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Ethereum’s ICO Economy

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Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) or “token sales” have raised in excess of $80M so far this year. An ICO allows startups and established businesses (although the latter is far less common) to raise funds through a token sale. Willing investors purchase the token with the expectation that the value of the token will rise; later selling the token on an exchange for profit. Each startup will set their own rules about the supply (often fixed) and distribution of each token. The value of each token is partly driven by the platform (Dapp), where the token is required to interact with it. For example, the prediction market platform Gnosis (whose token sale launches on 24th April) is offering up GNO tokens in return for Ether which will be used to fund the platform. These GNO tokens will then be used to create WIZ – the currency of the platform – allowing users to engage with applications built on Gnosis. The value of GNO (at least in the long run) will therefore be a direct reflection of the adoption of the Gnosis platform.

But the hype surrounding token sales is rapidly reaching fever-pitch levels. Earlier this month, Blockchain Capital raised $10M in 2 days during their venture capital fund token sale – reaching their cap and closing 26 days earlier than planned. A much lesser known brand TaaS (another blockchain based fund) has so far raised $4M with 2 weeks remaining in their ICO. Many other token sales have also raised 7 and 8 figure sums, including Chronobank, Melon and Golem to name a few.

The one thing all of these ICOs have in common? They don’t have a product yet. Tens of millions of dollars are flowing into ICOs in speculation not seen since the Dot Com Bubble, and all despite the fact that for many, entering the cryptocurrency space is filled with barriers – technical knowledge being the greatest. As the market matures and these barriers inevitably fall, it is possible that we will see the bubble of the decade. Repeating that of what was seen when the Internet began entering the mainstream in the late 1990s.

ICO Hype Proxy

Gnosis opted for a modified Dutch auction in their token sale; dramatically decreasing the incentive for investors to get in early. There would be no better signal for “hype” than if this token sale reaches its $12.5M cap and closes in a matter of days. My money is on it not passing the first week of its 1 month duration.

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Nick
Nick Founder