Business 26 February 2018Gerald Fenech
ICO review: Are token crowdsales a scam?
All the news about cryptocurrencies seems to be dominated by what are termed as Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which have all sorts of fancy and, at times, ludicrous names. One has to be careful not to get bitten by the possibility that the ICO is a scam however—this has already happened many times and looks likely to occur in the future. In fact, no less than 46% of crowdsale ICOs failed in various stages of development, according to Tokendata.
It has always been assumed that a large number of ICOs will fail, be it at the fundraising stage or when it comes to delivering the actual project. It’s hard to settle on a precise figure, however, as most dubious ICOs don’t exit scam: they slowly tiptoe away, like a sneak thief rather than a smash-and-grab robber. What’s also incredible is that although a staggering $104 million were raised, this amount went nowhere as the ICOs that went with them failed.
Given enough time, everything withers and dies, from the most robust institutions to the most popular crowd sales. No one expected all of 2017’s ICOs to last the course. The pace at which they’ve withered and died may come as a surprise though. Tokendata, one of the more comprehensive ICO trackers, lists 902 crowd sales which took place in 2017. Of these, 142 failed at the funding stage and a further 276 have since failed, either due to taking the money and running, or slowly fading into obscurity. This means that 46% of last year’s ICOs have already failed.
The number of ICOs that are still a going concern is actually even lower. An additional 113 ICOs can be classified as “semi-failed,” either because their team has stopped communicating on social media, or because their community is so small as to mean the project has no chance of success. This means that 59% of last year’s crowdsales are either confirmed failures or failures-in-the-making. That’s an astonishingly high number and is worrying for the future of the industry if the failure rate is so high.
When one goes through the ICOs that have failed, it’s almost like a digital graveyard strewn with the wreckage of today’s world. You will find abandoned Twitter accounts, empty Telegram groups, websites no longer hosted, and communities no longer tended are par for the course. A digital graveyard, complete with metaphorical tumbleweed, characterizes the crop of 2017 that decided to take the money and run. Many raised zero; some raised a couple of thousand dollars; and a handful raised over $10 million. In each case, the end result was the same though: no MVP, no alpha release, and no contribution to the decentralized web for the betterment of humanity. Or a single word left on the homepage that is unprintable.
Many of the dead ICOs were doomed from the start. It will come as no surprise to learn that projects such as Clitcoin, Neverdie, and Zero Traffic didn’t make it. Some, which fell flat at the fundraising stage, are doing it all over again this year and hoping that 2017’s failure can be written off as a trial run. Freight trucking platform Doft is one such example. Looking at the countries of origin for failed ICOs shows that developing nations—and an entire continent in the case of Africa—are over-represented. Nevertheless, every major country and continent features in the list of shame. And that’s definitely a hugely worrying situation if the concept of an ICO is to be taken any further.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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