Legal assessment of a project is one of the most important factors that dictate the success of an ICO, IEO or STO. In the past few months, we have seen various blockchain project receive penalties and some even being forced to close down due to issues with the law.

BitClave, for example, will have to pay back the $25 million it raised in its ICO back in 2017 after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that the ICO was unregistered. Meta 1 Coin will also have to refund $9 million after a court ruled in favour of the SEC, which argued that the initial coin offering (ICO) was fraudulent. Telegram, on the other hand, had to completely throw in the towel on its TON blockchain project after issues with SEC about its ICO.

To avoid falling into the same trap with your blockchain project, it would be wise to seek a competent legal advisor to handle the legal assessment of your project.

As in the above case scenarios, legal issues could jeopardize the whole project. If a case is filed against the way you raised your capital, you could end up being forced to refund the money. This would throw you back to the drawing board to try and find sources of funds to run the project. However, this time, things could prove to be hard since it would be hard for investors to trust you again and you would be forced to abandon the entire project altogether just like Telegram did.

What to expect from good ICO/IEO/STO legal advisor

  1. Whitepaper assessment

Since the whitepaper acts as the main source of information about your blockchain project. The legal advisor should ensure that it contains all the required legal documentation. Of essence, the whitepaper should contain legal disclaimers and the terms of sale for the tokens.

The legal advisor should help in drafting the legal disclaimer to ensure that all the risks and restrictions (e.g. restriction of investors from certain countries) are included.

Again, the terms of the token sale should be clearly stated to ensure that investors make informed decisions.

Another issue that has been a source of conflict, especially between the SEC and blockchain startups, is the token and funds distribution. This information should be laid out bare for investors to see.

  1. Review of the adopted token model for the IEO/STO/ICO

By reviewing the token model used for the ICO, STO or IEO, the legal advisor shall be able to verify the compliance of the token issuance with the laws and regulations and also give remedies in case of any arising issues.

Security tokens have different regulations compared to the utility tokens and this is the main thing that a legal advisor looks at. If the project uses a utility token or a security token, does it comply with the laws set in place in the regions where it expects its investors to come from?

  1. Aspects of the KYC/AML to be used

Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) are some of the basic requirements for blockchain/cryptocurrencies around the world. Therefore, the legal advisor gives guidance on the model that should be adopted and also works closely with any of the involved third parties.

  1. Legal audit of the Project internal processes and documentation

A good legal advisor will also do an audit of the internal processes of the project behind the ICO, IEO or STO to ensure that everything complies with any existing local regulations.

The audit could also include an audit of the smart contracts to ensure that they are executed exactly as the whitepaper and website stipulate.

  1. Evaluation of Tax compliance and the company structure

The legal advisor also helps with accounting, bookkeeping, insurances, tax declarations and domiciliation services among other things through the network of its partners.

Depending on the country, companies dealing with digital tokens are taxed differently depending on the type of tokens they involve themselves with. In Singapore for example, there was a recent update on the Digital Tokens Tax Guidelines.

These ensure that the company remains in good books with the authorities within the country where it is registered.

  1. STO prospectus

Where a legal prospectus is required like in Taiwan, Switzerland and the European Union, the legal advisor helps in preparing it to ensure that it meets all the legal requirements.

  1. Commercial agreements

The legal advisors help in drafting terms and conditions, token sale agreements and any other commercial agreements like the Memorandum of Understanding, the Advisory Agreement, the Financing agreement, etc.

When Initial Coin Offering (ICO) was unveiled, blockchain startups and fintech companies were rushing to make use of the new crowdsourcing technique due to its simplicity in raising capital for projects. 2017 specifically was a very successful year for ICOs and the world witnessed some of the best ICOs to date. The total amount of funds that were raised in 2017 was close to $6 billion up from about $200 million raised in 2016.

However, not all the projects that used ICOs turned out to be successful and some also turned to be scams since ICOs are not regulated in most parts of the world. At the moment, only a couple of countries like Singapore, France, and Germany have come up with ICOs regulations to make them safe for investors.

