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The 10 Biggest ICOs: Here’s Where the Money Went

Investors poured $22 billion into initial coin offerings during Bitcoin’s 2017/18 bull run. How are these projects faring three years later?

Republished by Plato

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In brief

  • Some of today’s top crypto projects began with funds raised through initial coin offerings (ICOs).
  • EOS was the biggest winner, with over $4.2 billion raised.
  • But some ICO projects were then abandoned, and many failed to live up to their hype.

Three years ago, awash with funds from the last, frenzied Bitcoin bull run, investors poured over $22 billion into initial coin offerings (ICOs)—a then-novel method of raising funds, which was popularized by Ethereum in 2016.

Throughout 2017 and 2018, ICOs enabled hundreds of projects to raise the funds they needed, on their promises to build the infrastructure for a new decentralized, digital future—from large-scale data storage and fairer payments for artists to complex, new financial products.

Ultimately, many failed to live up to their hype—and several ran afoul of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for conducting unregistered securities sales—but some are now beginning to deliver on their promises. Here’s what happened to the top 10 biggest ICOs.

The DAO

The DAO was meant to operate like a venture capital fund for the crypto and decentralized space. Image: Medium

The DAO was the original example of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization—where open source code provides some form of governance mechanism in lieu of traditional leadership. It was designed to work as a venture funding platform for crypto projects, with funds awarded automatically based on set criteria.

In May 2017, the DAO’s developers launched one of the first ICOs, raising 12.7 million in ETH, Ethereum’s token, which was worth around $150 million at the time. But the project had to be abandoned after a hacker made off with around $50 million of the funds. 

The Ethereum community voted to hard fork the network so as to reverse the hack, returning ETH to investors and shuttering the DAO. The decision was controversial, as it violated the immutability of the ledger and blockchain’s “code is law” ethos, but it also did much to raise awareness of both Ethereum and the ICO model. 

Bancor

The token of the Bancor network. Image: Shutterstock.

In June 2017, Zug, Switzerland-based Bancor raised $153 million in just three hours, from investors including Tim Draper and Blockchain Capital. Its ICO was for a platform designed to make it easier for users to launch their own blockchain tokens.

Yet, just two years later, its token BNT had plummeted. Hackers stole $13.5 million worth of tokens from Bancor’s decentralized exchange (DEX) in 2018 and then, in 2019, the platform was forced to bar US-based users due to regulatory uncertainty. 

In the same year, an anonymous source told Coindesk that while Bancor had fulfilled the lion’s share of its ICO promises, the bulk of its ICO funds were now invested elsewhere.

In recent months, the DEX has profited from the popularity of decentralized finance (DeFi), but the BNT token has never regained anything like its all-time high seen in January 2018. 

Sirin Labs

Also based in Switzerland, Sirin Labs raised $158 million in December 2017 on its plans to build the “world’s first” blockchain phone, dubbed Finney, which featured a built-in cryptocurrency wallet, and a token, SRC, to power purchases across the dapp ecosystem.

Sirin made good on its promise, and Finney was launched one year later—but it failed to take off, and in April 2019 the startup laid off 25% of its workforce. Sirin CEO Moshe Hogeg has subsequently faced a string of lawsuits linked to his other business ventures and a $6 million unpaid factory bill for the manufacture of the phones. 

Today, the price of SRN has all but collapsed; it’s dropped from a peak of $3.51 in January 2018 to $0.018. Meanwhile, HTC and Samsung have both launched crypto-compatible mobiles.

Tezos

Arthur Breitman is cofounder and principle architect of the Tezos blockchain. IMAGE: Adriana Hamacher

The Zug, Switzerland-based Tezos Foundation took in $232m from its July 2017 ICO for a smart contract platform designed to power online digital economies—gaming is just one example. 

Tezos’ selling point was its “self-amending” governance, which is meant to head off hard forks such as the one resulting from the DAO (above.) But a class-action lawsuit brought by investors, alleging that the project violated securities laws with its ICO, had dogged Tezos until it was finally settled in September last year, with the Foundation agreeing to pay $25 million in damages to investors.

Today, Tezos is one of the ICO success stories. It’s become a favorite to power the digital Euro, after it the protocol was chosen for the French central bank’s digital currency trials; it’s added features to attract the red hot DeFi industry, and its token XTZ reached an all-time high of $4.39 in August 2020—although it’s since fallen to around $2.50.

