UPDATED 21:16 EDT / SEPTEMBER 04 2017

EMERGING TECH

Sequoia and IDG invest $50M into Chinese bitcoin firm Bitmain

In an unusual move for the venture firm, famed Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, along with IDG Capital, have invested $50 million in Chinese bitcoin hardware maker and miner Bitmain Technologies Inc.

Founded in 2013, Bitmain manufactures its own bitcoin mining equipment, and it’s also the world’s largest bitcoin miner. Bitcoin mining involves computers processing transactions on the bitcoin blockchain with a reward of new bitcoins being released to those participating. Sequoia to date hasn’t invested in a bitcoin mining firm, let alone one in China.

Although it’s in its early days, bitcoin mining can be done by anyone with the computer, the process becomes harder over time. It requires an ever increasing amount of computing power dedicated to the task. Bitmain, as both a hardware manufacturer and a miner, has apparently done an extraordinarily good job at it.

As of July, Antpool, Bitmain’s bitcoin mining pool, held a 25.2 percent share of global bitcoin mining. That figure may not sound large unless compared with its closest competitor, BTC.TOP, which held an 11.2 percent share. If those figures aren’t impressive enough, Bitmain’s hardware also powers most of its competitors.

Interestingly, despite a potential valuation in the billions, Bitmain has raised the new round to diversify, specifically to move into manufacturing chips to power artificial intelligence.

Bitmain’s move into manufacturing chips dedicated to artificial intelligence will take the Chinese bitcoin miner up against far larger competitors, including Google LLC, Nvidia Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. The company isn’t far off from deploying its AI chips, either. Coinspeaker noted that thousands of Bitmain “Sophon” AI units could be training neural networks in vast data centers around the world as early as before year-end.

It’s not clear how much Bitmain has raised to date. The company has a record of being somewhat secretive in its activities, but it last publicly disclosed taking a $1.6 million round from BitKan in 2016.

Image: Bitmain

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