Are ICOs Dead (Again)?
Question: What was the most popular smartphone app during the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany?
The iPhone was not introduced until 2007.
This question illustrates how quickly new technologies become part of our lives, and part of the new normal.
It’s no different with blockchain and ICOs: For those of us who work with blockchain startups in a professional capacity, token offerings have become so much the norm that it seems funny that they weren’t even part of the tech and finance landscape until 2013 — and didn’t really take off until last year, 2017.
Let’s take a minute to remember that there was life before ICOs.
Will there also be life after ICOs?
If, for a moment, we try to forget the hype surrounding everything blockchain and focus on the core of the matter, ICOs started out as just another way of crowdfunding, and evolved (or some would say, degenerated?) into just another form of institutional VC fundraising. So, nothing we haven’t seen before — just a bit less regulated, although that seems to be changing as well.
As regulators are wisening up to the ways of blockchain entrepreneurs and investors, ICOs are starting to look like just another financial instrument to get funding for your business idea, or to invest your money into something with growth potential.
And just like with any other financial instrument, there are some who understand it, some who don’t understand it and thus stay away from it — #CRAEFULGANG, anyone? — and those who don’t understand it but want a piece of the action anyway. Regulation is merely a way to make matters safer for the last group, and as such neither good nor bad — but probably inevitable.
Fact is: ICOs have been proclaimed dead again and again all through the recent crypto boom. Most notably, the ICO platform Cofound.it announced just two days ago that it’s going to close up shop because of the untimely demise of ICOs (read about their rationale in the words of CEO Daniel Zakrisson here).
Whether or not they are in fact dead depends a lot on what you think is the defining feature of an ICO:
- Is an ICO just a token sale? Then ICOs won’t be dead until blockchain technology is dead.
- Are ICOs an opportunity to increase (or gamble away) your fortune, which may or may not come from legal origins, in a blissfully unregulated environment? Then ICOs are not quite dead, but there’s not much life left in them either. (Think twitching roadkill.)
- Are ICOs only real ICOs if small private investors, the often invoked “community”, make up the majority of investors? Then ICOs are not completely dead either — but pretty comatose.
- Finally, could ICOs be just another regulated financial instrument in the tool belt of banks and financial institutions? Then ICOs are alive and kicking — they’ve just been adopted into a new family. This new family may be a bit more uptight about some things, but does its best to keep the new kid out of trouble (including the careful screening of dubious old friends).
So, our verdict: No, ICOs are not dead — they’re just sleeping off their hangover after too many months of excess. (Look there! It seems like they’re already stirring a bit to find a bottle of water and yesterday’s pizza for the old electrolytes…)