ICOs rose to prominence in 2017 as more startups turned to the new crowdfunding model that bypassed tedious traditional methods. With the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies led by Bitcoin, investors’ interest in ICOs was at an all-time high especially towards the end of the year. As with any other industry that attracts both attention and investment, governments all over the world have taken measures to regulate the field. This has not gone all that well, as the regulatory framework in place hadn’t anticipated the kind of revolution the crypto industry has sparked. However, investors’ appetite for promising ICOs has not gone down, and startups are still raising millions of dollars. In the first five months of 2018, ICOs raised over $9 billion, over twice the amount raised in 2017, according to CoinSchedule, an ICO listing site.
The SEC has continued to pursue fraudulent ICOs and has successfully halted a number of them so far this year. One of them was Centra Tech’s ICO which became very popular after it was endorsed by former boxing heavyweight Floyd Mayweather. The founders were charged by the regulator with orchestrating a fraudulent ICO by selling unregistered securities. The SEC also halted AriseBank’s ICO, an ICO which the startup claimed had raised $600 million in just two months. These and many other actions by the SEC have done little to slow down the enthusiasm surrounding ICOs.
Telegram set a new record after it disclosed that it had raised $1.7 billion in an ICO pre-sale that involved accredited investors. It was the largest amount ever raised in an ICO, and Telegram stated that the money would be used to fund the development of its Telegram Open Network. The instant messaging app which has over 200 million users later canceled its scheduled ICO, but it had already set a new record for the highest amount of money raised for a blockchain project.
Block.one, the company behind EOS, broke Telegram’s record and set a new one in its year-long ICO which ended on Friday, June 1. EOS, the closest competitor to Ethereum in the decentralized applications sector, is the fifth-most valuable cryptocurrency at just over $13 billion at press time. Block.one chose an unorthodox method in which the tokens were not sold at a fixed price but were sold at a price determined by the market demand. The company split the tokens and sold two million EOS tokens every 23 hours for 341 days. 200 million were sold in the first five days, and 100 million were reserved for the developers. In raising $4 billion, EOS single-handedly raised more money than all ICOs that were held in 2017 and raised more than twice the amount raised by the previous record holder, Telegram.
The continued enthusiasm among investors for ICOs has defied the falling prices of most cryptocurrencies. While the prices have begun bouncing back, the market is still down by more than 50% from its record high achieved at the beginning of 2018. Investors are still unfazed, with many market leaders encouraging investors to invest now to maximize their profits once the prices rise to their previous highs.
ICOs have, however, continued to attract negative press, with allegations of fraud and deceptive practices becoming rife in recent months. Just days ago, the SEC obtained a court order to stop the activities of Titanium Blockchain, a startup whose ICO had already raised $21 million. The startup was placed under receivership and had its assets frozen, with the SEC alleging that it had deceived investors about its association with leading companies such as Boeing and Verizon. This is not the only company that has been under scrutiny by regulatory authorities, as governments all over the world have sought to protect investors.
While the future of ICOs is still anyone’s guess, one thing is clear: they are here to stay and will only become more prominent in the future.