However, with more than 60 percent of its reserves held in Bitcoin, Tezos is now likely to be worth well over $1 billion.

Filecoin

Filecoin founder Juan Benet

Protocol Labs, the company that created Filecoin, raised $257 million in September 2017, with a promise to build a decentralized marketplace for data storage as disruptive to the cloud companies as Airbnb has been in the hotel world.

The much-anticipated project suffered delays but finally launched in October 2020, when trading on FIL, Filecoin’s token opened at $26 and peaked at $63 before falling to $31.

Filecoin’s tokens are currently 14 times the average price paid during its ICO, it’s been listed on major exchanges, and CEO Juan Benet reported in November that more than an exabyte of storage capacity (over 500 times the data stored in all US research libraries) has now been committed by users in exchange for tokens. 

HDAC

HDAC founder Dae-Sun Chung. Image: HDAC

In December 2017, the fifth-biggest ICO was launched by the Hyundai Digital Asset Company, a subsidiary of the Korean car maker, for its HDAC cryptocurrency. It raised $258 million from investors

HDAC was designed as a blockchain ecosystem to be used with the Internet of Things and other blockchains, but has so far failed to set the world alight; its token is priced at $0.016, having peaked at around $0.106 in June 2018.

But perhaps it’s not time to write this venture off, yet. In March 2020, HDAC launched the first dapp on its mainnet, and, according to Korean news site Chosun, it has plans to launch a blockchain ecosystem of partners to rival the likes of Klatyn, the blockchain platform consortium backed by South Korean messaging app owner Kakao.

Dragon Coin

At the height of the ICO boom, in March 2018, Macau-based Dragon Inc. launched an ICO for Dragon Coin (DRG), a payments system targeting the South East Asia online casino market. Both retail and institutional investors apparently jumped at the opportunity to invest in what was essentially a gambling token, and stumped up $320 million.

The following month, the New York Times claimed that Cambridge Analytica, a controversial political consulting firm that was involved in influencing hundreds of elections globally, was at the heart of Dragon Coin’s promotion campaign. The article also linked Dragon with Wan Kuok-koi, a notorious Macau gangster, and exposed the project’s well-publicized partnerships, including one with Visa, as shams. Dragon has denied the claims.

Thai actor, Jiratpisit “Boom” Jaravijit, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering. Image: Instagram.

Alerted by concerned investors, Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division (CSD) launched an investigation, arresting a Thai actor, Jiratpisit “Boom” Jaravijit, when some of the ICO funds were traced to his bank account. Jaravijit has maintained his innocence, and the case is yet to come to court. The police investigation has also found that funds were used to buy land or cashed out via exchanges.

Two years later, in March 2020, the project’s founders Paul Moynan and Chris Ahmad have apparently branched out into “the fantastic growth market of India,” according to a company blog post. Meanwhile, one DRG, worth $2.34 in 2018, is now only $0.02.

Tatatu

Tatatu founder Andrea Iervolino is also a movie producer. Image: Wikimedia.

Tatatu raised $575 million from backers including Polymath Capital and BlockTower Capital in June 2018, by marketing itself as a blockchain-based Netflix where viewers were rewarded in TTU tokens for watching movies. 

Despite teaming up with Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, the young startup has struggled to list popular films on its platform, and is now more of a social media platform that rewards users when their visual content is liked or shared. 

Founder Andrea Iervolino’s movie career doesn’t seem to have suffered from Tatatu’s stumble; since launching Tatatu, the producer has overseen a Lamborghini biopic starring Antonio Banderas and Alec Baldwin, while Waiting For The Barbarians, starring Depp, Robert Pattinson, and Academy Award winner Mark Rylance, was released in 2020.  

But cinematic pursuits are unlikely to help TTU. With a set price of $0.25 per token, it’s currently trading at just over $0.01 on the open market. Nevertheless, this month, Tatatu launched a new initiative allowing users to use their tokens to participate in auctions to win new tech.

Telegram 

Telegram abandoned its massive blockchain project after two and a half years of work. Image: Shutterstock

Pavel and Nikolai Durov, the Russian-born brothers behind messaging app Telegram, raised a hefty $1.7 billion in two ICOs for their Telegram Open Network (TON) in March and October 2018. 

