Bitcoin Wallet Company Raises $75 Million As The Cryptocurrency Faceplants

Bitcoin atmREUTERS/Andy ClarkJeff Hudson poses for a picture in front of, according to co-founders of Vancouver Bitcoiniacs Trading Company, the first bitcoin ATM machine in a Waves Coffee House in Vancouver, British Columbia October 28, 2013.

Coinbase, the popular bitcoin wallet site, just raised $US75 million in Series C funding. It is the largest funding round ever for a bitcoin-related company, according to Dan Primack, who reported the news.

A report from last week from Re/code suggests that the company’s valuation is $US400 million.

Current investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, Y Combinator, Funders Club, IDG Ventures, and others. The new round, according to Primack, is being led by DFJ Growth, and also includes the New York Stock Exchange, USAA, and former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit (the full list of investors is here).

Meanwhile, bitcoin has lost 75% of its value in the last year, and at a price of about $US209 per BTC, is down to a little over 18% of its all-time high, $US1145, which it hit in November 2013. Here’s the all-time price chart:

So what’s with the continued faith in the cryptocurrency?

Primack spoke to Coinbase’s founder, Fred Ehrsam, who had this to say:

Ehrsam says that the price decline did not affect investor interest, and optimistically suggests that it will ultimately improve the Bitcoin ecosystem by teaching important lessons about cyclicality and expense management to cryptocurrency miners.

“Price volatility isn’t good for certain uses of Bitcoin but, in that same time period, we went from 600,000 users to 2.1 million users, so it hasn’t caused the number of people signing up on our site to go down,” Ehrsam says.

For Coinbase, it doesn’t really matter what the price of bitcoin is, only how many people are using it. That continues to grow, according to them.

Marc Andreessen recently tweetstormed about why bitcoin is still a great idea, despite the volatility:

The idea seems to be that, right now, investors aren’t really seeing bitcoin as a useful currency, but as a good method for making secure transactions. That’s helpful in explaining interest from places like the NYSE. In that case, focusing on the volatility is missing the point.

The smart use of bitcoin isn’t speculating in the price, but briefly converting whatever currency you have into BTC to make a transaction that you can be sure gets to the person you want it get to. In that case, it doesn’t really matter what the price of bitcoin is that day (except, of course, when the price moves so much that you no longer have enough to cover your payment).

On the other hand, the fact that there’s been a massive bitcoin crash in the last few months is not a good thing, and no amount of arguing for the value of the blockchain as a technology is going to change that. A lot of people got burned in the nearly $US1000/BTC price drop in the last 14 months, and as the price falls, so does the incentive to mine more bitcoin.

For this more cynical view of bitcoin, there’s no one better than Izabella Kaminska:

…unless a massive amount of new capital is transferred into bitcoin market sharpish — which is not impossible, since there are still a number of deep pocketed believers out there — it’s hard to imagine the asset class going any other way but south. Furthermore, it’s unlikely at this stage that either price rigging, mining cartels or lower energy costs will be able to reverse that trend.

The only hope the system has: increasing transaction fees (in a way that ironically limits its competitive advantage in the payment market), getting a big fat capital bailout or convincing miners that processing bitcoin transactions is a wonderful non-profit hobby to have.

Her entire post — actually her entire series of posts — on the fallout from the bitcoin crash.

Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.

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