A secret startup persuaded some powerful investors to put $116 million in performing its plan to turn the technology behind bitcoin into a mass-marketed phenomenon. This is the largest funding ever generated by a digital currency startup.
The list of investors includes such big names as Andreessen Horowitz, Qualcomm, Paypal co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus have also invested in the startup. While the Silicon Valley startup has revealed its funding, it mentioned nothing of what exactly it will be doing in the digital currency space.
However, 21 Inc’s CEO and co-founder Matthew Pauker told reporters there will be “several interesting developments over the next weeks and months,” aimed at driving the adoption of bitcoin through software and hardware.
He went on, adding that Qualcomm’s involvement with 21 Inc. is key to the company as he hopes to use Qualcomm’s production expertise to develop consumer Bitcoin products. He explained that the secrecy surrounding the startup was “solely for pragmatic reasons – we didn’t have anything to say to the world”.
He compared his company’s work in building bitcoin products for the general public to the sequential development of 56kb Internet modems, international fiber-optic cables and wireless Internet towers, which all helped bring the Internet into people’s homes in the late 1990s.
“CEO Matthew Pauker and Balaji S. Srinivasan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, co-founded the secretive San Francisco-based startup in 2013 as a stealthy digital currency company that builds products to promote general public adoption of bitcoin,” writes Silicon Valley Business Journal.
“Formerly known as 21e6, the company caused quite a stir when it raised $5 million in 2013. At the time, some theorized that the company was a secret means for Silicon Valley’s upper echelon to enter into bitcoin mining,” the publication adds.
Asked for his views on 21 Inc, Andreessen said it “is working on what they — and we — consider to be core infrastructure for mainstreaming bitcoin.”
Some developers tend to suppose that bitcoin technology could play a key role in transparently managing the flow of information generated by smart gadgets. The decentralized blockchain ledgers are free from the control of any one party, so smart appliances can in theory connect with computers built by other entities safely without worrying that the information was manipulated.
Well-funded financial services companies such as Xapo Ltd. and Circle Internet Financial Ltd. have also developed high-tech security and insurance projects. Meanwhile, San Francisco startup BitFury Holding BV has launched new, high-powered chips to take bitcoin mining to a new level of intensity.
“None of this will matter if bitcoin doesn’t achieve mass adoption,” said Mr. Pauker. “Bitcoin is going to change the way that people and businesses and even machines interact with each other. But for bitcoin to realize that vision we need mass adoption. It can’t just be for Silicon Valley,” he added.