Gliph joins, launches bitcoin messaging and payments app

By Erin Griffith , written on May 17, 2013

From The News Desk

Portland-based Gliph has been building a secure, anonymous messaging app for two years without a strong use case for the technology. It's also done so while bootstrapping.

And then, as co-founder Rob Banagale put it, "bitcoin sailed in." When the virtual currency began to take off this year, the founders knew that they'd found an application for their technology.

"We knew identity and payments and transactions were important but how it was going to fit together we weren't sure," he says. "We just knew we needed to start at security and privacy and getting people to connect."

Bitcoin's potential for anonymous money transfer was the perfect use case for Gliph's technology. Banagale set to work building an anonymous social layer on top of a bitcoin payment transfer system. The result launches today.

The first version of Gliph's product is available on iOS and Android. It uses Coinbase and a secure messaging platform to facilitate seamless bitcoin payments and messaging. By combining both messaging and transfers, users no longer have to discuss payments in one platform and move to another for users to message and transfer separately.

Banagale says no other product in the market combines secure messaging with its payment transfer, as well as showing the balance of one's digital wallet in Coinbase. That's the biggest bitcoin wallet company, which recently raised $5 million from Union Square Ventures, though there may be a risk in aligning oneself too closely with one system.

Bitcoin-related startups should have no problem raising money considering the amount of VC interest and dedicated funds cropping up: Union Square Ventures has made a big bet, Andreessen Horowitz is studying the sector closely, and Liberty City Ventures and Secondmarket's Barry Silbert have launched dedicated funds to the bitcoin ecosystem. Gliph has chosen join Adam Draper's bitcoin-focused accelerator, The program announced its official launch this week.

In the program, Gliph and its batch-mates get $18,000 , as well as $50,000 in the form of a capped note when they graduate, which Gliph says it will use to inject bitcoins into its system.

Bitcoin mania may reach a fever-pitch this weekend, as hundreds of bitcoin enthusiasts head to San Jose for Bitcoin 2013, a conference keynoted by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. (They are, naturally, hot on the currency.)

However, excitement around the digital currency has not been without a few setbacks. Aside from skepticism from the media, bitcoin took a regulatory hit this week, when the Department of Homeland Security seized accounts of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.

However, bitcoin bulls believe that problem was unique to Mt. Gox. Regulators are carefully watching bitcoin but aren't likely to attack the entire sector. Last night at a New York PandoMonthly, venture capitalist  (and PandoDaily investor) Chris Dixon said the currency will eventually move away from its stigma as a "crazy Libertarian thing," to something that will revolutionize commerce. Since verifying identity is the biggest factor for online payment companies, bitcoin could wipe away all the fraud and security headaches payment companies currently deal with.

Banagale says the emergence of bitcoin over the last year was exacly what his startup had been searching for. The result of two years of building, bootstrapping and waiting launches today.