Thoughts on Icon/ICX: Part 1

Note: These are my opinions and should not be taken as investment advice. Crypto is an extremely volatile space. Be wise and don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Really. And for the love of Satoshi, if you invest in something and it goes up 10x, 20x, 30x — take out your initial investment. Don’t be dumb.

Back in June 2017, I posted about Antshares/NEO. I was (and still am) a NEO “whale.” That post will forever be the most upvoted post in the r/Antshares subreddit — sure, it’s a dead sub now after the rebrand to NEO, but don’t take this one away from me. Muchas gracias.

In September 2017, I wrote a follow-up post on why I still love NEO. Towards the end of that post, I responded to a number of questions I had been receiving after my posts received tens of thousands of views. The most common question was “Is Jimmie your real name?” The answer to that is no. The second most common question was “What else are you investing in?” Here’s what I wrote:

US equity ETFs, municipal bonds, large-cap dividend stocks with mid-range yields and steady growth, and some riskless stuff (CDs, treasuries, high-yield savings accounts). But that’s not what you wanted to hear…
I hate giving “picks” in crypto because of the insane volatility and the real chance of losing 80% of your value over night. Some advice: Be careful. Don’t put in more than you can lose. Don’t listen to what people say in forums. Read source material for yourself. Take out your principal and play with house money. You won’t regret it.
Specific stuff? I don’t think Bitcoin is going anywhere. It is, however, becoming harder and harder to realize large upside returns from Bitcoin — the current market cap is just too big to see massive percentage swings. But that’s OK. I think everyone should have some money in Bitcoin. It’s seemingly immortal given what it’s been through. The same goes for Eth.
Looking at the top 100 coins, there are a few in there I’m holding. The vast majority are legitimately absurd. There are many painfully obvious trash coins that are worth hundreds of millions. I’m not naming names, but please do your research people. And stop listening to 14-year-olds on Reddit.
One coin I’ll mention, because they have a fair ICO process that hasn’t happened yet and I like their vision, is a coin out of Korea called ICON. Not sure how the regulatory environment is shaking out in Korea but I’m watching that one very closely. They may be the first major Korean-born crypto to hit exchanges.

After mentioning ICON in that post, I spent weeks doing additional primary research and came to the conclusion that ICON was perhaps the most obvious ICO to participate in I’ve ever seen. I was the tenth person to join the r/HelloIcon subreddit. Both during and after the ICO I have established a significant position in ICON.

Here are a few of my very scattered thoughts on the project.

Subreddit / Telegram / Social Media

Let’s start with a negative. Much like Antshares in the early days, the ICON subreddits are mostly (but not completely!) void of valuable content. They will continue to get better as the community grows. Thankfully they aren’t as bad as the Telegram which is complete and utter garbage. Memes, 14-year-old “day traders,” and insecure adults that have likely invested an irresponsible amount and want reassurance of where the price is going every hour of every day. The 14-year-olds are happy to inform them at every turn that we’re going to “hit $100 dollars by the end of 2018!” I got off the Telegram pretty quickly once I saw it was a festering cesspool. (Sorry, not sorry. The truth hurts.)

In Icon’s case in particular, there are, for some reason, two subreddits. The official one appears to be r/helloicon (for the non-programmers among us, “Hello Icon World” is a clever homage to this) and it appears to be largely abandoned by the Icon team. I get that Icon is a Korean product and thus, Korean social media venues are the most important, but it would take literally 5 minutes a day for someone — anyone — at Icon to answer some questions and delete the trash posts. I’m not sure they realize how important Reddit is for most crypto communities. Vitalik, as an example, is very active on Reddit and that has done wonders over the years to calm speculation and fear as well as educate the masses. I strongly recommend that the Icon team hire someone to manage their social media accounts religiously. They have the money, and this is a non-technical hire — it shouldn’t be that hard to find someone great. I’d give Icon’s community communication a (generous) 3 out of 10.

I have a feeling this will get better with time. All blockchain projects start off like this. In my first post I called the Antshares sub trash. And it was. The community has flourished since then. Icon will follow suit.

Partnerships

I won’t list them all here. They’ve been listed many times before. (Some of my favorites: 1 2 3) Needless to say, Icon’s partnerships are absurdly strong compared to almost everything out there. Better than most coins trading with higher market caps — and most of those coins have been around for much longer. I’m not sure people that are “new” to crypto have the historical context necessary to appreciate how much Icon has done in such a short span of time. This isn’t some crappy vaporware. This is a real business with real customers and real employees. They turned out a working product faster than any blockchain project I’ve ever seen. They have scores of developers and a war chest of millions of dollars and they’re not slowing down.

