How to hold an ICO in 2019

Once upon a time, people holding ICOs didn’t give too much thought to regulations, because there weren’t really any to follow, but in 2018 and beyond, they need to keep rules and regulations at the front of their minds.

ICOs started in 2013 with Mastercoin, swiftly followed by the Ethereum ICO promising smart contracts and the ERC20 token standard, both of which encouraged investors. Things were fine it seemed until 2016 and the DAO ICO, which raised $50 million, but then had its funds hacked. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that DAO should have been considered a security and it wasn’t long after that that China banned ICOs, calling them illegal. However, what happened in China wasn’t followed elsewhere and ICOs continued to flourish, reaching their zenith in January 2018.

However, as 2018 passed by, we saw ICOs decrease, and a more regulated environment is one of the most likely reasons for that. We also saw a shift to a different type of ICO investor. Whereas in previous years, ICOs appealed to the man or woman in the street who would take a punt on a new project, this group dropped away and the institutional investors started to take their place. Old venture capital also made way for new crypto and blockchain-related VC firms that were focused on projects using the emerging technology. One report by

Autonomous Next indicates that VC funds invested $1.6 billion in blockchain projects in August 2018 alone. Meanwhile, funds raised by ICOs has been falling throughout 2018 and in Q3 the number of ICOs raising over $1 million had halved compared with the end of Q2.

Where is the best place to hold an ICO?

Places where there are clear guidelines for ICOs and favourable regulations are obviously the ones to choose if you’re planning a new coin offering. The two most important things to consider first are:

1. How can we safely conduct an ICO?

2. Can the project operate legally after the ICO and will licences etc be needed?

Europe is one of the regions most favourable to ICOs as it isn’t rushing to impose regulations. As long as projects follow KYC and AML rules –until some other rules come along –these are the most important regulations in Europe. Switzerland is one of the more friendly environments in Europe and in February 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, FINMA,issued a set of guidelines for ICO projects, which stated, “Each case should be decided on its individual merits.” Gibraltar is also high on the list and the UK has not really made a decision about firm ICO regulations yet, and looks at ICOs on a case by case basis.

To put it in a nutshell: if you’re planning an ICO, look for a favourable jurisdiction, make sure you comply with its regulations plus KYC and AML, and if you need a special licence because you’re in the fintech space, make sure you put yourself in a good position to get one.

Have ICOs reached the end of the road?

In 2017, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) was probably one of the biggest buzzwords in the fintech and other blockchain-based sectors. There were ICO calendars, journalists tracked how various ICOs were doing and reported on the final amount raised, looking for the ICO that would break all ICO records. However, the negative reaction of media giants like Facebook and Google to the ICO sphere had the effect of making it more difficult for those fledgling businesses holding ICOs to market their offering, and ultimately could be said to be responsible for dampening enthusiasm for this new form of crowdfunding.

Then 2018 brought with it a change in wind direction: the cryptocurrency market started to behave in a way that disappointed the small investor. Institutional investors were still apparently wary of the entire ecosystem, regulatory bodies debated how to handle it, and on top of that, the word ‘ICO’ became almost toxic thanks to the social media rulings on promoting them. Instead, people started to look for ways around it, calling them ‘token sales’ and talking about ‘digital assets’ rather than cryptocurrency. And, lets be honest, the glamour and excitement associated with ICOs in 2017 was beginning to wear a bit thin.

This is not something I made up: data from Crunchbase published this summer and in the Q3 of 2018 shows that there has been a massive decline in ICO fundraising. A report from ICORATING reveals, “a total of just over $1.8 billion was raised by a total of 597 ICO projects in Q3 2018, down significantly from the over $8.3 billion that was raised in Q2 2018.”

America’s SEC is also responsible for some of the problems faced by ICOs; its scrutiny has made the country a cold place for the blockchain-based startups. And America isn’t the only jurisdiction presenting barriers for the sector.

ICOs aren’t dead; they’re being reborn

The fact that ICOs seem to be declining in terms of the funds raised this year doesn’t mean that funding is not coming in for new blockchain businesses. Instead, what is happening is that the environment is simply changing: ICOs may no longer be the fashion, but there is an increase in crypto funds coming from venture capital sources. What we are going to see are better funding solutions in a different format.

The point I really want to make is this: just because there is a decline in ICO activity, don’t take this as a sign that cryptocurrencies, tokens and blockchain technology have also had their day. This is a new market where various roles and functions are constantly evolving, and there’s nothing surprising about that as history shows us.

What game is Facebook playing?

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I can tell from a quick review of the main crypto press outlets online this morning that I’m not the only one puzzled by Facebook’s decision to reverse its crypto advertising ban. Why now and what is Facebook up to with this latest announcement? It seems like progress, even though advertising ICOs or binary options is still prohibited.

