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Barry Silbert's Latest Investment Is More Evidence Bitcoin's Biggest Opportunities May Lie Outside The US

A gas station attendant looks at an Indian rupeeREUTERS/Rupak De ChowdhuriA gas station attendant looks at an Indian rupee.

American venture capital in Bitcoin continues to cross the ocean.

On Monday, Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. announced it had invested $US250,000 in Bangalore-based Unocoin.

The firm is less than a year old but already claims the title as the largest and fastest-growing bitcoin company in India. It does a little bit of everything, including trading, storage, and merchant processing.

Year to date, India ranks 18th worldwide for number of overall raw Bitcoin protocol downloads according to SourceForge, more than many European countries, including Romania, which was just highlighted by Reuters as a Bitcoin hub.

India’s central bank has clarified that it would allow Bitcoin businesses to continue operating while warning of the cyptocurrency’s risks to average investors.

Bitcoin evangelists have long said the opportunity in places like India that are home to large populations of “unbanked” citizens is enormous. In a joint statement, BOC and Unocoin noted 40% of India’s urban population and 61% of its rural population lacks access to basic financial services. At the same time, remittances in India totaled over $US70 billion in 2013.

“Bitcoin technology has the potential to provide sustainable solutions and smarter financial options to all sectors of India,” the firms said.

Of the nine investments Silbert’s BOC has made in 2014, four have been in overseas companies. In July, a report from CoinDesk showed the absolute number of firms receiving investment in Q2 was now split 60-40between America and the rest of the world.

When we talked with Silbert last month about his investment in a Swedish-based Bitcoin firm, he insisted America would continue to lead the world as the top destination for Bitcoin investing. And we aren’t suggesting there isn’t significant interest here.

But the needs of Bitcoin users in America are different from those elsewhere. And the U.S. (and Canada) continue to trail other countries in terms of Bitcoin interest: Here’s the year-to-date chart in Google Trends for “Bitcoin” — a crude measure to be sure but nonetheless telling:

And the Unocoin investment marks the largest known to date in India’s Bitcoin space, as well as one of the largest investments made by BOC outside of United States.

So it seems reasonable to say the makings of a trend are emerging.

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