Is the crypto community just smoke and mirros?

You’ve probably noticed that ‘community’ is a buzzword in the crypto sphere. There isn’t an ICO that doesn’t refer to building its ‘community’, which is really another way of talking about their investors, because that is what they are. But ‘community’ sounds warm, fuzzy and friendly when compared with the ‘investor’, which instead suggests neutrality, detachment and anonymity.

Why crypto geeks chose ‘community’

In the traditional world of business it is very important to build loyalty among clients and customers; that’s one of the functions of great branding, but the crypto startups focused on the concept of ‘community’ at the start, in my opinion because they were operating on the fringes and therefore wanted to use a word that suggested a coming together of like-minded people, as well as a sense of equality between those who developed the crypto projects and those who basically crowdfunded them.

In the early days of crypto, this rather ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ approach served a good purpose; it strengthened belief in a new technology by making everyone feel they had skin in the game, even if an individual’s financial commitment to a new project was $100, let’s say. However, as the ICO took off and every project wanted to build followers who would buy into it, what had been a collection of believers turned into, as Michael K. Spencer writes in his article for Medium, “communities more prone to pump and dump” who were never really loyal followers.

Now crypto projects need to get real

Spencer’s argument is, and I agree with him, is that the so-called ‘communities’ built up by ICOs on Telegram and elsewhere are not as useful to projects as they were once thought to be. The reason for this is that the crypto world has moved on significantly since the launch of bitcoin. Crypto projects now need real clients and products with a real world use.

Communities show no loyalty

In short, a project’s community that has come together just for the Airdrop, or whatever freebies a project wants to hand out, is rarely loyal. These marketing tools may build numbers of followers on social media quite rapidly and make a project look as if it has broad support, but most of those people are just there for the giveaways and once they have them, they’ll be off.

Spencer says, “Crypto saying that its community is its best resource, is like Facebook saying it’s valuable because it has over 2 billion users.” Building community is not where crypto projects should be focusing; they should focus more on real world applications, demonstrate utility and by doing so attract loyal clients and investors.

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.