ICO Analysis: Tierion
We enter this analysis with a concept not to be swayed, that document verification is a real and expanding industry, so the business model of providing cryptographically secure document verification is sound in principal. The company is already in business, after all, so failing to fund during the ICO will not mean there will not be later opportunities if the investor’s mood changes. They have provided a competing service to Factom for years, and now they are developing a project in concert with Microsoft and others that will decentralize the process and increase its efficiency. The primary motivation for the push to decentralization is that the cost of anchoring data to the blockchain has increased by 100 fold. As such, individual businesses which try to offer this service will probably run into a pool of clients that is too small to sustain the business model.
Rising transaction fees have made it too expensive for individual developers and most businesses to anchor data. Based on current market prices, anchoring one transaction every ten minutes to the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains costs $181,332 per year. These costs are projected to continue to rise.
Essentially, what we are talking about with Tierion is a decentralized, cryptographically enhanced notary public. At its heart, this is the intent of the blockchain – an immutable, uncensorable ledger which cannot be altered by single participants without agreement from all (and in many cases, this too is impossible). Such an application is useful well beyond the simple movement of money – in fact, its use cases beyond money may outweigh its uses within money in terms of both demand and economic activity generated.
Factom and others have pioneered in the field of utilizing blockchains for document verification and certification. Tierion aims to be a multifaceted firm, with their verification product, called Chainpoint, being the first use case for the TNT token. The token will be used to incentivize the hashes and proofs provided, as well as to acquire these services. The network will be a mix of large scale centralized companies such as Microsoft, who have already signed on, and independent operators. There are a few types of network participant, Microsoft falling into the first category:
- Core Service members have access to large resources. Chainpoint.org itself will operate three such data centers, and Microsoft is also offering one, at the outset. This ensures reliability.
- Nodes are everyday people who run the software. “Each node that joins the network improves scalability and reliability.”
- Clients, for example, any business, are the people utilizing the hashing service. Their usage of the network will determine the value of the token, so outreach to them and their uptake of the technology is crucial to a rising valuation.
Technologically, what Tierion does is develop an independent record which corresponds to established, secure blockchains, both Ethereum and Bitcoin being utilized in the first version. They call this independent record the Calendar, and the added value of it is that a user does not need any access to Bitcoin, Ethereum, or even the global internet. They can verify any record using Chainpoint itself. This convenience and level of separation between clients and complicated cryptographic technologies is important for adoption.
A global calendar makes it possible for anyone to audit Core and independently verify the validity and integrity of the chain. Each block is signed with a provider specific public key, and the chain is periodically anchored to Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Running the node software could be a redemption for those who missed out on cryptocurrency mining. Anyone will be able to contribute hashes, network throughput, and verification services by running the software, and as such they will earn TNT tokens in reward. Here are some important last bits about how Tierion works, before we get into analyzing the potential of the token as an investment vehicle.
Nodes may charge for generating and verifying proofs. Node operators can also build services and charge at a price that’s independent of the value of TNT. A fixed supply of TNT will be created during a token sale using the ERC20 standard. […] The token sale and our partner commitments guarantee that for the first year, users will be able to send limited amount of data to Core at zero cost.
The Tierion team bears noting because it is a successful team to date. They have survived some very, very bad times for Bitcoin and three years later are still in business. Now they’ve recognized an impending bottleneck that could put them out of business, but instead of that they seek to pivot and build a better future for their industry as a whole.
The top brass at Tierion are veterans of the silicon age, and this may explain how they developed the connections with Microsoft. At the helm is Wayne Vaughn. As president of Fuscient, one of the few firms to not just survive the popping of the dot com bubble but to thrive, he identified that the yield of web design services was dropping, and so pivoted the company into a marketing services firm with the launch of SmartNet. Vaughn has spent most of the past two decades quietly leading Fuscient with moderate success. Vaughn is CEO, so it’s no surprise that over the past couple of years he has seen the writing on the wall (the cost of administrating blockchain data services by oneself is getting to be untenable), thus the launch of the Chainpoint platform. Him having successfully pivoted a company during changing tides gives us confidence he will steer Tierion well in addition.