The network was designed for blockchain-based messaging and payments and generated much excitement and publicity, before it was ultimately poleaxed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which prohibited its launch in the US in October 2019. 

In May 2020, Pavel Durov announced that the team had fought hard to find a solution but that TON would never be launched. The following month, the SEC ordered Telegram to refund $1.2 billion to investors, while levying an $18.5 million fine on the company.

EOS 

EOS railed over $4 billion during its year-long ICO. Image: Shutterstock.

The $4.2 billion in funds that EOS managed to raise in its year-long ICO was more than the three biggest venture funding rounds of 2018 combined (they were Epic Games, Uber and e-cigarette developer Juul). 

The project was founded by Block.One chief technology officer Dan Larimer, an early cryptocurrency pioneer, who had already launched a social media network Steemit and the DEX BitShares, as well as other more contentious projects. 

It was marketed as an Ethereum competitor and claimed its delegated proof-of-stake platform (dPoS) could handle thousands more transactions per second than Ethereum, and would thus become the epicenter of dapp development. 

But the platform has suffered from congestion issues, researchers questioned the project’s claims to be decentralized, and in June 2020, research from VC firm Outlier Ventures suggested a massive exodus of developers from its network. 

Then, on December 31, 2020, Larimer resigned as Block.One CTO, leaving the future uncertain and the EOS token tumbling 16%.

Blockchain

Another One: Galaxy Digital and CI GAM to Launch a Bitcoin ETF in Canada Tomorrow

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Yet another Bitcoin ETF is to reach the markets in Canada as the country’s securities regulator has issued “a receipt for the final prospectus” for CI Global Asset Management’s application. Dubbed CI Galaxy Bitcoin ETF (BTCX), it’s expected to launch on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) on March 9th, and Mike Novogratz’ Galaxy Digital Capital Management will act as the sub-advisor. 

  • Founded in 1965, CI Global Asset Management is an asset manager with over $180 billion in AUM as of January 2021. The firm announced the nod of approval received from Canada’s securities regulator necessary to launch its own Bitcoin ETF earlier today. 
  • The statement described BTCX as a tool that could “provide investors with a convenient way to gain exposure to bitcoin through an institutional-quality fund platform.” It will invest directly in the primary cryptocurrency with its holdings priced using the Bloomberg Galaxy Bitcoin Index. 
  • CI GAM will serve as the manager of the ETF, while Galaxy Digital Capital Management, whose founder and CEO is the long-time BTC proponent, Mike Novogratz, will act as “the bitcoin sub-advisor.” Meaning, that GDAM will execute the BTC trading on behalf of the ETF 
  • “We believe the emerging digital asset class presents compelling growth and diversification opportunities. The CI Galaxy Bitcoin ETF offers a simple and secure access point for traditional investors to gain exposure to bitcoin.” – commented Partner and Head of Asset Management at GDAM, Steve Kurz. 

  • Apart from BTCX, the two parties have also filed for launching the “first ETF in the world to invest directly in Ether” – CI Galaxy Ethereum ETF (ETHX). 
  • It’s worth noting that BTCX would not be Canada’s first Bitcoin ETF. CryptoPotato recently reported the first approval for the Purpose Bitcoin ETF, which enjoyed a highly-positive start, accumulating more than $400 million in a few weeks. 
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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/another-one-galaxy-digital-and-ci-gam-to-launch-a-bitcoin-etf-in-canada-tomorrow/

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Ethereum, Monero, FTX Token Price Analysis: 08 March

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Ethereum recaptured a key resistance mark at $1,687, a level that had not been breached since the broader market pullback in late-February. Monero lacked the trading volumes and buying intensity to flip the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement level. Lastly, FTX Token eyed a rise above its overhead resistance but the indicators presented the chances of a short-term reversal.

Ethereum [ETH]

Source: ETH/USD, TradingView

Ethereum retook the $1,680 level from the bears thanks to a surge of 6% in the last 24 hours. Gains in the last eight days amounted to over 30% and underscored ETH’s bounce back from the $1,300 level. The On Balance Volume showed strong buying at two key support levels – one at the $1,300 mark and the other at $1,437 as the price headed northbound on the charts. However, the OBV made steady highs over the past few sessions and even dipped at the time of writing.

