The world’s largest-volume bitcoin exchange, BTC China, received a lift today with $5 million in Series A venture funding from institutional investors Lightspeed China Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
BTC China surpassed both Mt. Gox and Bitstamp in trading volume and market liquidity within the past month, and now claims the highest number of registered users. It trades 90,000 bitcoins per day, totaling over CNY 200 million ($32.8 million) in transactions daily.
BTC China’s CEO and co-founder, Bobby Lee, praised Lightspeed’s track record and depth of knowledge in the bitcoin ecosystem:
“This investment is a huge endorsement to our team at BTC China, and will allow us to keep innovating, to become the best bitcoin company worldwide. We will continue to build the most reliable and secure bitcoin trading platform for the China market, to offer great customer service, and to have a global impact on bitcoins,” he said.
At the time of writing, 1 BTC was trading for CNY 3,900 (around $638) on BTC China and $608 on Mt. Gox. Prior to November 2013, BTC China actually held the record for highest bitcoin value, trading at CNY 1944 ($308) while the rest of the world was getting excited at Mt. Gox’s record $266.
The higher prices reflect the growing demand for bitcoin in China, with some suggesting that country is one of the forces driving the global value higher. A younger generation of wealthy and tech-friendly residents, hungry for investment opportunities beyond stocks and real estate, have been leaping in. Strict capital controls, especially on money leaving the country, make a global digital currency network attractive.
Should the value discrepancy between BTC China and other global exchanges continue, a possible opportunity for arbitrage exists for anyone able to access both. Fees of 1% to navigate fiat gateways at each end, however, might be enough to discourage the eager.
“The BTC China team is strong in terms of both technology and long-term vision,” said Managing Director and co-founder of Lightspeed China, Ron Cao.
“We think that under the leadership of the founding team, BTC China will continue to build out the Bitcoin ecosystem and bring more efficiency and value to the Chinese consumers, enterprises, and the overall financial services industry.”
BTC China is China’s original bitcoin exchange, opening for business in June 2011. According to TechCrunch, it will use the $5 million injection to “aggressively grow and expand the business,” and for general operating expenses.
Unlike many other major digital currency exchanges BTC China, charges no transaction fees on trades within its system. At this stage it trades only in Chinese yuan (CNY; also known as renminbi, or RMB) and users must move cash in and out of the system using China-based payment services like Tenpay and bank transfers from local Chinese banks.
BTC China CEO Bobby Lee, who joined the company earlier this year, has long been a bridge between US and Chinese enterprise. The Stanford graduate has also been in senior management at Walmart China’s e-commerce arm, SMG’s BesTV New Media, EMC China, and worked at Yahoo! in Silicon Valley.
Lightspeed China Partners (LCP) has played a leading role in bringing Chinese startups onto the internet and mobile services stage. It focuses on early-stage funding and has venture-funded dozens of Chinese startups over the past decade, teaming up with Lightspeed Venture Partners (LVP) worldwide for international reach. LVP has branches in Silicon Valley, India and Israel and manages over $2 billion in committed capital.