Bitcoin-focused company Lightning Labs has raised $70 million in a Series B funding round led by Valor Equity Partners, with participation from Baillie Gifford, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev, Goldcrest Capital, and others.
The funding will help enable stablecoin transactions on the using Lightning Labs’ new Taro protocol.
The Lightning Network is a layer-two solution for Bitcoin transactions, enabling instant, low-fee transactions with Bitcoin—but without using Bitcoin’s blockchain verification for each transaction. Lightning Labs builds features for the Lightning network. It’s already developed a few different products, including Lightning Pool for Bitcoin liquidity. Now it’s adding Taro.
Bitcoin’s Taproot upgrade, which went live back in November 2021, is what made the Taro protocol technically possible. Taro—whose name was inspired by the taro root plant—allows developers to move stablecoins from the Bitcoin network to the Lightning Network.
Lightning Labs CEO and Co-Founder Elizabeth Stark believes Taro will enable further Bitcoin adoption because it will allow those without bank accounts in developing countries to send and receive money in the form of stablecoins, which are designed to hold their value relative to currencies like the Mexican peso or U.S. dollar, through mobile applications.
“There’s this concept of ‘fix money, fix the world,’ and that’s, I think, part of what really attracts me to what we’re doing,” Stark said in an interview with Decrypt on her decision to found Lightning Labs.
Bitcoin’s Lightning Network is currently being used by the country of El Salvador, the Bitcoin payments company Strike, Twitter's tipping feature, and the Kraken cryptocurrency exchange, to name a few. Now, anyone looking to transfer stablecoins will be able to do so through the Lightning Network.
The news comes as the possibility of stablecoin regulation looms overhead. Last month, President Biden signed an executive order asking the U.S. federal government to investigate cryptocurrencies and “produce a report on the future of money and payment systems.” And last week, two U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would require stablecoins to be backed by both U.S. dollars and government securities.
Stark said that potential stablecoin regulations wouldn’t affect the Bitcoin Lightning Network because it isn’t issuing stablecoins, but is merely providing a transaction highway for them to be exchanged. If regulations come, Stark said, “Issuers will be able to be compliant.”
“Stablecoins are not going away. I think they’re only going to increase in adoption,” she said.