trade yet another asset.
Circle, a company that’s been working to give Bitcoin a mainstream image, is taking one more step in that quest today, as it finally opens up its service publicly, doing away with its invites system. It’s also announcing news ways to better support international users and a new insurance policy, and it has mobile native apps coming soon.
In short, Circle wants to be a wallet for your Bitcoin that feels just like online banking with fiat currencies. It wants to be fast in processing your transactions, taking minutes instead of 4-7 days as Coinbase does, and offer a consumer-friendly interface that anyone can use. When it first opened up access in May, Circle was invite-only.
Because Circle is now available to anyone in the world, the company is adding support for six new languages along with English and will continue to add more.
“We’re also auto-detecting what country people are coming from, and when they log in they see their balance in their local currency,” said founder and chief executive Jeremy Allaire in an interview with VentureBeat. “That’s really important because they understand value in their local currency.”
Today’s fully public launch also means that Circle’s insurance policy, under which users’ account balances are now 100 percent insured in the case of theft, will now cover every user holding Bitcoin with Circle. Brokered by Marsh, one of the largest insurance brokers around, the insurance policy is something the company has been working on for a long time. However, Allaire admitted that Mt. Gox’s disastrous hackings and eventual shutdown lit an extra fire under the company to get this insurance policy going despite underwriters’ wariness of cryptocurrencies.
“People don’t want to worry about having cyber-hackers on their computers,” said Allaire. Like many other cryptocurrency wallets, Circle also keeps assets stored in offline vaults.
And lastly, Circle announced that it will soon be releasing native apps for iOS and Android. Circle is currently available on the Web, though mobile apps will definitely be key to its ability to become mainstream given the current shift to mobile and the rise of the mobile wallets.
Allaire founded Circle in 2013 with Sean Neville. The company is headquartered in Boston, Mass., and has raised a total of $26 million in funding to date from General Catalyst Partners, Accel Partners, Oak Investment Partners, Bitcoin Opportunity Fund, Pantera Capital, Breyer Capital, and Jim Breyer himself.