Can't or won't?
One of the more secretive companies to yet compete in the blockchain sector, Circle is characteristically tight-lipped about its acquisition of startup Trigger Finance.
Announced last week to little fanfare, the move adds an already up-and-running investment app to its arsenal of products – CirclePay, its most widely known consumer payments app, and Circle Trading, an OTC operation that claims $2 billion in volume monthly.
And while president Sean Neville and CEO Jeremy Allaire were quick to caution that there are no announcements to detail, they were clear that work has been underway.
"I think what we would be comfortable saying is that digital assets – which are not just digital currencies, but a broader range of assets – it's an area that has grown a lot, but that's not easily accessible to mainstream investors," Allaire said
Still, both executives were more candid when speaking about the opportunity they see in expanding their business – one that already boasts offices in Beijing, Boston, Dublin, London, San Francisco, and now, with the addition of the Trigger team, New York.
In fact, Allaire believes that allowing investors access to digital assets might be the biggest opportunity they've yet pursued. In contrast to the stream of statements from mainstream investors seeking to label cryptocurrencies as a bubble, Allaire argued it's anything but.
He told CoinDesk:
"We believe cryptographic assets and blockchains will consume every form of asset. Ultimately, every equity will be represented with cryptographic assets. Every form of property and asset will become a crypto token, and that seems inevitable."
Rather than catering to early adopters, however, Neville and Allaire said that the key to creating a profitable company around this opportunity will be making the tech easy to use and approachable, something they argued they've already done with CirclePay.
Also of use will likely be CircleTrading, which already manages the buying and selling of bitcoin, ether, ether classic, zcash, bitcoin cash and litecoin for accredited investors.
To that end, Neville said there are existing frictions inherent in even the most usable blockchain products today – even the wallets and exchanges that have benefitted from a previous influx of investor capital. However, Allaire suggested he perhaps sees any investment play as one that could crossover into areas more akin to traditional investment options.
"If I'm an investor, and I want exposure to international markets, how do you source that in a way that the average person can feel safe?" he asked.
Allaire and Neville were keen to position Trigger as a small step toward that long-term vision, though one that hints at a sea change that will bring about that future.
According to Circle, the Trigger team was already attracting retail cryptocurrency investors, calling it the "fastest area" of growth for the product. Given that alignment, Neville said the opportunity of serving that audience was best explored together.
Still, Neville and Allaire also see the move as one of positioning – arguing that, even if mainstream investors are dismissive of crypto assets today, they won't be for much longer.
"Even really intelligent and experienced people have been myopic about what this asset class really is, and based on a limited amount of data, they're not seeing the underlying pattern for how assets are conceived in this new way," Neville said.
Looking forward, Neville was keen to stress that, while cryptocurrencies may be worth a collective $170 billion, the key to their long-term value will be opening up new utilities for a wider audience of users.
Bubble or not, Neville expects turbulence ahead, with the certainty of long-term growth, concluding:
"The markets may include some shake-outs, at the same time that's not going to detract from the maturation happening, and we will see increasing value and sophistication in the participants in the space."
Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Circle.
Bitcoin and dollar image via Shutterstock