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ICO Update: Polkadot

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Polkadot’s crowdsale opened just six days ago, but has already generated a staggering $140 million. For investors who missed the boat, there’s still time to get in on the Dutch Auction.

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Polkadot is a blockchain technology that its developers call a “heterogeneous multi-chain.” The goal of the project is to overcome the flaws plaguing present-day blockchain architectures (think: extensibility and scalability). The technology makes it easier for blockchains to facilitate accurate transactions that are both anonymous and valid. Essentially, it allows independent blockchains to exchange important information effortlessly.

We reviewed Polkadot’s dizzying whitepaper with keen interest to fully understand what the platform is and how it operates. The 21-page document is one of the most technical to grace the ICO market. This is actually a good thing, as it raises the standard for investors when they go to evaluate initial coin offerings.

Instead of offering an overly simplistic account of Polkadot, we let genius developer Dr. Gavin Wood do the talking. From Polkadot.io:

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[Polkadot] consists of many parachains with potentially differing characteristics which can make it easier to achieve anonymity or formal verification. Transactions can be spread out across the chains, allowing many more to be processed in the same period of time. Polkadot ensures that each of these blockchains remains secure and that any dealings between them are faithfully executed. Specialised parachains called bridges can be created to link independent chains.

The blockchain community has known for some time there’s a strong need for cross-chain communication. Polkadot essentially provides a creative commons platform that will allow various blockchains to interact with each other (thank you for the explanation, Stephen Tual). Polkadot will enable these different chains to share value as well as data across existing or future parachains.

Perhaps mainstream investors didn’t see the point of Polkadot 11 months ago when the team released the whitepaper. The growth and widespread adoption of blockchain technology since has likely changed their mind. At least, that’s what we gather from the hugely successful capital raise.

Polkadot promises to deliver pooled security for all parachains, as well as communication between them. These are exchanged on every block, and also enable data and tokens to be delivered.

The Token

Polkadot is offering 5 million native DOT tokens via capped crowd sale. This means that the sale will close once a certain amount of ETH has been raised. Unlike other capped raises, the DOT cap is dynamic and changes over time. In other words, DOT prices start high and decrease over time. The speed at which the price declines is fast at first and then more slowly. Early adopters (i.e. in the first hour) received 15% bonus DOTs for their efforts.

The initial cap is set very high to make it virtually impossible for any one person or entity to buy all the tokens. The funds will go toward the development of a new protocol enabling cross-chain communication.

More than half of the 5 million DOT tokens are available. Check here for the latest update.

If you’re an investor, DOT serves three main purposes: governance over the network, operation and bonding. DOTs will carry out vital functions across the Polkadot network, enabling holders to participate in the operation of the system. This includes acting as validator, nominator or fisherman – terms that are described in the FAQ.

The Team

Gavin Wood is the brains behind DOT, but he also has a team of 30 developers with backgrounds in systems programming, cryptography and distributed systems. The development crew also consists of Parity Technologies, which created the most advanced Ethereum client and wallet application for developers.

Wood’s various teams are part of the WEB3 Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was set up to advance the field of decentralized web protocols via cryptography.

When it comes to blockchain expertise and experience, very few organizations come close to what Gavin Wood’s crew is doing. This explains why so many people support their grand vision.

Verdict

Backers of the Polkadot project have a lot to be excited about. That’s because they are investing in an idea, and are happy to see it through over the next two years until the token is released. However, this does not discount the real risks facing the project – risks that the developers have spelled out explicitly.

Risks

  • As the Polkadot team mentions in its FAQ, regulatory treatment of ICOs is uncertain. Governments have already shown hostility toward ICOs, and there’s no way to know for sure how DOTs will be classified from legal and regulatory perspectives. -2
  • Lack of liquidity is another risk that the founders have identified. The Polkadot team will not develop or support any infrastructure that allows for DOTs to be traded. As such, there may not be a secondary market for the token. -2
  • As a proof of concept, there’s a two-year lock-in period before. For some investors, this timetable might not work. -1
  • Unlike bitcoin, there is no upper limit on the total supply of DOTs. This means it is inflationary in nature. Although some crypto enthusiasts might write this off as a negative, the whole purpose of DOT is to encourage participation. In other words, the Polkadot token was designed specifically for this purpose. -1 

Growth Potential

  • Polkadot promises to develop a system that interconnects various chains, thus addressing the challenges of scalability and interoperability. Suffice it to say, this protocol would be a game changer if it succeeds. Think Ethereum big. +5
  • Wood’s team is crazy good, and his success with Ethereum and Parity could very well make Polkadot an important component of the digital currency market. +5
  • The Dutch Auction has proven to be a resounding success, with DOT already becoming one of the biggest ICOs of the year (and by extension, ever). Clearly, savvy investors are paying attention. +2

Disposition

With the benefit of hindsight, the author assigns Polkadot a score of 6 out of 10. Note that this score only applies to investors who are willing to donate two years of their time for a potentially large return.

To be perfectly honest, I am a believer in the project and can certainly justify a higher score. But the two-year lock-in period, combined with the vague economic value, forces the author to temper his expectations – at least for now.

That being said, investing in ideas can be a powerful thing, provided you don’t bet the farm. It’s difficult for any blockchain enthusiast not to love Dr Wood’s vision. Read below:

We envision a Web where our identity and our data is our own – safely secured from any central authority. Our aim is to reshape the existing internet structure into what we are calling Web3: a completely decentralized web.

Investment Details

  • Type: Dutch Auction Crowdsale
  • Pre-Sale: Ongoing
  • Opening Sale: Oct. 15, 2017
  • End Date; Oct. 28, 2017
  • Platform: Native
  • Token Release: Genesis Block (Q3 2019)
  • Total Supply: 5 million out of 10 million total allocated to Genesis
  • Payments Accepted: ETH

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. virtualevil

    October 21, 2017 at 7:49 am

    *Gavin Wood, not David Wood.

    But good write up and measured review. I too am optimistic and evaluate this like any VC on the strength of the team behind it. It’s a shame there is a 2.5 ETH limit for small cap investors!

    • Sam Bourgi

      October 21, 2017 at 8:00 am

      I called him David twice, but fixed it only once. Thanks for pointing it out. I agree wholeheartedly. I wanted to give DOT a much higher score based on my view of the project. I think it has strong potential when you look at the group behind it, not to mention the hole that it fills.

      • virtualevil

        October 21, 2017 at 8:39 am

        It’s hard to imagine what the ecosystem might look like in 2019, but its probably safe to assume there will be a lot more blockchains and countless many dApps floating around. There is going to need to be some kind of glue to keep them all together. Parachains might be just that, and the fact that Polkadot will be guided by the vision behind Web3 I think means it will be very relevant.

        Can they pull it off? I don’t know, but having the former CTO of Ethereum running the show helps.

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ICO

ICO Analysis: Gimmer Token

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The impeccable rise of algorithmic trading has ushered in a new wave of do-it-yourself (DIY) algorithmic trading bots. With the success of these DIY bots in traditional financial markets, it was only a matter of time until they entered the cryptocurrency market.

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For algorithmic trading, volatility creates opportunity sets. And with cryptocurrencies still trading in an inefficient market, volatility runs rampant. This level of volatility creates an ideal environment for even the most rudimentary algorithmic trading strategies. However, there is a lack of DIY automated trading bots that are available for use by amatuer cryptocurrency traders. With this in mind, Gimmer is looking to take advantage of this need.

According to the company’s website, “Gimmer offers easy-to-use advanced algorithmic trading bots that require no programming skills, no previous trading experience and no in-depth knowledge of cryptocurrencies.”  

Essentially, Gimmer is hoping to position itself as the leading DIY algorithmic trading bots for individual cryptocurrency traders. While the company may never be the “Quantopian” of the cryptocurrency space, Gimmer does provide a novel solution for amateur traders.  

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Token

The Gimmer token (GMR) will be implemented using the Ethereum ERC20. While GMR tokens will be visible in participants’ ERC20 wallet, the tokens will not be tradable until the close of the public sale on January 31, 2018. GMR tokens will issued starting from January 3, 2018. GMR holders generate value from the token as a form of payment for the rental cost of Gimmer’s trading bots. For users, the rental cost scales proportionately to the level of sophistication desired – more sophistication equals higher return (at least in theory).

According to the whitepaper, 45% of the funds raised will go towards development and operations, 35% towards marketing and acquisition, 15% towards the founders and team, with the remainder of the pot (5%) going to legal and compliance.

Gimmer Tokens are valued at 1 Ether (ETH) per 1,000 GMR (plus applicable bonuses). The total amount of tokens to be sold is capped at 100,000,000 GMR. However, an additional 6,000,000 GMR will be created for advisors, reserves, and the team, with another 4,000,000 GMR created for bounties.

The company has not yet stated its intention to list the GMR tokens on any major crypto exchanges.

Team

Gimmer’s core team consists of two senior developers, a global macro hedge fund manager, and a creative design veteran. As compared with the majority of ICOs, Gimmer’s team is in-line with the relative standard – the quality of team meets basic expectations.  

The company’s CEO, Philipe Comini, is a senior-level UX/UI designer who is also balancing two other jobs (according to LinkedIn) – typically, not a good sign. The company’s CTO, Persio Flexa, is also a senior developer who recently launched 2 other start-ups – again, not a good sign. The company’s COO, Paul Lindsell, is a creative design veteran with over 12 years experience that is seemingly committed to his role – not balancing multiple jobs. The company’s CIO, Masaichi Hasegawa, is currently a global macro hedge fund manager and an executive of a shoe manufacturing company – the third C-suite executive of Gimmer to balance two other jobs.

The rest of Gimmer’s team consists of a marketing director, a user experience director, two developers, a customer researcher, a commercial director, and a journalist.

Verdict

Gimmer presents a highly speculative buying opportunity for investors interested in short-term capital appreciation.

Creating profitable algorithmic trading strategies is incredibly difficult. Hedge funds typically employ a large staff of mathematicians, experienced machine learning engineers, data scientists, and the like – Wall Street refers to them as “quants.” Quants typically hold a PhD in finance or quantitative mathematics and have years of hands-on experience with both statistical analysis and engineering (Python and C++). Does Gimmer employ any quants? No, not even by the slightest measure.

Overall, Gimmer’s DIY algorithmic trading bots are likely just a novel tool-kit for amatuer cryptocurrency traders, nothing more, nothing less.

Risks

Gimmer provides no data on slippage modeling, meaning users have no idea of all the transaction costs that are associated with a higher frequency of trading (including: fees, commission, and slippage). These costs can be significant and add up quickly. -1

Gimmer’s core team does not seem to be dedicated (balancing multiple jobs) or qualified in any sense. With Gimmer’s team lacking any real trading platform experience, unforeseen issues with their algorithms may lead to sizable losses for users. -1.5

Gimmer provides no data on latency, meaning users do not know if the company’s algorithms are deployed to proximity-based execution servers in attempt to achieve low-latency performance no matter where the user is located. For all trading strategies, latency must be measured and managed in order to maximize the probability of success. -1

Growth Opportunity

Provided that Gimmer’s trading bots run successfully without any technical glitches, users could benefit from enhanced risk management protocols, thereby insuring their principal investment through more downside protection. +2

Copy trading techniques could benefit novice traders, as they can publicly see high level information such as start date, running period, currency pairs and percent gained. Based on the public information, users can copy seemingly successful trading strategies and rent the same bots. +3

Automated trading strategies will allow a larger pool of traders to invest in cryptocurrencies. Since the market is still subject to large, volatile price swings, more passive traders could use Gimmer’s platform to execute automated trades (based on pre-set parameters) without having to monitor the market on a day-to-day basis. +2.5

Disposition

While algorithmic trading in the cryptocurrency space is a smart strategy, Gimmer lacks the sophistication of even the most basic trading platforms. The biggest concern beyond Gimmer’s lack of sophistication, is the pedigree of the core team. With no quants on staff and a couple UI/UX designers creating the algorithms, technical issues are likely to occur. And with that in mind, faulty algorithms or platform glitches could easily lead to the loss of principal investment for users.

For amateur traders interested in novel tool to play around with, Gimmer is a great choice. For veteran traders with solid programming and statistical skills, move on to a better platform.

Against this backdrop, we believe that a score of 4.0 out of 10 is warranted.

Investment Details

  • Type: Crowdsale
  • Symbol: GMR
  • Pre-ICO Sale: November 24, 2017
  • Public Sale: January 3, 2018
  • Payments Accepted: ETH

Disclaimer: no position in Gimmer at the time of writing.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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ICO Analysis: Lendoit

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Lendoit is a next-generation peer to peer decentralized lending platform based on Ethereum, which connects lenders and borrowers all over the world using the advantages of smart contracts.

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The Lendoit platform provides professional scoring and verification, APIS for each country, a loan marketplace where lenders set rates on loan applications, a default market where failed loans can be traded, syndicated loans, and the ability to sell a loan to another lender if needed. Lendoit will be the only lending platform on the market that does not take collaterals. The company believes that, “in a world of crypto micro-loans, managing collaterals is not sensible.” In their view, this is “like lending USD by using EUR as collateral.”

Because there are no collaterals, the Lendoit platform combines four methods to mitigate the chances of lenders losing money: Smart Compensation Fund, Syndicated Loans, 3rd party scoring/verification from local companies, and a collectors market where debts can be sold.

The following is a simplified guide to Lendoit’s loan process.

