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Brian Kelly Believes ICOs Will Be Held to a Higher Standard

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)–Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of the digital investment firm BKCM LLC and a regular on CNBC’s popular crypto-based programming, has said in a recent interview that he believes the days of ICOs coming out of nowhere to million-dollar valuations is over. Instead, he believes the market has already moved towards a more mature view of the innovative funding cycle of cryptocurrency, with ICOs largely being held to a higher standard than they were even at the start of the year.

In part, the new approach has been forced upon the market and investors due to the ongoing bear cycle conditions. Rather than being flush with capital from Bitcoin and altcoin bull-runs to end 2017, most crypto investors are having to take a spare approach to their investment, in addition to legitimate fears over where the price of crypto will be at the start of an ICO buy-in versus when the coins are actually released on the market.

Speaking in an interview with CoinTelegraph, Brian Kelly expanded on his view of ICOs and how he sees the market responding to such a shift. As opposed to doing away with the controversial, and at times outright scammy method for raising capital, Kelly believes the initial coin model will stay for some time in cryptocurrency, albeit at a change from current standards,

“It will stay,” Kelly said, “but with a little change.” He went on to add, “the days of a whitepaper and a dream and $30 million are probably over.”

Kelly also gave details on what he considers when reviewing a project to invest in, listing positive factors such as promoting activities that will increase network adoption, as well as having a strong presence in industry catalysts such as conferences.

Despite regular news stories of ICOs making off with investor funds or failing to fulfill whitepaper promises (the most damning being a study published in July that found 80 percent of all ICOs could be classified as a scam) the overall health of the market has been strong throughout the year. Since the midway point, ICO volume in 2018 already doubled that of the previous year, with developers in nearly every industry flocking to cryptocurrency to cash in on what they view as easy profit. At the very least, the ICO model does provide a fast and efficient way to raise funds for projects, as opposed to the more gated approach of raising through angel investors and venture capitalists.

However, ICOs also provide very limited returns for investors, particularly those who are hoping to hold their coins for appreciation or as a long-term investment in a project. Research out of the Boston College Carroll School of Management found that over half of all ICOs die within the first four months of reaching the market, with the vast majority of profit to be made occurring in the first two weeks. Investors who fail to sell in that window are not only exposing themselves to much greater risk relative to their early cash-out counterparts, but they also run the risk of the entire project collapsing or failing to gain any adoption via exchanges.

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Study Concludes 80 Percent of ICOs in 2017 Were “Scams”

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs)–The bad news for ICOs continues to roll out this summer.

Last month, TechCrunch published a review of the crypto industry, concluding that over a thousand projects were already considered dead, despite some still having a presence on exchange and coin listings. The overwhelming majority of failed projects were in the form of short-lived ICO projects, which barely made it out of the fundraising period before dying in the interim following coin issues.

Research out of the Boston College Carroll School of Management supported this claim, when they found that over half of all ICOs die within the first four months of issuing their tokens. Only 44% of the projects were able to sustain any sort of growth or momentum past the four month mark, with the survival rates dipping even further thereafter. While they concluded that the profits for ICOs are still substantial relative to the traditional stock market (about 82% ROI in 2018), there is a significant drop-off in return from 2017, where some investors were collecting four-digit percentage gains on their investment. In addition, the risk of investing in ICOs has steeply increased despite the fall in return, which the researchers found antithetical to good investment practice. They also found that most of the profit surrounding ICOs occurred in the first week of token issues, with a steep drop off past the two week and two month-mark, thereby recommending that ICO investors sell their coins as quickly as possible to insure the greatest risk/reward return on investment.

All of this is troubling given the growing landscape of ICOs in 2018, already surpassing the total volume of projects issued in 2017 despite being only halfway through the year. As prices for established cryptocurrencies continue to plummet, more developers are drawn to the industry of cryptocurrency via the ICO format as an unregulated road to riches in the volatile market. However, a new study concludes that the majority of these “developers” are more akin to scam artists, and that the entire industry should be vigilant in promoting and reviewing ICO projects.

