Ethereum’s Tumble:  ICOs Aren’t The Problem

Trying to come up with a rational explanation for crypto price movements is a thankless task. Sure, there are several attempts being made by quant jocks to develop a model for valuing coins and tokens.  Most of these that I have reviewed suggest that prices undervalue both the underlying asset or the eventual demand.

In other words, crypto prices are cheap: what a surprise.

This bit of wisdom may be of some comfort to committed long term investors, but it hasn’t translated into higher market prices. A good example of this is Ether. Over the past six months, while Bitcoin has been treading water (down 7%), the price of Ether has been cut in half.  This altcoin was the topic of one of my recent articles called: Has Ethereum Lost It’s Cache?

The essence of this article was to point out how Ethereum, the platform preferred by 75%-80% of all ICOs, was suffering from investor indifference.  When you measure the activity of the top 100 tokens according to CoinMarketCap.com, the US dollar value of 9 of the top 10 most actively traded amounted to an average of $14,000 over the previous 24 hours.  Please keep in mind, trading activity in ETH over the same 24 hour period amounted to $1.8 billion USD.

Bloomberg Speak

One of the more interesting contradictions to my research into Ethereum’s plight comes from an article originating from a highly respected source: Bloomberg News.  The headline reads: “Ether Tumbles as Concern Increases That ICOs Are Cashing Out”.  It is totally defies the data to believe that every ICO cashing out when there is almost no volume to confirm this claim.

Quoting from an August 13th article:

Initial coin offerings using the Ethereum blockchain are seen as one of the main catalysts for sending Ether’s price surging last year. Now they’re being blamed for its decline.

It is quite true that initial coin offerings using the Ethereum blockchain was a catalyst for sending Ether’s price surging last year. It gave investors a reason to buy Ether even if they didn’t tell an ICO from a UFO. But are ICOs the real blame for both the good and the bad of Ethereum price?  I will step aside and let you be the judge.

For starters it is important to remember that ICOs raised $2.4 billion last year while ETH value appreciated almost $70 billion. The concept of ICOs may have fueled blind speculation but the math tells us that real demand was much less.

As for taking the blame for falling ETH prices, consider this notion. At its peak in January ETH was valued at $133 billion.  Currently that value is $100 billion+ lower than just eights months ago.

Using the data from ICOWatchList.com, since the beginning of 2017 ICOs have raised a total of $8.5 billion.  The statistical experts claim the Ethereum platform was used by between 80%-83% of all ICOs, thus reducing the $8.5 billion number to $5.7 billion.  

There is no question that ICOs influenced ETH speculators but that doesn’t begin to explain the more than $600 billion in aggregate losses for all crypto assets.   

Criticism Of Startup Managements

Critics claim that ICOs give startups the ability to raise lots of capital but they are proving weak in management on the funds once they are in their crypto wallet.  There is a certain validity to this since the number of founders with deep experience as CEOs and CFOs is pretty limited. But how can anyone separate insider selling activity from all other volume?

Research website Santiment, which compiles a selection of Ethereum-based projects, estimates startups have spent over 110,000 Ether in the past 30 days. At current prices that amounts to about $33 million.  For sake of discussion, let’s assume this high rate of token liquidation took place each and every month this year. Then use and average ETH price of $700 and that brings the total to $616 million.

There is no question that ICO sellers have contributed to the decline in ETH.  It would even be fair to call it a catalyst that created fear of losing all (FOLA).  Now if we could only quantify fear with an index like the VIX used by stock investors, we would see the major cause of the decline.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Author:
James Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.