Managing 50+ employees, hitting development deadlines, and communicating with an oftentimes mob-like public isn’t easy. It’s f-ing hard. I’ve worked for startups in the past. If those startups were held to the same level of public scrutiny that Icon and other cryptos are held, they would crumble under the pressure. I mean that. Shine a bright light at any startup and you’ll see — they’re messes. Like adolescents going through their awkward stage, businesses take years to mature and find their sea legs. Min and team have done a brilliant job navigating the pressures that comes with being a protocol/crypto startup. They’re tuning out the noise and they’re thriving. Can they communicate better? Sure. But I’d take bad communication over bad product or bad partnerships any day. If I wasn’t so nice (lol), I’d list off ten projects currently in the top 50 that have great communication and blatantly horrible products. But I won’t. Because I’m a good person, dammit.

Long-game and Price

I need to write something about price. Some general advice:

  • If you’re terrified that Icon dropped from $12 to $7 and elated when it pops back to $9, then you’ve put too much in. Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Watching the recent videos about Bitconnect aren’t funny, they’re heartbreaking. Don’t put your life savings into Icon or Eth or Bitcoin or the stock market or tulips or ANYTHING. EVER. Don’t be dumb.
  • Stop sweating the little swings. That’s the nature of the game. Go to the Antshares sub or the Ethtrader sub or the Bitcoin sub and look back a few years. I remember very distinctly when Antshares/NEO “mooned” to $14 or so and then crashed back to $5. Those who put in more than they could afford to lose were rightfully devastated and scared. The rest of us were mad but comfortable — along for the long-term ride. Try to stop checking the price so many times per day. You aren’t going to make money from day trading. And if you think you are, I want you to compare what you “made” day trading to what you would have made had you just held whatever your initial position was long term.
  • Whales. I keep reading comments that Whales are keeping the price low to buy more. That’s not true. I’ve been there. The price stays down because whales (in Icon’s case, large institutional investors) are taking profits. You can literally watch this happening in the wallets. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s normal for this stage of any crypto. These folks put lots of money in at something like 11 cents. They’ve made ~80x their money. Trust me, they’re taking some chips off the table. AND THAT’S FINE. It’s a good thing. Check out what I believe to be the Icon Binance wallet here. What do you notice? Lots of transfers out of the Binance wallet. Fewer transfers in. The total number of wallets is growing fast. A few weeks ago I checked and it was at 20k. Now it’s approaching 30k. This is a great sign and healthy for the network. (To see the number of ERC20 wallets, look for “Token Holders” on this page.)

Real-World Use

There’s a very clear difference between speculative and consumptive demand. Almost all cryptos, including Ethereum, are still firmly in the speculative demand bucket. People are buying, not to use (i.e. consume) the token, but to speculate on it’s future consumptive demand. Undoubtedly, these networks have the potential to generate MASSIVE consumptive demand, but that demand may still be years away. In my opinion, that timeline is much, MUCH shorter for Icon than any other crypto I’ve seen. Icon had functional products up and running that rely on their ICX token months before they launched their mainnet product. Most projects haven’t even begun to actually implement real-world use cases. Sure they talk about them, but talk is cheap, especially in cryptoland.

Why does this matter? Let me use San Francisco as an example. Being a “sales guy” in the Bay Area is a borderline derogatory term with techies. Developers oftentimes start businesses with the mindset that “if we build it, they will come” — “they” meaning customers. Startup after startup learns the hard way that this is almost never the case. Business development is never as easy as technologists think.

In one of his many interviews on Youtube, Min Kim, one of the founders of Icon, mentioned that while they have an incredibly strong tech team, they realize that blockchain technology is still rapidly evolving. We’re still in the early innings of blockchain and, much like the internet, the tech will rapidly improve. Icon’s approach is to develop real world use cases today given the technological constraints we’re operating under. As the space matures technologically, so will Icon. As someone who has worked in tech as well as private and public market investing for many years, I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear him say this. This approach has been the winning approach in industry after industry after industry for decades. Technology and business development go hand in hand.

Predictions

I won’t predict price because I don’t know — and neither do you. I don’t care about short term fluctuations. I also think it’s disingenuous to tell people that the price will explode after some specific event or announcement. No one knows.

I will make this prediction: I think that Icon will be a dominating force in the Korean blockchain industry in the long term. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss why I don’t think there will be one global blockchain network. I believe blockchain networks will evolve in a similar fashion to cellular networks. They will be regionally run and regionally regulated. More evidence for this in a future article.

Needless to say, I think Icon will be the dominant network in Korea. And I’m almost positive that Korea will be the first country to adopt blockchain into real-world use cases — meaning consumptive demand for tokens like ICX will hit Korea before anywhere else. Why? Because that’s always the case. See a few non-blockchain examples here and here and here and here.

So what’s the summary: Don’t invest more than you can legitimately afford to lose. Act like you can lose all your money tomorrow, because you can. That being said, if you’re looking for an interesting investment with some money you can afford to gamble in the crazy crypto markets, I would take a nice long look at Icon.

I’m getting tired so I’m calling it quits. I’ll post another article soon with more ramblings on Icon. I love healthy debate, so please post your comments and/or gripes in the comments or PM me on Reddit. Feedback welcome.

Jimmie S.