Bitcoin Startup Investments Surpass $117 Million

Bitcoin startups in North America have received the lion’s share of the digital currency’s venture-capital investments, drawing $98.6 million to date, according to a report from researcher Aite Group LLC.

Investors have funded 19 Bitcoin startups in the region, compared with nine in Asia totaling $13.3 million and three in Europe with $5.6 million, according to the report by Boston-based Aite, which surveyed merchants, banks, regulators and Bitcoin companies.

Bitcoin, the most popular digital currency, is drawing attention from institutional investors after evolving over five years from an intellectual novelty into a global financial network. Pantera Capital Management LP, the investment firm run by Dan Morehead, disclosed in a December regulatory filing that it had formed a $147 million investment fund for Bitcoin. SecondMarket Inc. said yesterday it’s seeking approval for its Bitcoin Investment Trust to trade publicly by year’s end.

Many technical issues need to be worked out prior to mass adoption, Aite said. The Bitcoin network needs to process more transactions faster, and to be more transparent so as to allay regulatory concerns, the researcher said.

“A lot of kinks need to be worked out before this utopian promise can be realized, however; the nascent Bitcoin ecosystem is truly akin to the wild, Wild West,” Julie Conroy, an analyst at Aite, wrote in the report titled, “Bitcoin: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts said in a report last week that Bitcoin may have a future as an innovative payments technology instead of gaining wider use as a true alternative currency. Bitcoin’s underlying technology could also enable new methods for payments and e-commerce.

Pantera Capital said this week its investment advisory services will focus exclusively on Bitcoin. Fortress Investment Group LLC, Benchmark Capital and Ribbit Capital have purchased interests in its Pantera Bitcoin Partners subsidiary.

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