Initial Coin Offerings, or ICO’s, are a new and quickly growing way for startups to raise capital. Despite being a relatively new phenomenon the total value of ICO’s has been proliferating with nearly $1.5 billion dollars being raised since the start of the year. That value seems outlandish when compared to the mere $256 million of funding that was raised in the entirety of 2016.
While the value of ICO’s has grown nearly six-fold in the past year, many people are still in the dark regarding the new trend that is sweeping investors and startups across the globe. Essentially, ICO’s are a cross between more traditional IPO’s and crowdfunding. During and ICO a company issues “coins”, or digital tokens, similar to the popular cryptocurrencies bitcoin and Ethereum. Investors can then purchase these coins and conceivably can use them to purchase a good or service from the company at some point in the future. The value of these coins will theoretically increase in value, as long as others continue to invest. An important distinction between IPO’s and ICO’s is that investors in an ICO do not receive equity in the company and don’t really have anything tangible behind their investment besides a promise for the ability to be able to purchase a good or service from the company in the future. A second differentiator between traditional methods of raising capital and ICO’s is the amount of regulation. Given that the concept of an ICO is so new, the space is largely unregulated allowing companies to prepare for and launch in ICO in a matter of weeks as compared to the months it takes for companies to clear regulatory approval for IPO’s.