The RSI pointed lower from just below the overbought zone and showed weakening bullish strength in the market. This reinforced the idea that a hike in trading volumes could be needed before steering clear of the next test at $1,834.9 and especially if the uptrend were to sustain itself.  In the event of a pullback, the newly flipped resistance at $1,687.65 could act as a crucial line of support.

Monero [XMR]

Source: XMR/USD, TradingView

Low trading volumes and short-bodied candlesticks on Monero’s 4-hour chart showed a dearth of interest in the market but the bulls still held on to the 23.6% Fibonacci retracement level. A breakout above the 38.2% level could depend on stronger cues from the broader market, which would spur buying in the Monero market as well.

The ADX pointed lower and towards the 10-mark, showing a lack of a strong trend. The flow of capital towards the cryptocurrency created some optimism, but the price remained within its channel even as the CMF rose sharply above the half-way mark. The index reversed direction and pointed towards the half-line at the time of writing.

FTX Token [FTT]

Source: FTT/USD, TradingView

The Bollinger Bands on FTX Token expanded at press time and showed rising volatility as the price looked to flip $31.49 resistance. The presence of volatility allowed for large price swings and a break above the upper ceiling looked imminent over the coming sessions. Even though the Stochastic RSI traded in the overbought region, it pointed upwards after retesting the upper line and indicated a delayed stay in its current region.

However, there was also a possibility of a short-term pullback due to saturation in the market. A fall below the press time support level would highlight the next line of defense at $24.67.


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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/ethereum-monero-ftx-token-price-analysis-08-march

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Norwegian energy firm Aker’s three-pronged approach to Bitcoin

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Energy company Aker ASA, which is based in Oslo, Norway has established a dedicated firm to invest in the Bitcoin ecosystem and related projects. Dubbed ‘Seetee AS,’ this new venture has a capitalization of $58 million and will invest Aker’s liquid assets in the digital currency. 

Øyvind Eriksen, President and CEO of Aker stated that Seetee’s launch will help the Aker Group gain industrial opportunities “that will be unlocked by Bitcoin and blockchain technology.” He further said in a statement: 

These technologies [such as Bitcoin and blockchain] have the potential to reduce frictions in our day-to-day lives, enhance the security of our digitally-driven economies, and unlock new business models for innovation. 

In a letter to investors, Chairman Kjell Inge Røk­ke revealed Seetee’s three-pronged approach to Bitcoin, which is al­ready run­ning “open-source Bit­coin pay­ment servers.” According to Røk­ke, the oil and gas firm will work alongside Canadian crypto-focused firm Blockstream and other partners.

Aker Group expects See­tee to set-up min­ing op­er­a­tions even though the local government no longer offers electricity subsidies to miners. However, the group’s  am­bi­tion is to be “a valu­able part­ner in new re­new­able projects:”

See­tee will es­tab­lish min­ing op­er­a­tions that trans­fer strand­ed or in­ter­mit­tent elec­tric­i­ty with­out sta­ble de­mand lo­cal­ly—wind, so­lar, hy­dro pow­er— to eco­nom­ic as­sets that can be used any­where. Bit­coin is, in our eyes, a load-bal­anc­ing eco­nom­ic bat­tery, and bat­ter­ies are es­sen­tial to the en­er­gy tran­si­tion re­quired to reach the tar­gets of the Paris Agreement. 

Finally, Aker is keen on mi­cro­pay­ments and how it could en­able the firm to avoid users’ per­son­al data be­ing mon­e­tized. Røk­ke further said: 

I’m fas­ci­nat­ed by the prospect of bitcoin Light­ning wal­lets that may en­able in­stant cred­it via mi­cro­pay­ments with­out the need to of­fer per­son­al in­for­ma­tion that my coun­ter­part can mon­e­tise with­out ap­proval or com­pen­sa­tion.

The Chairman also was bullish on Bitcoin and expects the asset to trade for “millions of dollars.” He believed that peo­ple who “know the most about Bit­coin” be­lieve its fu­ture suc­cess is “near­ly in­evitable.”


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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/norwegian-energy-firm-akers-three-pronged-approach-to-bitcoin

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