This year has been the year of the ICO and whilst these have brought a breath of fresh air into the marketplace of funding startups and other ventures, the speed at which ICOs have gathered momentum has raised some eyebrows and some questions about just how ‘clean’ this new Fintech mechanism is.
There are two sides to the ICO debate: one the one hand it is positive for the innovators who can raise funds through fairly simple token sales and reach a global market. The popularity is clear for all to see, because the funds raised by ICOs grew from $200 million in 2016 to $2 billion in 2017.
On the negative side, there are those who are concerned about the lack of regulatory controls over these ICOs. That is one reason the mainstream financial authorities are reluctant to accept them as a legitimate method of capitalisation. Add some shady ICOs into the mix and their concerns are understandable.
There are some other issues around ICOs that need to be resolved as well and these involve the technology, which is still in its infancy. Some argue that there are insufficient reporting standards, no exchange regulation and little or no regulation in a number of countries. The result is a clash of standards when those entities using conventional financial systems start adopting the blockchain.
Resolving ICO problems
How can these issues be resolved? There are several ways to solve the transparency problem. One is to define standards of reporting for companies using ICOs and it easy for participants to view the internal workings of the ICO via the exchange interface. This will provide investors with more detailed information about the company behind the ICO.
Second, more due diligence by investors is needed. There needs to be a proper assessment of the proposed business models to ensure they are viable. Investors should also be provided with more information about the company’s legal status.
Greater understanding of the financial markets will also help. It is widely agreed that most financial instruments will migrate to the blockchain in the not too distant future and preference should be given to projects that are using time-tested instruments and are understood by conventional investors, over experimental utility token economy models.
A clean up of the ICO marketplace is needed, because they are not going to disappear. Governments may try to ban or restrict them, but decentralisation is the way forward and rather than ignore ICOs and pretend they are some kind of digital bubble, what is required is a “clean investment system.”
However, this cannot come from central authorities, because that would betray the whole basis of the blockchain, which is decentralisation. What is required is that the companies and investors involved in the ICO market “embrace systems that will promote credibility within the ecosystem,” as CoinTelegraph suggests. Transparency and openness from the company side, and more in-depth research by investors will greatly contribute to a more legitimate and trustworthy ICO marketplace.