Lead developer and co-founder Jason Bukowski had a long career at Fuscient, from 2001 to 2015. Prior to that he had a brief stint as an everyday web developer. During his career he developed one of the first live analytics engines for websites, something very useful for the SmartNet system.
Also on staff is Glenn Rempe, who has experience leading development teams for a host of notable brands – Accenture, eBay, Symantic, EA, and HP.
TNT Token Distribution
A fixed rate of 1 billion TNT will be created on July 27th, with a target of $25 million. Only 360 million of the tokens are being publicly sold, with another 35% being distributed strategically by Tierion themselves. A total 300 million TNT will be kept by Tierion if you include the 1% they are paying themselves for offering the token sale. We have seen worse distributions than this, and we must lend this established business some trust in its ability to accurately distribute the “incentivization” tokens in a way that will truly incentivize it. For the first year, anyone will be able to use the service for free, so this has to be paid for somehow.
Just because Microsoft is touching it does not mean it will succeed. There are too many failed ideas out of Redmond to deny this fact. However, Microsoft’s involvement does make us feel better about this one than others. Yet, on a grand scale, Microsoft could be considered a bit of a newbie in terms of cryptocurrency, and so some things could potentially be totally off their radar. Nevertheless, we have to say we’re excited about this one.
The decentralized and open nature of Tierion makes it a killer to all competing applications if successful. The only future for companies like Factom would be to participate in this network or create an alternative and hope that it succeeded. So our standard risk of not enough first mover advantage or not properly leveraging such is not as prevalent here. Still, there are other risks.
One successful alteration of the Tierion calendar system could be a deathblow. Since there are potentially millions of participants and mistakes are made, this could happen. It seems unlikely, but it could happen. It is a risk that we will deduct .1 points for.
The necessity of the core providers is a departure from traditional decentralization and could be risky. While Microsoft probably is, most firms are not eternal. The network could experience serious variance in its availability and capacity if moderate sized firms enter and pull out of the core service sector often enough. We deduct .25 points for this possibility.
In terms of the token itself, one thing that comes up is the ability of node operators to forego the usage of the token when receiving payments. This could create a situation where several node operators are making significant gains using the software, but the only usage of the token is when they occasionally pay to have their calendar verified and other things they must do with the large core service providers. Forcing the usage of the token is a way to force its value to rise with its demand, but allowing for alternative payments at the least regulated level of participation is potentially dangerous. It’s unclear how this will actually play out in practice, or if it would even be profitable for operators to act in this manner, but it’s entirely imaginable. As such, here we find our biggest point cut: 2. Leaving risk zone, we have a negative carry of 2.35 points. Let’s see what we can find positive about the token, regardless if we believe the software will probably revolutionize several sectors of business.
- Microsoft putting its name on this project means that abandonment is unlikely, and incentives all around to make the thing work are higher due to the desire to have ongoing relationships with Redmond. +1
- With the right marketing, the ability to cheaply hash documents on a public and secure blockchain will find use cases we can’t even imagine right now. Everything from immigration to speculative scientific notions will find uses in this ability. This thing could potentially be massive. TNT tokens will rise in value as the popularity of the service rises. +5
- Microsoft’s involvement means that others will follow or try to compete. A “Google Notary” is imaginable, and the potential that such services could rely on the Tierion network is a big plus, but a mitigated one – companies like Google could go the other way, pick an alternative network, or build one of their own. +1
8 – 2.35 = 5.65, or about a 57% chance that if you buy in at the ICO level you will profit. Tokens often take a sharp dive after the ICO phase, so as always, there’s a chance your real profitable move with TNT is either to participate as an earning node or to wait for dips in the market rate.
On July 27th the token sale will open at https://tokensale.tierion.com/. It is recommended that you verify any address you send to before sending. In Ethereum, the smart contract should be recognizable at Etherscan.io by name – otherwise it is poorly written in the first place. There have been serious security issues as of recent with ICOs, in particular CoinDash.io losing something like $7 million to website hijackers. This being the case, the author recommends extreme caution when actually making your investment. It’s important to be quick to get in on it, but it’s also important to not repress any questions that may arise, and not send any money until they are answered by the firm directly.