How Richard Branson’s getting behind virtual currency

Harriet Green
Follow Harriet

Bitpay, the Atlanta-based Bitcoin payments processor has reportedly raised $30m (£17.8m), and Richard Branson is one of the investors.

In an email cited by the Wall Street Journal, the business magnate took the opportunity to make a statement about virtual currency more widely, saying: “Banking as we know it is in the midst of enormous change and innovation.”

At the end of last year, the payment gateway was used by 15,500 merchants. The amount it’s now raised is the biggest funding round a Bitcoin company’s ever produced, and values the company at around $160m.

Virgin Galactic, part of Branson’s Virgin Group and the world’s first commercial spaceline, will be accepting Bitcoin for tickets.

Branson said that Bitpay has "proven itself to process Bitcoin safely and reliably, growing the market and increasing adoption, which continues to build trust, legitimacy and momentum in this exciting currency revolution."

According to CoinDesk, other Bitpay investors include Yahoo founder Jerry Lang’s AME Cloud Ventures and PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The funding round was led by Index Ventures. The size of Branson’s stake in Bitpay has not been disclosed.

Index Ventures partner Jan Hammer said: "Bitcoin has emerged as the internet’s payment system of choice and is now a core building block of the future global economy. By enabling thousands of merchants to accept payment in bitcoins quickly, safely and seamlessly, BitPay is already the proven and trusted winner in this space."

Bitpay plans to use the investment to expand across the globe, more than tripling its workforce in Atlanta, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Amsterdam. It's also working on the development of open source projects around Bitcoin such as Bitcore, Insight, and Copay, Index Ventures said.