Having said that, ICOs are still a viable option for raising capital for your blockchain project. In this article, we shall review some of the successful blockchain projects that started by raising capital through ICOs. You can still leverage ICOs and pull out such successful projects amidst the regulatory issues facing ICOs.

However, you will have to put more effort into the project development by putting together the best team for the job. Again you will want to ensure that you comply with any regulatory laws in the region where you investors come from to avoid court cases like those that hit BLOCK.ONE and Telegram ICOs.

The list below was developed taking into account the Returns on Investment (ROI) for each of the projects and also by how much the blockchain project has been adopted across the globe.

10 most successful ICOs

  1. Ethereum

Ethereum ICO was conducted in August 2014, making it the second blockchain project to leverage ICO to raise capital, after Mastercoin ICO conducted in July 2013. At the end of the ICO, Ethereum raised a staggering $16,000,000.

Today, Ethereum is a force to reckon with in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world. The blockchain network completely revolutionized the world of cryptocurrency by enabling blockchain networks to do more than just offering payment services. Ethereum introduced smart contracts which have been the cornerstone of every other blockchain use case.

Ethereum was developed as an open-source distributed ledger platform that enabled its users to create and deploy decentralized applications (Dapps) and also apply and use smart contracts. It introduced the ERC-20 token standard that offered other blockchain developers a basis for creating their crypto coins; most altcoins use the ERC-20 standard to create their tokens.

Ethereum is by far one of the most successive blockchain network second to Bitcoin. Currently, the ETH, which is Ethereum crypto coin, trades at $207.75 USD. Towards the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, ETH was trading at over $1200 USD.

  1. IOTA

IOTA ICO was conducted towards the end of 2015 and was one of the first blockchain projects to use ICO to raise capital. A single IOTA token was going for 0.00000133 BTC, which translated to less than $0.001 at the time. The ICO was able to raise $590,000.

IOTA blockchain holds lots of prospective use cases since it merged Internet of things (IoT) technology and blockchain technology. The project developers envisioned a future where different ‘things’ using the internet would be able to communicate with each other using blockchain technology.

IOTA stands out as the only blockchain technology that doesn’t rely on blockchain fully for its transactions. It uses another system known as The Tangle to verify transactions as they are being made. This way IOTA has been able to dodge the scalability problem affecting most blockchain networks.

IOTA has been adopted across various industries across the world. For example, Taipei signed an agreement with IOTA Foundation for its Taipei smart city project. Also, a Netherlands company called Elaadnl dealing with smart charging has succeeded in developing the first working prototype using IOTA. The list keeps on growing as more and more industries fall to IOTA’s technology.

At the moment, one IOTA token is trading at 0.00002073 BTC.

  1. DigixDAO

The DigixDAO ICO was the first crowd sale to be conducted on Ethereum. It was conducted in March 2016 and it raised $5.5 million.

DigixDAO is one of the main Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) developed on the Ethereum network.  DAOs are normally new business structures that have no bosses but rather all decision affecting the networks are made through proposals and voting.

One of the main features of the DigixDAO blockchain is that it has two crypto coins; the DGD and DGX.

The DGD tokens were the ones that were issued during the ICO. During the ICO, a single DGD token was going for $4.2000 USD.

Contrary to most other ICOs, buyers of DAO tokens hold the rights to vote in the proposals submitted to the DAO.

The main objective of DigixDAO is to create a stable cryptocurrency that is backed by real gold bars. According to the DigixDAO, the token that is backed by the gold bars is the DGX. The gold is stored in a custodian vault in Singapore that can hold up to 30 tons of gold. The gold goes through a Proof of Asset protocol, where its existence is verified through the Ethereum blockchain.

Currently, the DGD token is going for $39.98 USD.

  1. NXT

The official announcement of NXT ICO was made in Sep 2013 on BitcoinTalk forum.

