ICO Analysis: Lydian

The market for initial coin offerings (ICOs) is exploding, as early-stage startups turn to crowdfunding for capital raises. But there’s a serious problem in this largely unregulated market: how can investors tell the difference between legitimate companies and dubious copycats?

The SAFT protocol, which the author firmly supports, is one way in which the cryptocurrency community is vetting both coin sales and investors. Its proponents argue that SAFTs can create and sustain a self-regulated cryptocurrency market, something that is sorely needed.

Of course, regulators know nothing about SAFT, and are instead pursuing hard bans on ICOs. China and South Korea are the most prominent examples. As it turns out, some of the marketing and capital raise tactics used by ICOs can be downright abusive.

To its credit, Lydian has quickly caught on to the problems plaguing this nascent industry. Its gripe isn’t just with fraudsters, but anyone looking to bullshit their way to an ICO using the unsavory practices of rent-charging, abusing marketing and half-assed campaigns. This isn’t entirely due to neglect.

Lydian’s market research finds that the average ICO spends between $100,000 and $500,000 on digital marketing. Unfortunately, their delivery method is archaic and poorly executed. To make matters even more complicated, companies must continue to advertise aggressively long after the token sale has ended. After all, the end of a token sale is when the work really begins.

The LydianCoin attempts to solve the problems plaguing token raises by offering AI-powered digital marketing services. The coin itself doesn’t have any magical powers; it simply represents a way to pre-pay for the services of Lydian’s parent company, Gravity4. Of course, its services aren’t limited to ICO issuers, but any company in need of marketing analytics.

Gravity4 markets itself as “The World’s First AI Big Data Marketing Cloud.” It currently boasts Fortune 1000 companies and makes use of advanced technology to deliver personalized marketing solutions.

So, why are they launching the blockchain-based LydianCoin? Probably as a way to reduce costs, raise hype and continue to scale up its niche marketing prowess. The company appears to be on to something with its MonaLisa platform, which is itself built on a blockahin. Through MonaLisa, Gravity4 is looking to combat fraud in the advertising industry.

Fraudulent marketing practices are actually a huge deal. Even Facebook has admitted to inflating its ad metrics. (In fact, they came under scrutiny again in September.)

The LydianCoin Token

Lydian (LDN) is an ERC20-based Ethereum token that will form the basis of the company’s forthcoming ICO launch. The token sale will accept bitcoin and ether payments for its capital raise. Early indications are that the LDN token will be valued at $5 USD.

LDN is described as a “value-stabilized cryptocurrency,” which can be negotiated back to Lydian to obtain marketing services that leverage years of aggregated marketing data. This includes marketing placement and customer interaction metrics and disintermediate advertising channels. The end-user is promised superior marketing metrics at a lower net cost. The tokens may be used immediately upon issuance.

The total value of the proposed raise is expected to be $100 million. The company will use the proceeds as reserves against the provision of future digital advertising and marketing services.

Lydian’s pre-sale is currently active, and has raised $10 million in 72 hours. Until Nov. 20, investors will receive a 25% bonus on their investment. The official issuance date is Nov. 20.

For two hours after the issuance date, the token will be available for a 15% discount that drops to 10% over the next 22 hours. From the day after the issuance date through Nov. 27, no bonus will be available.

The Team

Lydian’s crowdsale is headed by the executive team at Gravity4. As we mentioned previously, Gravity4 has already delved into the world of blockchain with its MonaLisa platform.

The founder of the company is Gurbaksh Chahal, an entrepreneur with 17 years of experience in digital advertising. He has his fingerprints on numerous successful internet advertising companies, including ClickAgent and BlueLithium, which sold for a combined $340 million in separate deals.

However, the news surrounding Chahal isn’t all positive. In 2014, the executive pleaded guilty to abusing his then-girlfriend. Now, he faces possible jail time for violating probation in another case of violence against women. He is also being sued by four previous employees for harassment and discrimination – claims Chahal says are “baseless” and “frivolous.” (All according to Forbes.)

The company’s Managing Director Grant Allaway and Kevin Huang have a combined 32 years of experience.

Gravity4 has also retained Mazars Ireland as its auditors and added legal advisers Dentons U.S. LLP and Berger Singerman LLP.

Solid team, if you look past the possible legal issues facing the founder.

Verdict

Lydian  is backed by a solid digital marketing company. Its tokens serve a viable business function for customers and vendors in pursuit of customized marketing solutions. For actual investors, the benefits are less compelling. (After all, the token is a reserve against future digital advertising and marketing services.)

That being said, the company faces several legal challenges that extend far beyond the key executive’s past behavior. These need to be weighed carefully to determine whether the $100 million valuation is justified.

The company is also endorsed by Paris Hilton, so take that for what it’s worth.

Risks

  • The head of Gravity4, Gurbaksh Chahal, has pleaded guilty to domestic violence and faces possible jail time for violating probation. If you’re a holder of LDN, this doesn’t exactly stoke feelings of confidence in the executive team or its direction. Let’s also not fail to mention that the company has four outstanding lawsuits.
  • The main purpose of the Lydian token sale is to pay for Gravity4’s services in dollars. So, really, what exactly is the point of the token? There are other ways to obtain upfront or advanced payments for your services. Why go through all the trouble of minting a cryptocurrency?
  • The only real value proposition for  giving Gravity4 your money is the promise of “exclusive access” to features it is developing in the future. What are those features, exactly?
  • Industry experts, once again cited by Forbes, suggest that LydianCoin meets the SEC’s definition of a security. In deeming DAO to be a security, the SEC used what is known as the Howey test. Lydian seems to meet the criteria set out in that test, which could put it in regulatory hot water.
  • For all the hype surrounding the ICO, the company makes very little effort to engage the community. There’s a couple thousand followers on Twitter, but no direct engagement model on other channels.

Growth potential

  • Lydian’s parent company has a proven track record in blockchain. This is somewhat of a rarity for ICOs, at least the ones the author has reviewed.
  • Gravity4 has serious growth potential, especially in terms of scalability. The business model allows the company to grow without risking too much overhead or intermediary costs. The application of AI and big data to marketing has many people excited.
  • The token sale raised $10 million in 72 hours, so clearly people are lining up to participate.

Disposition

As you’ve probably noticed, the author has omitted an individual score on each of the risks and growth drivers. That’s because he believes the risks far outweigh the rewards, but doesn’t feel justified giving a “negative rating.” That’s because Gravity4 seems to have a good business model and something real to offer the advertising community. How does this translate into an ICO raise? Well, it doesn’t.

Although the ICO has sucked in eight-figures in less than three days, that itself doesn’t justify buying it. There are too many red flags involving Chahal and the regulatory circumstances surrounding the “utility token.” The author doesn’t see any long-term benefits to the crowdraise, unless it’s to bank on the cryptocurrency craze.

Against this backdrop, we’ve assigned Lydian a rating of 2.5 out of 10. The token might succeed from a crowdraise perspective, but that doesn’t mean you should buy.

Investment Details

  • Type: Crowdsale
  • Pre-Sale: Ongoing
  • Opening Sale: Nov. 27, 2017
  • End Date; Dec. 4, 2017
  • Platform: Ethereum (ETH)
  • Total Supply: 40 million (20 million to be sold via token sale)
  • Total Supply Available for Advertisers: ~800,000
  • Token Price: $5.00 USD (with discounts available)
  • Fundraising Goal: $100 million USD
  • Payments Accepted: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, ZCash, ZEC, Waves, Credit Card, USD wire transfers.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Author:
Chief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi