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Op-Ed

Who Killed The ICO?

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For all the hype and chatter we listened to going back to last year, initial coin offerings have suddenly gone dead.  The entire month of January 2018 raised only $52 million according to ICOWatchlist.com.  In the halcyon days this was the rate of  inflow every three days (it’s important to note that crowdfunding amounts vary, but there seems to be a general downtrend in the market from the data we were able to collect). What happened and what does it mean?  First, let’s take a look at some numbers that may bore you but help illustrate the point.

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Last year produced just under $4 billion in fresh capital to fund startups. According to ICOWatchList, $1.8 billion was raised in the five months ending in October.  About 78% of the ICOs used the Ethereum platform.  This explosion helps us understand some of the energy that pushed Ethereum into the forefront of the cryptocurrency sweepstakes.  Between Halloween and mid January the price of Ether quadrupled in value hitting $1338 (Coinbase).

Investors suddenly viewed Ethereum as the poster child for ICOs.  Obviously the open source nature of its blockchain platform along with its smart contracts feature offered a natural fit for startups looking to raise capital.

The reality, of course, is the use cases for Ethereum go vastly beyond facilitating ICOs but for an investing public getting started on crypto investing, it didn’t matter.  When outsized returns are being achieved, who needs to understand the details.

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ICOs Get a Bad Rap

In recent weeks a lot of bad press has been earned by certain bad actors in the ICO space.  Much has been written about the cryptocurrency startup Confido. Someone posing by the name Joost Van Doorn raises and then vanishes with about $375,000 sometime just after November 15th.   Trouble was Joost also deleted the Confido website and his presence on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Subsequently, Mr. Van Doorn resurfaced and is working to make financial amends but the media has yet to say much about this side of the story.

Some analysts of ICOs claim the incident of scamming with ICOs runs a high as 20%.  It is difficult to verify how these numbers are derived.  These and related ICO stories can not be helping instill investor confidence.  

Regulation of ICOs Would Be a Mistake

There is an argument suggesting that in order to improve the ICO marketplace, it should be regulated presumably by some authority such as the US Securities & Exchange Commission for example.

Here is why that won’t work.  The presence of ICOs have their origins in crowdfunding, that being the outgrowth of The Jobs Act passed during post financial crisis by the Obama Administration.  The whole purpose was to create pathways for unregulated capital raising by young companies.  To date ICOs have evolved into the most efficient way to accomplish the goals of The Jobs Act.  

One of the most compelling arguments in favor of ICOs is their ability to circumvent the jaws of venture capitalists.  In a typical arrangement for a young company to raise money a VC might demand a 50% equity stake and a lengthy 5-7 year lock up in exchange for providing just the first few million in capital.  By the end of the lock up, the company may have many more millions in capital but the founders are left with just a sliver of equity.

Last year three companies: Tazos, Filecoin and Finney went the ICO route raising a total of nearly $600 million without giving up equity.  This represents democracy in the capital market and that is a good thing.

Misconception About Size of Offerings

One of the biggest misconceptions about ICOs relates to the perception that they are all  tiny little startup companies that have little more than a whitepaper and a wish for fast cash. Reality is there were thousands of ICOs that were attempted last year but few went very far.

ICO Watchlist data covers about half of all capital raised last year: about $2.3 billion. The average ICO raised nearly $40 million and that is required some greater substance that a whitepaper and a wish.  Granted that the data is bias toward larger sized offerings but that does not reduce the importance that ICOs are playing in the capital formation process.   

Institutional Investment Opportunity

Rather than tighter regulation of ICO, there should be tighter research on the buy side.  For the individual investor this could present a problem.  How much research can one person do if 20 or more ICO come to market in a short period like a single month.  This is where Venture Capital and hedge funds with their well staffed analytical departments have the edge: 2018 could be the year it happens.  

Here is the key point for institutions everywhere.  Global stock markets are clearly overvalued based on interest rates.  The shaken US market is confirming this fact.  This raises the question of relative risk.  Is there greater risk in global equity markets than in cryptocurrencies?  The answer appears to be yes and that will increasingly favor cryptocurrencies.  

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames 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.




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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. scottolson

    February 11, 2018 at 3:52 am

    I disagree that’s disinformation on earth, The total amount of the 2018’s ICO that presented on the icowatchlist.com you have mentioned doesn’t show the real numbers, take a glance on how many ICO they has listed on their site, what? only 3 for 2018, buut Apart those ICO’S on the site I has passed at least thro 10 ICO with 20 000 000 $ or even more fund raised, so why do you misinform us about the real digits? There are too much ICO has ended in less than 10 minuts with 10 mill market cap or more(about 120 I could recall)….

    • Sam Bourgi

      February 11, 2018 at 5:38 am

      Hey Scott, I recently wrote an article showing over $1 billion was raised in January based on figures generated by ICOData.io. I double checked the ICO Watchlist numbers and they were as James mentioned. I figure there’s a lot of discrepancy in how the numbers are reported. I still think James provides some unique insights into the direction of the market.

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Op-Ed

Is Manipulation Behind Bitcoin Cash’s Absurd Rally?

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Although you wouldn’t know it by today’s prices, bitcoin cash (BCH) has topped the crypto market leader board this month. The digital currency more than doubled over the span of 18 days, and in doing so far outpaced the broader market. But a closer examination of the value drivers suggest manipulation could be partly responsible for the rally.

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As a reminder, the author has no vested interest in smearing BCH as I believe it to be one of the more advantageous coins on the market today. That said, the circumstances surrounding the most recent rally are peculiar to say the least.

What’s Up with Bitcoin.com?

A Hacked user informed me earlier this week that Bitcoin.com has been using the “BCH” ticker next to the word “bitcoin”. Normally, the ticker “BTC” is reserved for bitcoin, which is the original blockchain we all know about. Instead, the website quotes “BTC” next to the term “bitcoin core”.

In other words, BCH is quoted next to bitcoin and BTC is referred to as bitcoin core. See here for yourself:

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For most readers of Hacked, the distinction is easily discernible, but for new traders the difference isn’t easily gauged.

The first question I have is, how many people bought bitcoin (BCH) thinking they were receiving actual bitcoin (BTC)?

Bitcoin.com describes itself as the “premier source for everything bitcoin.” Although the website doesn’t appear to offer a full-fledged trading platform, users can purchase bitcoin and bitcoin cash using the following link.

It is unclear how long the website has been referring to BCH as bitcoin. For those of us who’ve been following the market for some time, the way BTC and BCH are quoted is certainly strange.

Antpool

A large cryptocurrency mining group by the name of Antpool has also been accused of pumping BCH in recent weeks. The pool announced about six days ago that it is responsible for confirming more than 8% of all bitcoin cash transactions. In addition to confirming those, Antpool is also said to be burning BCH on a daily basis in order to reduce supply and boost prices.

Of course, crypto pumps do not require such elaborate setups to achieve their goals. Pump-and-dumps can be orchestrated rather easily through a chat group on social media. But Antpool does have a large and privileged position in the BCH ecosystem, which has raised suspicion over its recent actions.

Bitcoin Cash is Overbought, According to Tom Lee

Fundstrat’s Tom Lee recently weighed in on the bitcoin cash phenomenon, concluding that the cryptocurrency was overbought. In his view, investors should stick with bitcoin if they had a choice between Core and Cash.

In a segment on CNBC’s Fast Money, Lee said:

“I prefer not to pick winners and losers when we’re looking at cryptocurrencies like bitcoin/bitcoin Cash… Both have merits but if I was putting new money to work today… I would be a lot more interested in buying a lagger that could attract inflows rather than something that’s potentially overbought.”

Bitcoin cash added around $1,000 to its value between Apr. 6 and 23, with prices peaking near $1,600. The cryptocurrency corrected sharply lower on Wednesday and was still declining as of Thursday’s early-morning session. At the time of writing, BCH/USD was down 4.6% at $1,268.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 417 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Decentralization

JP Morgan’s Surprise Cryptocurrency Fees are a Reminder of Why Decentralization Is Sorely Needed

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JP Morgan Chase & Co has been hit with a class-action lawsuit by cryptocurrency traders over allegations of unannounced fees and higher interest rates on purchases of digital currencies. Though the allegations have not been proven, extra fees are a tactic routinely employed by traditional banking institutions. In the case of JP Morgan, this has karma written all over it given the way its chief executive has ridiculed digital assets by associating them with fraud.

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Class Action Lawsuit

Traders from across the United States are seeking statutory damages of $1 million for unannounced interest charges and fees on cryptocurrency transactions between January and February of this year. The named plaintiff in the lawsuit is Brady Tucker, an Idaho resident who paid a total of $163.91 in fees and surprise interest charges over a six-day stretch.

According to information obtained by Reuters, the lawsuit accuses the bank of violating the U.S. Truth in Lending Act, a piece of legislation that requires credit card issuers to inform customers in writing of any notable change in fees.

The lawsuit asserts that Tucker tried to resolve the dispute by calling Chase’s customer support service directly. His request was turned down, prompting him to seek legal help. According to Bloomberg, the case in question is Tucker v. Chase Bank USA NA, 18-cv-3155, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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The Growing Case for Decentralization

Depending on who you ask, the allegations against JP Morgan are akin to cryptocurrency fraud not unlike the kind Jamie Dimon talked about while ridiculing bitcoin. But the irony in Dimon’s comments extend far beyond Chase’s latest dealings.

As the actions of Chase bank and other financial institutions have clearly demonstrated over the years, those who control the size and growth rate of fiat money cannot be trusted to do the right thing. As Nassim Taleb argues in The Black Swan, banks have a tendency of losing as much money as they make in the long run due to shady business practices and high-risk ventures. Decisions like these are easy when you are Too Big to Fail.

Decentralization, like the kind advocated by blockchain startups and cryptocurrencies, allows users to trade directly with each other without having to go through a (predatory) middleman. Decentralized systems not only help participants avoid unnecessary fees, red tape and other forms of unwanted intervention, they are virtually impossible to shut down. In this vein, decentralized currencies give people a fighting chance in their battle against never-ending inflation. As we’ve argued before, this is not only a prudent fight, but a noble one as well.

Cryptocurrencies that rely on decentralization offer society a unique value proposition unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. What’s more, their adoption is not contingent upon us leaving the realm of traditional finance – at least, not yet. That’s because cryptocurrency started off as an obscure and esoteric asset class but has since become a value store for investors. Tomorrow, it will become a viable medium of exchange accepted worldwide.

That said, we are still in the very early days of the crypto revolution and it may be a while still before we can conclusively prove people like Dimon wrong. But crypto backers and investors should take comfort in knowing that big banks rarely lead in disruption these days. They have the resources to play catch-up, which they are clearly doing with blockchain.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 417 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he specializes in cryptocurrency, economics and the broader financial markets. Sam has nearly eight years of progressive experience as an analyst, writer and financial market commentator where he has contributed to the world's foremost newscasts.




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Altcoins

Will Dash Be the Bitcoin Killer?

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Well, it has finally happened.  We’ve gone a full week with crypto prices showing positive returns.  OMG, what a big surprise; ether is leading the pack, advancing nearly 15% at the time of this writing.  This is encouraging because it shows that perhaps finally value investors are stepping in and helping set a pricing bottom.  

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It hasn’t hurt a bit that stock and bond market investors have become seasick from all the volatility.  Suddenly, a tiny little weekly Litecoin move of +0.46% or even a 2.47% bitcoin cash gain, looks like pure serenity.  

 

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For a while now our focus has been on relative value and there is very little argument that, after the first quarter price collapse, a whole lot of risk has been taken out of bitcoin, ether, Ripple and thousands of others.

The question is where to go and what to go with from here.  The big crypto names are the safe way to go in the short run, but each has become mired in network limitations on scaling and the concomitant cost issues.  

Yes, transaction fees have dropped like a stone from their prohibitively high levels of December but then transaction volumes have fallen by half and more.  That is not the stuff an investor wants to see.

Both bitcoin and Ethereum hope to solve scaling issues with the Lightning Network and Raiden. But for now, if transaction volume were to suddenly rise, the same network limitations would be there.  So even though the big crypto names offer the safest short term options, does that mean we shouldn’t look further out to find value?

Will Dash Solve Bitcoin’s Problem?

Dash emerged last year as one of the most popular and most valuable altcoins. At the time it was considered a real competitor to bitcoin and the leading cryptocurrency of the future. The price of Dash increased from $11 to over $1,430. Dash had a capitalization of over $11 billion at its December peak. Since then it has tumbled more than 80%.  Is now the time to move into Dash? The timing could be very good but before making that decision, we should consider a few things.

Judgement Time

If a jury of its peers were to grade Dash on its performance in 2017, the majority would say it lived up to its billing.  Using Dash, users could send money instantly using the InstaSend feature that allowed for complete anonymity. At the peak, transaction costs were around $0.60, which were dwarfed by bitcoin’s high of $30. 

Since then, Dash fees have fallen to about $0.20, making them attractive for small sized transactions. All alone this represents a compelling feature of Dash.  Add to that the immediacy of InstaSend and you have the makings of a genuine challenge to Bitcoin.

Caveat Emptor

In appraising Dash’s performance it is useful to look at Metcalfe’s Law, which values social media assets based on a formula of network size.  For Dash, it’s network is processing a tiny fraction of bitcoin’s. The limitations of its network have very likely not yet been tested, so proclaiming Dash the speed king is a bit early. There is still a larger issue to consider.

In the case of Metcalfe’s Law we need to include merchants and other service providers that accept Dash as payment.  That is the big hump for them to overcome before overturning bitcoin. So far, after all, bitcoin is accepted by only about 10,000 or so merchants.  

Further progress by bitcoin is stymied by transaction costs that remain far too high.  Even so look at how many years it has taken bitcoin to attract merchants. Dash faces the same hurdles.

In other words, the trick for Dash is the find a way to gain mass acceptance quickly. That is when the huge $11 billion valuation of last December will begin to be justified. Look over your shoulder bitcoin – faster, lower cost competition is looking to eat your lunch. Dash could be one of those.

 Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames 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.




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