The NXT blockchain is viewed as a descendant of the Bitcoin blockchain and it was developed to solve some of the issues affecting Bitcoin. Some of the issues that NXT promised to fix was shifting the mining algorithm to proof-of-stake and also resolve the issue of bloated blockchain.

The ICO which was conducted on the BitcoinTalk forum platform raised $16,800 in Bitcoin. At the time of the ICO, the value of NXT token was $0.0000168. However, at the moment the token’s value is above $0.01.

Besides the fact that the NXT is tradable on most crypto exchanges, the NXT blockchain is now fully operational and blockchain developers use it to develop decentralized applications. It also has an asset exchange platform, the Nxt Asset Exchange, and a messaging system.

  1. NEO

NEO ICO was conducted in September 2016 and it raised $5,050,000. During the ICO, a single NEO token was going for $0.032.

NEO blockchain is often referred to as the Chinese version of Ethereum. It offers smart contracts and on top of that provides digitized assets, identification decentralized commerce. The developers saw a future where blockchain would be used to represent legal proof-of-ownership for the broader society rather than the cryptocurrency community alone.

Today, NEO is traded on most crypto exchanges and currently trades at over $9.87. Towards the end of 2017 and early 2018, NEO was trading at over $120.

  1. Stratis

The Stratis ICO was conducted from August 2016 to January 2018. It was raised $610,000 by selling a single STRAT token for $0.007.

Stratis blockchain is a project that was developed to offer end-to-end solutions for the development, testing and deployment of Blockchain-based applications for the businesses worldwide. Its main aim was to make it easy for blockchain developers to develop blockchain networks that address whatever problem that is faced in the business sector.

The project has become quite a success since it ended up with a platform that is fully compatible with the C# and .NET programming languages, which are common among coders. One of its best use cases was when Microsoft added it as a Blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) to its Azure cloud service. Stratis has become a darling for enterprises that use Microsoft products and looking to incorporate blockchain technology.

Currently, the Stratis (STRAT) goes for over $0.30. It reached its all-time high at the start of 2018 when it was going for $21.21.

  1. Ark

Ark ICO was conducted from November to December 2016 raising $22,000,000 USD. During the ICO, a single ARK was valued at $0.1 USD.

The Ark blockchain project was developed to create a platform that could link different blockchain into one network of use cases. In so doing, users of different blockchains could transact. Besides, Ark provides an open-source code and blockchain creation tools to enable users to leverage blockchain technology.

Ark has won a number of partnerships with different firms including Ledger, Atomic Wallet, Exodus, Changelly, and Spend among others.

Currently, the Ark token is trading at over $0.21.

  1. Lisk

Lisk ICO was conducted in March 2016 raising $6,472,497 USD. During the ICO, a single Lisk (LSK) was going for $ 0.07647059.

Lisk was the first modular blockchain that has the main chain that hosts the LSK coin with other side chains, which are personal blockchain networks attached to the main chain. The side chains are built and tailored using Lisk tools.

Most importantly, the developers of the side chains are allowed to hold their own ICOs. And most importantly Lisk allows developers to use JAVA programming language to develop the side chains.

Besides, several Ethereum players have also invested in this blockchain project.

Currently, the Lisk (LSK) is trading at above $1.11.

  1. QTUM

QTUM ICO was conducted in March 2017 and raised $15.6 million. During the ICO, a single QTUM was going for $0.3.

QTUM is a blockchain network that aimed at bridging Bitcoin with Ethereum’s smart contracts. By this, QTUM hoped to open up more use cases for smart contracts, especially for businesses.

Different business can leverage the tools, templates and smart contracts provided by the QTUM blockchain to enable them to build and deploy the smart contract.

Currently, the QTUM token is trading at above $1.5 USD.

  1. Spectrecoin

Spectrecoin ICO was conducted from November 2016 to January 2017 and raised $15,427. During the ICO, one Spectrecoin (XSPEC) was going for $0.00081.