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  1. The borrower applies for a loan by filling out an application. This takes about three minutes.
  2. The borrower uploads any relevant verification (i.e. government-issued photo ID) according to their particular country’s regulations.
  3. Lendoit sends the loan app and verified information to verified scoring providers to receive a score for the current loan.
  4. Lendoit will publish each smart loan contract in the blockchain and marketplace.
  5. Lenders Tender is a process of raising loans for funds requested by the borrower.
  6. The borrower can now withdraw the funds using his or her wallet.
  7. When the date to pay back the loan arrives, the borrower receives a notification.
  8. The borrower now repays the funds with interest to the smart contract.
  9. The lender withdraws his money in the same currency he loaned it.
  10. The lender receives interest in the form of LOAN tokens, the amount based on an automatic conversion algorithm put in place by the Smart Conversion Contract.
  11. The Smart Compensation Fund Contract helps lenders recover a small portion of their money, if the borrower fails to pay. The amount is not confirmed, but it seems like it will be around 20-30%.
  12. If the borrower fails to pay the interest and the loan becomes defaulted, the smart loan contract is offered to a collectors tender. The collector who wins the tender buys the debt, which minimizes the loss of funds for the lenders.

Lendoit has an alpha version of its platform available here. It is not very impressive yet. The real technology (smart contracts) has yet to be created.

They plan to release the beta in Q1 of 2018, and the fully operational version Q3 of 2018.

The Token

  • Symbol: LOAN
  • Platform: Ethereum
  • Presale: Dec. 13 – December 27, 2017 (125 million for sale. 1 ETH = 13,000 LOAN). Must register for whitelist in order to contribute.
  • Token sale: Jan. 18 – Feb. 18, 2018 (475 million for sale. sale starts at 1 ETH = 12,000 LOAN)
  • Total Supply: 1 billion
  • Hard Cap: 50,000 Eth (currently $22 million USD)

The LOAN token plays several roles. Here are a few of the most important:

  1. Lenders can use any ERC20 currency to loan, but must hold 10% of whatever amount they loan in LOAN tokens. For example, a lender wants to loan someone $1,000 ETH must hold $100 worth of LOAN in his account.
  2. Borrower must use LOAN to publish the Smart Loan Contract.
  3. All the fees charged on the platform are paid in LOANs.
  4. All the interest payments will be paid to the lenders in LOANs. This will take place automatically via the Smart Conversion Contract.

The Team

The company is located in Israel but incorporated in Gibraltar. The company maintains a large global team that extends far beyond its in-house operation. However, after researching the four co-founders of the company, nothing particularly striking stands out. One would have expected a more impressive track record for those launching a platform of this magnitude.

Seven advisers are signed on to the project, including Richard Titus and Michael Terpin. They also have eight developers, which is fantastic, as it shows they really are trying.

The team picture (above) leaves a lot to be desired, as it is not very professional.

The Verdict

This project has great long-term potential. Its biggest challenge is going to be whether or not it can successfully build the various forms of smart contracts it proposes to launch. There are no known smart contracts in existence that can do what Lendoit promises its contracts will be able to do.

Risks

  • The concept of not needing collateral to receive loans could be a disaster. Why would lenders want to use this platform when the possibility of getting stiffed is so high? They can just use one of Lendoit’s competitors to guarantee their returns. -2
  • The project faces legal hurdles galore. Sure, the plan is to be decentralized, which could reduce certain regulations, but the company is going to be verifying borrowers’ identities in great detail. I could see governments clamping down on projects such as this one if enough lenders start getting ripped off. -2
  • The technology required to run this platform does not exist yet. The demo/alpha provided as an example of is extremely basic. It’s a strong possibility the team fails, and this never gets off the ground.  -2

Growth Potential

  • The company has several partners, including Bloom, Hive, RSK, and Wings. I tried to dig deeper into these partnerships but didn’t find anything substantial. These seem to be decent projects, and LOAN can use each to grow.+2
  • Some of these other new lending ICOs have done pretty well so far on the markets. SALT token, for example, is extremely hyped. One of the main differences between SALT and LOAN is that SALT requires borrowers to put up collateral, while LOAN does not. One would think this would bring more borrowers to the platform +2
  • If they do what they claim to be able to do – build these genius smart contracts – they can change the lending game permanently. In this way, the sky is the limit. +4
  • The team has put a great deal of emphasis on development, as evidenced by the number of developers they have on board. +2

Disposition

As previously stated, the most important aspect of this project is the technology. Can they build these contracts? According to the roadmap, we won’t see the beta version for two or three months, and we won’t be able to judge if the contracts are fully functional for at least six months. This has long-term potential, but a rocky short-term.  Against this backdrop, we assign a score of 4 out of 10.

Token Details

Learn more/sign up for whitelist here.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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ICO Analysis: CanYa

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CanYa is offering a platform for the exchange of peer-to-peer services.

