Will IEOs become the next big trend?

While it is true that ICOs are not quite yet dead, they enjoy far less hype than they did in 2017. And as interest in initial coin offerings wanes, a new player has arrived on the scene in the form of the Initial Exchange Offering (IEO). What is this beast, you may ask, and how does it work?

The Fetch.AI project is an IEO that has received a lot of media attention, not least because it raised $6 million in 22 seconds. The fundraiser was held on the Binance exchange. BitTorrent also raised $7.2 million in 18 minutes via an IEO. These heady figures are bound to draw the attention of those who feel the air has almost completely leaked out of the ICO balloon.

An alternative to the ICO

However, the need to raise money for blockchain-related projects remains. Which is where the IEO comes in — as an alternative to both the ICO and private placement. With the latter, the project raises funds via a private investor, rather than going to the public with tokens. The downside of choosing private placement is that there needs to be a very high level of interest in the project by investors with very deep pockets, such as those who funded Telegram to the tune of $850 million.

How does an IEO work?

An IEO is “an agreement with an exchange on an initial placement via the exchange,” writes Maria Stankovich on Medium. It is possible to simplify this explanation even further and say it is a token sale held on an exchange, which acts as an intermediary. And that is one key difference between the IEO and the ICO.

The exchange, it could be Binance or one of the others, assesses the project from a technical perspective to ensure it is legitimate, and they look at how attractive they believe the project will be to the exchange’s clients and a wider audience as well. If they are satisfied with the quality of the project, they make an announcement about the token sale on the exchange.

The upside for token buyers is that unlike with an ICO, they don’t need to send funds to purchase tokens via a smart contract; they can buy them directly from their personal account on the exchange.

The benefits of an IEO

There is a big benefit here for the project needing to raise funds, in that an exchange has a ready-made base of potential investors. It also means that the token is listed on an exchange — something that many ICOs have struggled with, despite promises to their followers. And the investors feel a higher level of trust, because the sale is taking place via the exchange that they already have confidence in. They also don’t need to go through more KYC, exchange fiat for crypto etc etc. It’s easier for everyone.

And of course the exchange benefits, or they wouldn’t do it. They potentially get a whole bunch of new customers who want to buy tokens. And these token buyers may stay to become long-term users of the exchange.

At the moment, only a handful of exchanges are offering IEOs. These include Binance, EXMO, GBE, Bittrex and Huobi. The Gibraltar Blockchain Exchangeis another leader in IEOs, and has conducted seven of them so far, using its GBX Grid — Token Launch Centre tool.

It is early days for IEOs, but the way forward seems promising: after all, unlike with an ICO, any proposed project will go through a more rigorous analysis before the sale begins, and that should boost investor confidence in the mechanism and the project.

3 predictions for the digital financial future

The financial industry is going through a sea change. So many aspects of it are under scrutiny: from debates over cashless societies, to universal basic income, and the implications of digital currencies. Money has always been a hot topic, but it has become even hotter.

Blockchain changed the conversation

The advent of blockchain technology is in part a reason for this sudden increase in interest. As Lauren deLisa Coleman writes for Forbes, we are seeing financial giants like JP Morgan enter the digital currency space, alongside Facebook and IBM. And she points out, “But amidst such vast activity around digital currency overall, there is a specific and growing interest toward trend shifts pertaining particularly to token exchanges.

Talking about Token Exchanges

Coleman reports on the discussions at a New York event: Token Exchanges: The promise of liquidity, compliance and stability, where lawyers comprised the majority of the audience. Joel Telpner, partner and Chair Fintech & Blockchain Practice at Sullivan & Worcester LLP, addressed the issue of turbulence in the digital currency space: “We’re all collectively paying the price at the moment, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is not a bad thing. Most all new forms of technology have experienced a high level of unreasonable exuberance in the early days and after that period, business becomes much more stable.”

A more mature environment

Interestingly, he also suggested that now is the time to create a new ecosystem with new players: “”We’re at the end of the beginning,” he remarked. “This is about moving from the wild, wild, west to a more mature level of the digital currency space and tokens. Those that remain have to work hard and understand that success will come from fundamental principles in business and governance, and it will certainly pay off.”

3 key things to watch out for

He then identified what he believed are the three key regulatory areas to watch this year that could be game changers:

1. He believes the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will make a statement about the status of digital currencies and tokens — which are tokens and which are not.

2. The CFTC (Commodity Future Trading Commission) will become more involved in the token space given that this collective regulates commodities.

3. Stablecoins will come under a regulatory spotlight and decisions will be made about how to regulate this particular type of digital currency.

The event also revealed that a consensus of opinion indicates the issue of custodianship will come under focus this year as well. In addition, there will also be an eye to how trade is conducted in this space and how securities are managed securities once they are issued.