Spectrecoin platform combines blockchain and tokenized ring signature scheme to add a layer of privacy and anonymity in transactions. By using the ring signature mechanism, any member of the network can append a signature on any transaction and it, therefore, becomes hard to trace the specific person that signed a transaction.

Besides the ring signature, Spectrecoin uses the Tor network to increase privacy within the network. All the nodes in the Spectrecoin blockchain communicate with each other through the Tor network. Therefore, contrary to most blockchains, the transactions carried out within the Spectrecoin go through a number of “middlemen” to make the transactions untraceable.

Currently, the Spectrecoin (XSPEC) is going for over $0.12, which is quite an appreciation from its ICO price.

Conclusion

The above blockchain networks are just examples of the best performing ICOs. There are other blockchain projects like Brave, OmiseGo, Ox, waves, Cardano, ChainLink, and Golem among many others that have used ICO to raise capital for the projects.

Although investors are currently shying away from ICOs due to lack of proper regulations, some countries have already come up with laws governing the ICOs or means of making the ICOs safer, like in the case of the German’s rICO.

If you are in countries where there are rules that have been put in place, you should ensure that you comply with all of them. For instance, if you are from France, you could apply for a VISA from the AMF to have your ICO whitelisted, which would certainly attract investors since they would be sure it is not a scam.

In the USA, the SEC requires you to disclose information about your project to ensure that investors make informed decisions. You may also be required to disclose how the collected funds were distributed, which would certainly instil confidence in your investors.

Failure to comply with regulations may land you into trouble hampering the success of your blockchain project like what was witnessed in the case of Telegram’s TON or the court cases that BLOCK.ONE is facing.

 

France became the first European Union country to craft bespoke regulations for digital asset/token offerings that are not based on past security laws. However, from the time the ICO regulations were enforced in 2019, the AMF has only approved and white-listed two Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), with the WPO’s GreenToken ICO being the second.

France ICOs regulations

The French regulatory authority, the Autorite des Marches Financieres (AMF), started by conducting consultations on the risk, structure, volatility and applicability of coin offering in crowdfunding between mid-2017 and December 2017. This was after recognizing that digital coin offerings were becoming a global phenomenon and it did not want to be left behind as other countries around the world embarked on coming up with rules to regulate security tokens.

By fall 2018, a bill was tabled in parliament and it went on to be signed to law in early 2019, making France first EU country to have an ICO law in place.  The law which is referred to as the Pacte Law (or Loi Pacte), regulates defines digital tokens and lays out regulations for ICOs and intermediaries providing services related to crypto-assets.

Under the Pacte Law (or Loi Pacte), ICO issuers can legally raise funds by conducting an online ICO. Then after issuing the digital tokens, the tokens can be listed on a crypto exchange to be traded. The ICO issuers are given the liberty to choose to register for a VISA with the AMF to be ‘white-listed’ or to simply proceed with their ICO without the VISA but after submitting a document of disclosure to the AMF to enable token buyers to make an informed decision regarding the ICO.

However, the AMF emphasized that:

Although this approval is optional and ICOs without AMF approval will, therefore, continue to be legal, only those public offerings that have received the AMF approval may be marketed directly to the public in France.

It is also important to note that the new rules only apply for utility tokens. Digital securities are regulated under the old/existing securities regulations

The role of the AMF in the ICO regulations

Under the Pacte Law, the AMF:

  • Examines the disclosure document plus any advertising or promotional material that is circulated or published by the ICO issuer. The issuer should ensure that the disclosure document contains accurate, clear, non-misleading and detailed (outlining the risks that investors would face by purchasing the tokens) information.
  • Verifies that the ICO issuer has adopted enough procedures to protect and track the funds raised in the ICO.
  • Ensures that the issuer conducts themselves per the submitted disclosure document while complying with the regulations. If the issuer violates any of these, the AMF can compel the issuer to stop selling or offering the tokens, stop any advertising campaign and also remove its approval.
  • Verifies that the issuer is a legal entity registered under the French law in France. The AMF can only issue Visas to French-based issuers. Foreign corporations and entities seeking ICO market in the French market are free to do so but without the approval of the AMF.

