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BlockTrail logo.

BlockTrail logo.

As one of the co-founders of Russian social media hub VK (formerly VKontakte), Lev Leviev knows a thing or two about turning a solid tech idea into a money-making enterprise. VK is now the second-largest social networking site in Europe, second only to Facebook, and is generally placed in the top 20 most popular websites in the world. When Leviev sold off his shares of VK last year, many wondered what new projects the billionaire investor would focus on next.

Not surprisingly, Leviev had his eye on bitcoin. Through his venture-capital like holding company BlockCorp, Leviev invested €500,000 in block chain visualization program BlockTrail. At the moment, the project is still fairly humble in scope, tracking price and volume while providing a simple, Blockchain.info-like system for searching for specific transaction details.

According to a report on CoinDesk, BlockTrail appears to have been created as a direct competitor to TradeBlock, a professional-trader aimed visualization service backed by Andreessen Horowitz and the Bitcoin Investment Trust. BlockTrail co-founder Boaz Bechar told CoinDesk that the company will shy away from the professional niche, instead focusing on the needs of the everyday user. “Our approach has been far more consumer-oriented, providing a free online site that enables anyone to view and analyse a bitcoin address, transaction, or other data from the network,” Bechar said.

Although the need for a new block chain visualizer is debatable, there is something remarkable about BlockTrail. The project marks the first highly visible move into the bitcoin space by the Russian tech industry. Given that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies may still be considered illegal in Russia, Leviev’s investment could signal a shift towards a quiet, investment-driven adoption of digital currency in the country. Although legally based in Amsterdam, the project’s Russian connections couldn’t me more explicit. If BlockTrail and other BlockCorp-backed product find a niche, it might help to soften Russian regulators’ concerns about the use of bitcoin for illicit purposes.

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