But, one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry is which jurisdiction will establish itself as a leader in the space: Telpner’s response to this was: “”But this approach was wrong in 2017, 2018 and still wrong to think like this in 2019, because all countries are working hard to regulate this space. Stop chasing jurisdiction.”

JP Morgan surprises us with a stablecoin

When JP Morgan announced the launch of its very own stablecoin, the industry was somewhat shocked. Was this not the big bank that loathed cryptocurrencies? The move got people excited, both in traditional banking and in the crypto community. But is the JPM Coin really as big a deal as everyone seems to think it is.

Naturally, the industry pricks up its ears when JP Morgan speaks, and any of its previous explorations of the blockchain have produced similar interest. As Ben Jessel, head of enterprise blockchain at Kadena remarks, “In the last few weeks, blockchain innovation managers’ phones across Wall Street investment banks have been ringing with executives inquiring about JP Morgan’s stablecoin and how they should be responding.”

That’s because enterprise blockchain technology has been the way that big companies have sought to harness blockchain technology to meet their needs as large organisations. JP Morgan’s move has made others question what to do next — is this the time to jump in and be first in the fast-follower line?

Initially, the JPM Coin seems exciting, because it suggests that Wall Street is beginning to “blur the lines between institutional banking and the brave new world of cryptocurrency,” as Jessel suggests. But the reality is not so simple.

Faster, cheaper settlements

JP Morgan’s stablecoin seeks to solve two problems in financial markets today: the expensive and inefficient process of settlement and the volatility involved in holding money in cryptocurrency. Settlement is expensive for banks for a number of reasons: first, payments are rarely made in real-time, which means that in many cases funds that should be paid are not actually made available until the end of the day. For the banks, this means billions of dollars can be tied up and can’t be used.

Blockchain speeds the process up, making the process less expensive for banks and reducing the liquidity trap, i.e. funds being tied up in the process of settlement.

JP Morgan’s stablecoin neatly connects the dots between the aspects of settlement and volatility management by providing digital cash that can be used and enabling the ability to redeem the coin at a stable rate. This may sound like a big deal, but in fact all it means is that any counterparty would be paid by JP Morgan issuing a digital certificate. At its most fundamental, JP Morgan is promising to credit the account of a user when presented with a digital certificate that has a redemption value of a dollar.

Having said all this, JP Morgan’s new ‘Coin’ is not an insignificant development. Don’t forget, this is an industry where they still use fax machines, so in that context, the JPM Coin is actually a pretty big deal.

Is Google making the blockchain searchable?

I came across an interesting article on Forbes the other day by Michael del Castillo. He tells a story about data scientist Allen Day, a former Google employee, who while looking at some of the tools he developed there, saw something puzzling. What he saw was “a mysterious concerted usage of artificial intelligence on the blockchain for Ethereum.”

Day was able to look into its blockchain and see a “whole bunch” of “autonomous agents” moving funds around “in an automated fashion.” Although Day has no idea who created the AI, he suspects “they could be the agents of cryptocurrency exchanges trading among themselves in order to artificially inflate ether’s price.”

Day also remarked that he didn’t believe this was the work of a single exchange, but is rather a group effort. Part of Day’s job is anticipating demand for a product before it even exists, and in the light of what he has seen, he believes that making the blockchain more accessible is the next big thing.

Let’s not forget that Google made the Internet more usable, bringing it billions in revenue, and if Day is correct in his predictions it could have another major pay day by making the blockchain searchable. Del Castillo says if it does, “the world will know whether blockchain’s real usage is living up to its hype.”

Day has already been working on this with a team of open-source developers, who have been loading data for bitcoin and ethereum blockchains into Google’s big data analytics platform called BigQuery. And, with the help of lead developer Evgeny Medvedev, he created a suite of sophisticated software to search the data.

Day is hoping that his project, known as Blockchain ETL (extract, transform, load) will bring Google’s revenues from cloud computing services up to the level of Amazon and Microsoft. Google is some way behind both of them, but it will struggle to match Amazon’s revenues of $27 billion from cloud services, because Amazon has been in the blockchain game since 2018 with a suite of tools for building and managing distributed ledgers. And Microsoft got into the space in 2015, when it released tools for ethereum’s blockchain. These two companies are focused on making it easier to build blockchain apps, whereas Day wants to reveal how blockchains are actually being used, and by whom.

Day has been demonstrating how his Blockchain ETL could function by examining the hard fork that created bitcoin cash (BCH) from bitcoin. “I’m very interested to quantify what’s happening so that we can see where the legitimate use cases are for blockchain,” Day says. “Then we can move to the next use case and develop out what these technologies are really appropriate for.”

Day is now expanding beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Litecoin, zcash, dash, bitcoin cash, ethereum classic and dogecoin are being added to BigQuery.

It seems Google is waking up to blockchain and is now powering ahead by filing numerous patents related to the blockchain. The company is also encouraging its developers to build apps on the ethereum blockchain, and GV, Google’s investment division has made some investments in crypto-related startups.