Once the AMF approves an issuer to conduct an ICO, the issuer gets a VISA and is added to the whitelist of the approved ICOs.

However, it is important to note that the AMF approval is not advisability of the project behind the ICO. The AMF does not verify the technical and financial elements of the project. It also does not verify the computer programs behind the blockchain project. Therefore, it is up to the investor to research these before investing in the ICO.

The first ICO approved by the AMF

The AMF approved the first ICO in December 2019. The ICO was a company called French-ICO that has a platform for funding projects through cryptocurrencies. The ICO was scheduled to start in March 2020.

The AMF Visa that the French-ICO was issued with expires on June 1, 2020.

The ICO targets a minimum of €100,000 and a maximum of €1 million. Once the offering is finished the tokens will be tradable on Zebitex, which is a partner exchange to the French-ICO.

The second ICO approved by the AMF

On May 12, 2020, AMF approved the second ICO, which was for a firm called WPO.

WPO is a renewable energy company that services over 600 solar parks and wind firms across Europe and outside Europe.

In the ICO, WPO is offering its GreenToken (GTK) with a minimum target of €1.5 million and a maximum target of €10 million. According to the firm, one token will be going for €95 and the minimum amount that an investor can invest is €100.

The ICO is scheduled to start on September 8, 2020.

In the future, the GreenToken could be used to acquire goods and services from the GreenToken Network, which taps into the renewable energy industries serviced by WPO.

The tokens are expected to start trading on the SAVITAR exchange, which is a French crypto exchange.

Blockchain technology is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives. Besides the impact of blockchain technology on Governments, financial institutions, and conglomerates, blockchain technology has also proved to be a game changer when it comes to the way small Fintech startups raise capital. Startups can now conduct Initial coin Offerings (ICOs) among other methods to raise funds for their projects.

However, for an ICO to be successful, the development team has to diligently choose the blockchain protocol upon which their project’s token will be built on. This is mainly because the functionality of the token will greatly be influenced by the chosen blockchain protocol.

Besides, there are other blockchain technology use cases that the startups can benefit from the blockchain protocol they choose to use. Some of the most profound use cases include asset management through asset digitization, decentralized finance, global trade & commerce, and payments.

Advantages of using blockchain technology

  1. Ability to streamline and automate executions. The use of smart contracts, for example, has made it possible for businesses to eliminate intermediaries and thus streamlining business processes and allowing real-time clearing and settlements.
  2. Increased security during transactions. The fact that the data stored on blockchain networks is immutable transactions tamper-proof and thus authentic.
  3. Ability to develop and deploy permissioned blockchain networks that have a shared business logic and customizable governance.
  4. Ability to digitize assets. This is what has made it possible for startups to conduct online crowd funding through methods such as ICOs.

Most used blockchain protocols for creating ICO tokens

1.    Ethereum

Ethereum is an open-source, public Blockchain distributed computing platform that features smart contract functionality. It was the first such blockchain platform to be developed and it has paved the way for the development of many other blockchain networks that are based on its blockchain architecture.

Ethereum was the first blockchain protocol to prove that blockchain was not only meant for the creation of cryptocurrencies for payments as its predecessor, Bitcoin.

Ethereum provides a platform for blockchain developers to develop decentralized applications. The decentralized applications developed on Ethereum are usually accessible from anywhere in the world. Also its ERC-20 token standard has earned itself a reputation when it comes to the development of cryptocurrency tokens. Actually, most of the altcoins use Ethereum’s ERC-20 token standard.

The token used for conducting transactions within the Ethereum network is called Ether (ETH) and it is normally generated by the platform as a reward for mining nodes the performed computations.

Some of the notable features of Ethereum apart from the smart contracts include the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) that executes scripts through a network of public nodes throughout the world and Gas, which is its internal transaction pricing mechanism.

Ethereum use cases largely revolve around smart contracts and dApps.