Issued by the ICO advisory firm Statis Group, the research concluded that 80% of ICOs in 2017 constituted a scam. The study cites the exponential growth of cryptocurrency projects as leading to the variability in quality, up from just 14 crypto assets in 2013 to over 1500 currencies at present. While the study examined the full breadth of ICO existence in 2017, from initial proposal of the project to when the coin was ultimately available for trading on exchanges, the evidence was damning: only 20% of initial coin offerings during the year passed the criteria for being a legitimate project; the rest were scams. Three percent of the total ICO volume was declared “dead” by the end of the year, which the researchers referred to as no longer being listed on exchanges for trading. Which means, in less than a year, some coins had managed a proposal, funding, and token issue only to be such a colossal failure that exchanges would no longer list them for trading.

On a positive note, the research concluded that the majority of  monetary value was being funded to projects that the analysts rated “higher-quality”, despite the total volume of projects skewing heavily towards being a scam,

Over 70% of ICO funding (by $ volume) to-date went to higher quality projects, although over 80% of projects (by # share) were identified as scams.

While ICOs represent the current avenue for innovation and new development in the space of cryptocurrency, the vast majority of projects being labeled scams in addition to the high rate of failure is likely to draw more attention to the need for regulation in the space of crypto fund-raising.

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Over Half of ICOs Die Within Four Months of Token Sale

Initial Coin Offering (ICO)–The health of the ICO market is looking even more bleak. Initial Coin Offerings, the gold standard for raising money in the un-regulated market of cryptocurrency, has created a contentious landscape over the past year. The Boston College Carroll School of Management has released a study on over 4000 ICOs and found that the majority of projects were considered dead within four months of issuing their token to buyers, and cause a significant decline in value for investors who hold their coins longer than 60 days.

The beginning of this month brought about the report that over a thousand cryptocurrency projects are considered dead or dying, littering the landscape with empty coins that can still be traded for real value on exchanges. In addition to the decaying landscape of crypto-projects, ICO volume throughout the first half of 2018 was revealed to have eclipsed that of the entire year of 2017, despite the bear cycle cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the market capitalization. The end result is even more projects at risk of failing in the brief window following their token issue, with fewer new ICOs able to establish themselves in the depressed market despite the flood of development teams looking to capitalize on the quick riches of last year.

Tezos, the controversial coin that broke records in July 2017 by raising 232 million USD in its ICO, has just finally issued tokens to investors before subsequently experiencing a roller coaster of price swings in the first week of trading.

The study by Boston College researchers reveals that while ICOs provide a decent return on investment, traders are forced to act quickly in selling their coins. Rather than hold on to ICO tokens out of a belief in the technology or anticipation of further price appreciation, invetors benefit the most from selling their coins within the first several weeks of trading, with ROI severely declining past the two month mark. In an interview with Bloomberg, researcher and co-author Leonard Kostovetsky recommends investors sell within the first several days to guarantee the safest form of return,

“What we find is that once you go beyond three months, at most six months, they don’t outperform other cryptocurrencies. The strongest return is actually in the first month.”

It is interesting to wonder whether ICO investors are creating the panic-sell and subsequent fall off in price in anticipation of market behavior that has historically characterized ICO token issues, i.e. investors sell because they believe everyone else will sell. Given the dramatic drop in price following most ICO releases, it creates the appearance that few investors believe in the underlying technology or any sort of interest in the project being funded, and instead view the process of ICO investing as a race to sell as soon as possible.

As Bloomberg points out, while the fastest investors to sell are the ones to benefit, the majority are left behind in the price movement. Given the limited exchange availability most tokens face upon ICO release, some investors do not have the ability to sell from the get-go. Others are not even able to participate as individual investors in the ICO, leaving them at the mercy of the market to purchase tokens belonging to up-and-coming projects they find some value in. Tezos exhibited similar behavior last Monday when it was first listed on the solo exchange Gate.io. The price quickly plummeted from 4.00 USD to 1.22 USD, before making a recovery over the weekend.

Overall, the study also concludes that the ROI for ICO investing is in steady decline and becoming a much more risky prospect relative to the volatility of the traditional crypto market. Speaking again with Bloomberg, Kostovetsky warns against investors looking for guaranteed riches by going the ICO route,

“People often look at returns and say this is a great deal, but we teach in finance that return is a compensation for risk. These are stakes in platforms that have not yet been built, that have no participants yet. There’s a lot of risk. The majority of ICOs do fail.”

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