21 Inc., formerly 21e6, announced it had raised US$116m in venture capital, the largest investment yet accumulated by a startup in the digital currency industry.
21 Inc.'s lead backers include American Andreessen Horowitz and RRE Venture, Chinese Yuan Capital, as well as strategic investor and chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.
Additional participants include Pantera Capital, Khosla Ventures, Data Collective, as well as angel investors and tech entrepreneurs Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, co-founders of PayPal, eBay Inc. co-founder Jeff Skoll, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Expedia Inc. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Zynga Inc. co-founder Mark Pincus.
The San Francisco-based startup has not yet unveiled the precise nature of its activity, and said that the secrecy around the company since its launched in 2013 was "solely for pragmatic reasons - we didn't have anything to say to the world," co-founder and partner at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz Balaji Srinivasan, told the Wall Street Journal.
According to Marc Andreessen:
" is working on what they - and we - consider to be core infrastructure for mainstreaming Bitcoin."
Chief executive and co-founder Matthew Pauker, remained enigmatic as well, but said that there will be "several interesting developments over the next weeks and months" about software and hardware products.
He further indicated that investors have "seen a lot more detail than we've talked about publicly" and that "there are significant new technologies and products that we've kept in our back pocket."
Pauker highlighted that Qualcomm's involvement is key, and hopes to exploit the company's mass-marketing and production capabilities in the development of consumer oriented products based on the blockchain.
This has led speculations that 21 Inc. might be working on products related to the "Internet of Things," the general concept that smart appliances could in the future communicate with servers, networks and each other, in order to optimize their operation.
Since its inception in 2013, 21e6, which takes its name from the total 21 million limited supply of bitcoins to ever be in circulation, has spurred speculation, notably in November 2013, when it was revealed that the startup had received a US$5 million funding back in June 2013.
With an additional US$116m, 21 Inc. had raised a total of US$121.05m in venture funding, surpassing Coinbase's US$106m and becomes the world's most funded digital currency startup, according to CoinDesk data.
In late-January 2015, Coinbase completed a US$75m Series C round of funding, which was then the largest amount of venture capital injected in a digital currency startup. One week after, Coinbase unveiled the first US licensed bitcoin exchange.
Other well-funded digital currency-related startups include Xapo Ltd., Circle Internet Financial Ltd., as well as BitFury, which are all working in their own area of expertise to build products and services that will drive mainstream adoption.
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