Pros of Ethereum enterprise use cases
  • Ethereum supports the development of decentralized applications (dApps). Therefore business enterprises can use the platform to write customized blockchain codes that whose performance is oriented towards the specific business enterprise.
  • Ethereum has a very promising use case in decentralized finance (DeFi). Enterprises can use Ethereum’s smart contracts to issue or go for smart contract powered loans. Developers can also use the smart contracts to mint stable coins as in the case with the MakerDAO project. Smart contracts can also be used in creating decentralized exchanges.
  • Ethereum has proved to be of great use when it comes to tokenizing real-world assets. One of Ethereum’s use cases in line with this is the PolyMath, which has embarked on the creation of a revolutionizing platform for creating security tokens.
  • The decentralized nature of Ethereum and the decentralized applications developed on it make it impossible for hacking attacks.
  • Ethereum’s smart contracts have completely revolutionized the way transactions are made. Instead of writing paper agreements, the transaction agreements can now be recorded in a computer code. In so doing, it has eliminated the need for intermediaries, and parties can now transact directly.
Cons of Ethereum enterprise use cases
  • Though Ethereum’s smart contracts can be easily used in generating digital identities. It has proven to be extremely difficult for governments or regulatory authorities to check the authenticity of digital identities.
  • Ethereum was designed to work through the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism, which makes it less scalable compared to other blockchain networks. And although there are plans to switch the consensus mechanism from PoW to PoS, the process is not that easy.

2.      Stellar

Stellar is a decentralized open-source blockchain network that allows cross border transactions by converting the currencies to digital representations. The network uses a cryptocurrency token known as Stellar Lumen to facilitate transactions within the network.

Some of Stellar’s uses cases involve its integration into Vumi, an open-source messaging platform, enabling Vumi to use cellphone talk time as airtime. Stellar also was integrated into Oradian’s banking platform to enable the bank top to add microfinance institutions in Nigeria.

Stellar has also partnered with several banks including Deloitte, IBM, KlickEX to facilitate cross border transactions.

Pros of Stellar enterprise use cases
  • The stellar network makes cross border transactions cheaper since it eliminates the need for intermediaries. It only costs an average of 1/100,000 of a penny per transaction.
  • Stellar also makes the cross border transactions to be faster compared to the use of traditional means. Stellar can easily achieve 10,000 transactions per second with an average on-chain settlement time of 5 Seconds.
  • Digital currencies developed using Stellar can be traded on StellarX, which is Stellar’s decentralized exchange platform.
  • Stellar has smart contract functionality and users can be developed and executed smart contracts.
  • With Stellar, there are no limits. Businesses can transact any amount at any time to whatever location.
  • Stellar has the necessary documentation, tooling, and support to help enterprises get their project quickly.
Cons of Stellar enterprise use cases
  • All Stellar accounts are required to have a certain minimum balance of lumens.
  • Stellar’s smart contract is not as developed as those of Ethereum blockchain.

3.      Binance Smart Chain (BSC)

Binance smart chain (BSC) is a blockchain-based platform launched by Binance that shall enable developers to issue new cryptocurrencies as well as ICO coins. The platform supports smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps).

The Binance smart chain shall run parallel to the current Binance Chain blockchain.

Binance smart chain gives Binance Company its blockchain rather than depending on Ethereum.

Pros of Binance smart chain enterprise use cases
  • Enterprises can easily create customized blockchain networks for use in their businesses.
  • Just like Ethereum, Binance smart chain has smart contract functionality which can be of great help in business transactions.
  • Binance smart chain enables developers to come up with their cryptocurrency tokens that can also be used for Initial Coin Offerings.
  • Binance smart chains also make it easier for the cryptocurrency coins developed to be listed on Binance exchange.
Cons of Binance smart chain enterprise use cases
  • The binance smart chain features a delegated proof-of-stake (DPoS) system of governance, which is prone to centralization. Centralization would stifle creativity among dApp developers.