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Users can load their CanYa wallets with the ERC20 CanYaCoin token, in addition to several support fiat currencies.

Users will be able to instantly pay for services on a global and local level. The platform supports peer-to-peer services and relies on users to self-curate and verify new types of services and providers.

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Providers can earn CanYaCoins for their services, and can spend these coins within the app, or convert and send them to their Bitcoin or Ethereum wallet using CanYa’s network of zero-fee exchanges. Once users are verified, they can withdraw immediately to a fiat bank account without having to pay fees or transaction limits.

The CanYa platform also claims to help the best providers rise to the top and get more exposure and work.

**It’s important to note that the CanYa ICO cannot accept participation from US citizens unless you qualify as “accredited investors.”

The Team

CanYa was founded in 2015 with the goal of created a true peer-to-peer platform with no intermediary, based on meritocracy, and a seamless interface connecting the digital world with the real one.

The whitepaper claims the project moved from concept in 2015 to development in 2016 and then a successful soft-launch in 2017 in a small Australian market.

There are currently 3,400 provider listings with roughly 7,600 user engaging on the platform, with monthly growth in double digits.

Based in Australia, the founding team includes Rowan Willson, Christopher McLoughlin, JP Thor, Jet Yap, and a handful of other promising team members and advisors. Their work thus far is promising, although I do naturally have my hesitations about tackling a project of this scope and creating significant traction out of Australia.

Tokens and Distribution

CanYa is aiming to raise 29,333 ETH by offering 34,000,000 CanYaCoins for public sale.

These funds are being used to integrate the cryptocurrency payment layer, provide liquidity for the hedged escrow contract, expand features and “undertake an aggressive global launch with marketing, translations and infrastructure.”

There will be around 100,000,000 tokens in circulation, with a hard cap of 60,000,000 CanYaCoins for sale. A total of 26,000,000 CanYaCoins are going to be sold privately to “strategic investors who bring long-term value to the project”. These private investors incur vesting schedules from three months to 12 months. A total of 34,000,000 CanYaCoins will be sold during the public sale that started in November.

The token offering will only accept ECH.

Risks

  • Onboarding new crypto-enabled merchants poses a substantial bottleneck. Freelancers and workers-for-hire flock to where the money is, and if CanYa has any shortage of jobs available, they will stick to traditional methods. Onboarding new crypto-enabled merchants will require substantial marketing work and is hindered by the learning curve that comes with acquiring and spending cryptocurrencies. -2
  • Competitors in the digital service industry could pose a substantial threat to user acquisition. While CanYa poses a huge benefit of much lower transaction fees, platforms such as UpWork and Fiverr have already dumped a ton of resources and money to grow, and it might be difficult to catch up without an extensive marketing plan. -3

Growth Potential

  • Peer-to-peer networks at scale have always been burdened with some sort of third-party making a commission off the transaction, and this is a very applicable use of smart contracts to replace those intermediaries. The intermediary commissions (from the platforms to the payment services) add up to the tune of billions globally. +3
  • CanYa resonates with its ideal user base. This project also happens to target the same userbase that is perhaps the most crypto-savvy segment of the world: Internet entrepreneurs. This seems like an easy target to launch an active user-base. +2
  • The value add the CanYa platform offers over other services such as UpWork is pretty attractive. UpWork, for example, charges freelancers 20% of their total contract price up to $500 and then 10% up to $10,000. A freelancer seeing the option to work on a similar platform and essentially make 20% more money is an easy sell. +3
  • The platform is incredibly detailed and well-thought out in the whitepaper. This is one of the few ICO products I can actually see myself using on a daily basis, provided the CanYa team is able to attract a significant amount of users on both ends. +2
  • The CanYa team shows a willingness to stick with the project long-term, and even champions the cause with a “CanYa HODL club” by rewarding holders of more than 5000 CAN tokens at the ICO with perks of being in the HODL club. +2

Disposition

As someone that has done freelance work and hired multiple freelancers for various projects, I can appreciate a project like CanYa. I also think it’s cool how the CanYa platform also works for real-life services.

We arrive at a score of 7 out of 10 for the CanYa ICO.

Overall, the whitepaper and marketing materials for CanYa are very thorough and easy to go through, showing a much appreciated effort by the CanYa team to make their ICO easier to understand and palatable for average investors.

Investment Details

You can find more details about the CanYa ICO here.

**It’s important to note that the CanYa ICO cannot accept participation from US citizens unless you qualify as “accredited investors.”

You can find the ICO whitepaper here. The sale opened Nov. 26, 2017 and will run through Dec. 26. 

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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