A portion of office space at 1871 — a hub for digital startups at the Merchandise Mart — will now house entrepreneurs focused on expanding the new field of technology surrounding the digital currency Bitcoin.

The Chicago Bitcoin Center, described as “an incubator to serve as Chicago’s key resource and center of gravity for blockchain-based technologies,” launched Friday morning at the Inside Bitcoins Conference at Navy Pier.

“The Chicago Bitcoin Center is open to designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and all those dedicated to building tomorrow’s next chapter of financial technology,” said Matthew Roszak, founder and CEO of the Chicago Bitcoin Center and founding partner of Tally Capital, a Chicago-based venture capital firm.

Funding for the new center was provided by four investors who are placing a bet that the digital currency is the future of the global economy.

The new incubator will cater to innovators who want to explore new ways to use the digital currency and revolutionize the way people send digital assets online.

It will foster entrepreneurs through mentorship by industry leaders. Advisers also will help with public relations and governmental affairs.

“The financial industry is a key vertical that is profoundly affected by technology, and the Chicago Bitcoin Center establishes a leadership position for 1871 and Chicago in this important field,” 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman said in prepared statement. “We are excited to welcome the Chicago Bitcoin Center and its first cohort of startups to 1871.”

The industry is in its infancy. Bitcoins were invented in 2009. As of Thursday, a single Bitcoin — which can be used as currency at a growing number of retail centers and online merchants — was worth $270.

Many of the world’s largest financial institutions are also exploring how to implement the technology.

Contributing: Becky Schlikerman