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Bolt Enters Crypto, NFT Markets with Wyre Acquisition

Bolt, the fintech company that touts one-click online checkout capabilities and a single sign-on experience across online retailers, is hopping on the crypto payments bandwagon in a big way.

The $11 billion tech provider is acquiring Wyre, an infrastructure provider that calls itself the “crypto stack of the new economy,” amid the growing popularity of the currency. The deal went for a reported $1.5 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Bolt has not confirmed the financial terms of the deal.

The acquisition comes amid growing demand for purchasing goods and services with cryptocurrency, as well as the expansion of Web3 services, which refer to decentralized applications that are developed and operated on the blockchain.

In merging the two solutions, the companies want to introduce cryptocurrency to a new generation of consumers. Bolt merchants will be able to accept cryptocurrency as payments for physical goods, and similarly, consumers will be able to use cryptocurrency to pay for said goods.

Adoption of cryptocurrency within retail is still slow despite the hype around the technology. Pacsun partnered with blockchain payment processing provider BitPay in October 2021, and now supports online payments via Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin and others. Online home and furniture retailer Overstock was the first major seller to accept cryptocurrencies, initially supporting payment via Bitcoin in 2014.

In partnering up, Bolt and Wyre intend to build commerce solutions that empower mainstream, secure cryptocurrency usage for shoppers, retailers and developers alike. Bolt, whose clients include companies like Forever 21, Lucky Brand, Brooks Brothers and Badgley Mischka among others, could help facilitate more crypto adoption throughout fashion.

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Together, the San Francisco-based companies want to democratize and decentralize commerce so that their technologies can evolve and simplify digital shopping. Wyre’s APIs are designed to enable simple and secure crypto to fiat experiences that reduce the barrier to entry that developers and partners face.

While cryptocurrency is gaining mainstream appeal, there are still barriers to the consumer, namely the complex verbiage and presentation that often comes with crypto wallets. As more retailers implement the payments technology, Bolt and Wyre aim to cut the confusing jargon and eliminate steps that might be holding shoppers back from embracing the technology.

Bolt hopes that its shopper network, which accounts for all consumers that have engaged through its checkout and payments solutions, will be the driver to simplifying the process for the masses. By the end of 2022, Bolt is shooting for its network to reach one-third of all U.S. shoppers, and then two-third to close out 2024.

And businesses have their own problems with adopting cryptocurrencies, as well. For one, there are plenty of regulatory hurdles that need to be addressed before implementing a payments method that is still nascent in the minds of retail professionals and shoppers alike. In many cases, retailers may not know how to go about securing licenses to enable crypto transactions.

Bolt and Wyre plan to close the transaction and fully integrate before the end of the year, the tech provider said.

Once complete, the acquisition will bring Bolt’s CheckoutOS—the “operating system” which comprises the company’s one-click checkout, authentication, payments, and fraud protection features—to the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

In particular, Bolt will leverage Wyre’s crypto infrastructure to securely exchange crypto to fiat currency. This infrastructure is built to enable retailers to accept cryptocurrency as a payment method, with the security and ease of traditional currency. Wyre has money-transmitter licenses in 27 U.S. states.

In a statement, Bolt’s founder and executive chairman Ryan Breslow said the acquisition was the fulfillment of a long-time ambition since the company launched in 2014.

“When I wrote the draft business plan for Bolt, I had always imagined cryptocurrency at its center,” said Breslow.

Maju Kuruvilla, CEO of Bolt, said in a statement the deal would not just help secure crypto transactions, but also support NFT launches for its retail partners.

“Both consumers and retailers will benefit from a friction-free buying experience that supports crypto and NFT natively,” Kuruvilla said.

Wyre co-founder and CEO Ioannis Giannaros shared Kuruvilla’s sentiment on wanting to make the crypto transaction process as easy as possible, while removing the longstanding barriers.

The deal continues what has been a record pace for mergers and acquisitions activity in the U.S. cryptocurrency sector since last year. In the first quarter of 2022, M&A deals totaled approximately $1.25 billion, according to Dealogic. That would put activity this year on pace to eclipse the record $4.9 billion of deals struck in 2021.

Bolt most recently acquired Tipser, a Stockholm-based content monetization platform, for $200 million in November. In acquiring Tipser, Bolt sought to fortify its Remote Checkout feature, which enables shoppers to check out directly at any point of inspiration, whether that’s on a content website, a social network or a shopping app.