Wall Street Journal reports that a Silicon Valley startup, 21 Inc., has quietly amassed a record $116 million in funding to roll out its blockchain technology applications.
The funding was raised over the past year and half. If confirmed, the figure is a record for any company in the digital currency space. It’s unclear at this point how much of the funding came in single or multiple rounds. Either way the figure is the biggest ever. Coinbase raised $75 million in January, bringing total investment to $106 million.
The lead investors include Andreessen Horowitz, RRE Ventures, Chinese private-equity firm Yuan Capital and Qualcomm’s venture-capital unit. Other investors include Khosla Ventures, Data Collective, PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus.
A November 2013 filing showed that the startup raised another $5 million at the time.
Not much has been previously known about the mysterious company, although this will likely change very soon. It started out under the name 21e6, a reference to Bitcoin’s 21 million coin limit, and engaged in application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) manufacturing for bitcoin mining.
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Chief Executive and co-founder Matthew Pauker said that there will be “several interesting developments over the next weeks and months” about new software and hardware that would help drive mainstream adoption of Bitcoin. He explained:
“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.”
Several of the investors echoed the increasingly mainstream opinion that Bitcoin’s main potential lies in its technology, not its currency. Indeed, they said that Bitcoin’s impediment toward mass adoption until now has been partially because of the public’s focus on the currency.
Pauker said Qualcomm’s involvement will be key. Its mass-marketing and production capabilities will be instrumental in the development of consumer products integrating with the blockchain. These would become part of the broader “Internet of Things.” Smart, decentralized applications would connect with servers, networks and each other to optimize their performance.
Co-founder Balaji Srinivasan, also partner at Andreessen Horowitz, compared 21 Inc.’s work to the development of 56-kilobit Internet modems, international fiber cables and wireless Internet towers, which eventually paved the way for the mass adoption of the internet. Notably, Andreessen was the co-founder of the pioneering web browser Netscape.
For a detailed list of recent investment and M&A activity in the crypto industry, please visit the DC Magnates Crypto Deal Table.