The Facebook crypto ban confusion

Going back to January 30th when Facebook announced its ban, because of “misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” we were somewhat confused then. On the one hand, Facebook had imposed a blanket ban on any cryptocurrency and/or ICO advertising, yet Mark Zuckerberg made public statements pointing to his personal interest in them. He said: “There are important counter-trends to this — like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands […] I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.” I think the key element of what he said then is “how best to use them in our services,” suggesting to many onlookers in the crypto community that Facebook’s ad ban wasn’t quite so much “for the greater good’ as for “the good of Facebook.”

And now we’ve been taken by surprise with this latest announcement. (No doubt, Twitter and Google will follow, since they followed the FB ban.) It may have a positive effect on the crypto markets, which have been taking a battering for several months now and who can forget that Bitcoin’s price took a hit right after Facebook announced the ad ban. That’s one possible positive that might come out of this — at least it will be good for cryptocurrency owners.

Crypto ban lifted — just a little

So now we are in a situation where cryptocurrencies can be advertised again on Facebook, but not ICOs. And before we all jump for joy, look at what Facebook also says in its on-site statement — only pre-approved advertisers will be ‘admitted’.

Facebook says: “Advertisers wanting to run ads for cryptocurrency products and services must submit an application to help us assess their eligibility — including any licenses they have obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange, and other relevant public background on their business.”

Facebook is still in control

Therefore, Facebook still has all the control. And it hasn’t explained why it has made this U-turn on crypto advertising. Consequently, theories about what the media giant is really up to are sprouting like daisies. Carlos Grenoir, CEO of Olyseum suggests Facebook’s ad ban reversal could be selfishly motivated: “The reasons for Facebook reversing its decision to ban crypto ads are not clear, but the motivation could have something to do with its own strategy regarding the evolving crypto space.”

Others, like WhalePanda, a respected voice in the crypto markets, believe it has more to do with Facebook losing advertising revenue. Cointelegraph, a company that suffered the effects of the ban reports, “The posts which have been put forward for review by Cointelegraph have become stuck, and are not being confirmed, nor denied by Facebook, during the ban as well as after the ban was ‘reversed.’” Basically, it is still a confusing space for advertisers who want to boost posts.

We don’t know what Facebook’s vetting process and while it looks like a positive move from the crypto community perspective, Facebook needs to come clean about what exactly they are doing, because for the moment it looks like it is playing a game, and one that it hopes to win by any means.

Is Trilliant offering a new form of ICO?

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In a move to serve the growing consumer demand for cryptocurrency tokens, tech business Trilliant is launching 500 ‘next generation’ ATMs in Europe, which should be fully operational by the beginning of 2019. Trilliant is a Swiss-based company that started out as Crypto Capital AG, but now focuses on ATM operations, having moved away from being an investment platform.

Currently ATMs don’t have the facility to purchase cryptocurrencies using fiat currencies, but the new ATMs rectify that situation. Surely, this represents a leap forward for cryptocurrency, especially with regard to mainstream adoption.

What Trilliant is offering is a way to promote stability in the marketplace. Its goal is to have at least 500 ATMs operational by 2019 — a goal that doesn’t seem overly ambitious considering that the next generation ATMs offer more value to cryptocurrency investors than the 2,700 cryptocurrency ATMs currently in-place across the globe.

Founder and CEO, Sebastian Korbach said: “In the long run, we want our machines visible on every corner, creating greater awareness for cryptocurrencies in general.”

It is also offering investors the opportunity to purchase Fractional Ownership Units. These units cost upwards of $100 and will be sold on the Trilliant website. Essentially it means that investors will be able to purchase partial ownership of Trilliant’s operating cryptocurrency ATMs.

Is this a new type of ICO?

This is different to an ICO, the fundraising platform that is more typical for blockchain and crypto projects. A Fractional Ownership Unit is similar to a profit sharing agreement, which means investors stand to benefit from Trilliant’s profits. However, it is still holding a token sale and has a whitepaper — so isn’t it an ICO in another disguise?

This raises some interesting questions about the ICO landscape in the future. Is the basic model that emerged in 2017 simply that — a basic model? Will we see the ICO develop different formats, such as this Fractional Ownership concept. Fractional Ownership is by no means a new thing and it isn’t just connected to the cryptocurrency ecosystem — you can have fractional ownership of vineyards, racehorses and supercars. What other formats are likely to emerge and how will this test the strength of the regulatory frameworks for crypto ecosystems and token sales?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with ICOs — there is undoubtedly much more to come in terms of this fundraising tool.