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Circle sheds another business, three executives

The blockchain payments firm sold its Circle Trade OTC operation to Kraken, while CFO Naeem Ishaq joined co-CEO Sean Neville in heading for the door

Circle shed another business and more top executives as it continued narrowing its focus to stablecoins. 

The six-year-old blockchain payments firm announced on Dec. 17 that it has sold its Circle Trade over the counter (OTC) desk to the Kraken cryptocurrency exchange.

The sale came just two months after spinning out the Poloniex exchange to a group of investors led by Tron CEO Justin Sun. That was less than two years after Circle bought Poloniex for $400 million. 

The firm also said in addition to co-CEO Sean Neville—whose departure was announced on Dec. 4—CFO Naeem Ishaq and Chief Legal Officer Gus Coldebella were “transitioning from the company into new adventures befitting their expertise.”

Stablecoin future, unstable jobs

In a joint blog post, Neville and Circle’s now-exclusive CEO Jeremy Allaire said the firm “is approaching 2020 with a deep focus on stablecoins globally… and the powerful possibilities they unlock for people, businesses, and governments all around the world.”

That focus will be centered on Circle’s USD Coin (USDC). That was created by CENTRE, a joint project with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. 

Allaire and Neville noted that the pivot towards stablecoins forced Circle to “reduce complexity… and organize our teams to execute with greater agility.”

Which is to say, cut staff.

Beyond the three departing C-level executives, Circle laid off 30 employees in May, and 10 more on Dec. 11, Coindesk reported. On Sept. 24, the company announced a “pause” in its Circle Research arm.

The Poloniex sale took 80 more employees with it, the pair noted.

The company also wound down its Circle Pay social payments app over the summer as part of that stablecoin-centric business plan. The goal, the company said in a June 13 blog post, is to “work toward connecting every person on the planet through an open financial system built on crypto assets and blockchain technology.”

Iceberg or Titanic

More broadly, Circle is also moving away from consumer services to target the B-to-B market.

“Our 2020 product roadmap sees this focus emerging first in the form of new global payment, custody, and wallet [infrastructure] for stablecoins,” the pair said. 

This will allow companies and developers “to take advantage of the innovation and efficiency of stablecoins without the cost, complexity and risk of implementing this infrastructure themselves,” said Neville and Allaire.

Circle Trade, Poloniex, and Circle Pay required an infrastructure of risk, identity, and compliance management, as well as banking and blockchain gateways, and custody, they added.

“These platform services are analogous to the massive foundation of an iceberg not visible beneath the water while our products were the small visible crest above,” Allaire and Neville said. 

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.