Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire talks bitcoin and the future of payments

Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire talks bitcoin and the future of payments

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Jeremy Allaire CEO, Circle Financial

In a live question and answer session on the Bitcoin Forum today, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire answered questions from community members about many things, ranging from the expected questions about Circle, and other questions such as how Allaire feels about the ongoing bitcoin blocksize debate and how he feels about the main focus recently from the public being onblockchain tech and not bitcoin itself.

When asked about where Circle will be in 5-10 years down the road, Allaire said:

For Circle specifically, right now we’re very heads down and focused on innovating on how consumers experience holding, sharing and using money for personal payments, group payments and a lot of other things. We’re not interested in iterating on bank-like experiences, rather we’re interested in building experiences that build on how people have learned how to share messages and content on the internet.

We’re certainly very long on digital currency, though I expect we’ll go through many evolutions and changes from where we are today with Bitcoin Core and the existing bitcoin blockchain before we reach real critical mass. We certainly plan to be around to be part of all of that.

Allaire also went on to say that Circle is focused on building a great consumer payments app that makes storing and using money easier, free, secure and enjoyable. He made sure to emphasize during the Q&A that the philosophy behind Circle is to build an open and transparent network and not a closed walled off garden, making good use of the near-instant bitcoin settlement system so customers can take advantage of it. He also mentioned that Circle has no plans to become a trading platform in any sense, and that Circle is a consumer internet company, focused on solving problems for sharing and using money for consumers.

When discussing Circle’s interactions with financial institutions, Allaire stated:

We’ve had a chance to meet and with a number of significant and global financial institutions over the past couple of years.

The tone and nature of the interactions has changed radically since we started the company. The subject matter (bitcoin, digital currency) has evolved from being a pariah idea, to being curious but highly dismissive, to realization that there is something fundamental going on in terms of the innovation and disruptive potential, to embracing specific companies and ideas that build on the bitcoin blockchain. I’d say the same evolution has happened with government officials and policy makers, globally. It’s really a remarkable evolution. Same with the “assurance industry” (e.g. audit and accounting firms, insurance companies).

Traditionals are seeing that there is serious capital, serious company and product builders, and serious innovation coming out of this space, and are now scrambling to understand it, albeit to a large degree at an arms length.

Ultimately, of course, I expect mainstream FI’s to build their own gateways to the bitcoin blockchain and provide the ability to transmit value over btc in the same way that old world media and communications companies offer their products “over IP”.

One of the more fascinating comments that came from the Circle CEO on the discussion was Allaire explaining how some of the internal processes and procedures work, although at a high level, gives outsiders a better idea of the architecture that Circle employs.

Pretty classic transaction-based message-oriented architecture, running in JVMs, with SQL DBs for persistence, multiple layers and levels of encryption and network security, including HSMs for master keys, running in a VPC in AWS.

Circle controls all of the private keys in our system. We keep a small amount online to meet transaction flows and reserve needs, and we keep the majority offline in several geographically distributed secure cold storage locations, with a multi-sig architecture governing bringing funds back online to Circle addresses. For online spends and receives, Circle runs bitcoin nodes and directly listens to mempool and responds to receives, and handles spends on behalf of customers. When spending/sending USD, we auto convert to BTC at the time of the transaction, again, invisible to the customer.

To read the full question and answer session, you can head over to the Bitcoin Forum and read through it. If you sign up, you can ask a question to Jeremy also. There are going to be more live events coming up over the next couple of months with more bitcoin exchange and wallet CEOs too.