4.      Tron

Tron protocol is a blockchain network that provides a decentralized virtual machine that can execute a program through the network of public nodes within the network. TRON TRX is the cryptocurrency token used within the Tron network.

There are several use cases for Tron, key among them being the ability to use TRX as a payment system. Websites like travala.com have incorporated TRX as a mode of payment already.

Another use case for Tron was the partnership with BitTorrent, enabling it to use a token called BTT, which is a Tron based digital coin.

TRX has also found lots of use in the world of online gaming.

Pros of Tron enterprise use cases
  • Transactions within the Tron network are free.
  • The transaction speed is relatively high since the system can conduct 2000 transactions per second.
  • It allows dApps developers to easily develop applications (dApps) that are custom made according to the requirements of the enterprise and deploy them.
  • The TPS is much more improved in Tron thus giving Tron a high throughput.
  • Tron also has high scalability and it gives developers a wider variety of ways to deploy their applications.
Cons of Tron enterprise use cases
  • Tron’s whitepaper suggests quite a lengthy development timeline that suggests that we may not be seeing the real application of TRON come to life soon. That leaves Tron users with only one choice of buying TRX and trading it on exchanges or using it as a payment option.

5.      Cardano

Cardano is an open-source decentralized public blockchain network that features smart contract functionality. It was built to improve the financial system.

Some of the renown Cardano use cases include the GRNET, released in 2018 for checking student diplomas, the New York Ledger Accelerator (SOSV) and Traxia, released in 2018 for converting invoices into smart contracts so that they can be sold as short-term assets,

Pros of Cardano enterprise use cases
  • It allows the use of smart contracts and provides blockchain developers with a network to develop and deploy dApps.
  • Cardano has proved to be flexible, secure, and scalable for enterprises. This is mainly due to the use of the Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism.
  • Cardano integrates a wide range of digital coins without the use of an intermediary.
  • It also combines regulation and privacy.
  • It is one of the few blockchain networks that go through a third party audit, thus making it highly transparent.
  • Cardano blockchain network is made up of two layers, the Cardano settlement and ledger processing transactions layer and the Cardano computation layer that supports smart contracts and provides users with a platform for building DApps. This makes it less prone to the disruptions brought about by soft and hard forks.
  • There is a middle layer made up of side chains that connects the two main layers. This makes Cardano more scalable.
Cons of Cardano enterprise use cases
  • Cardano introduces its programming language called Plutus and developers could have a hard time trying to learn the new programming language to be able to develop dApps on the platform.

Germany’s ‘reversible ICO’ breathes life into the ICOs

After going through trying times, ICOs are poised to regain their glory after German regulators approved incorporating investor protections to the ICOs in a project they are terming as reversible Initial coin offerings (rICOs). This will certainly be a game-changer in the Fintech crowdfunding landscape since ICOs hold the record of being the cheapest among the currently available funding mechanisms.

ICOs’ dwindling popularity among blockchain and fintech developers and investors was due to the lack of an elaborate regulatory framework for the ICOs across the world. And the new ‘reversible ICO’ seeks to bring order to the way ICOs are regulated especially by protecting investors.

According to the German regulators, the approved reversible ICO’ shall allow investors to buy tokens gradually and be in a position to remove their support and funding at any time if they feel like doing so.

Reversible ICO developers

The rICO was developed by Fabian Vogelsteller, who was actively involved in the development of the ERC-20 Ethereum standard.

Fabian first floated rCIO idea in 2018 at Devcon. It has since taken about one year to bring the idea into reality.

How the reversible ICO will function

The main objective of rICO is to add a layer of investor protection to the largely unregulated ICOs. In so doing, it will give investors an upper hand and also shield them from scammers.

Reversible ICOs shall be carried out in two phases rather than the way they were ICOs were formally issued in one go. In the first phase, investors will first reserve the tokens they desire to purchase. Then in the second phase, they can buy the reserved tokens gradually over time. By doing this, investors will have time to watch over the project issuing the ICO.

Additionally, if the investor sees any reason not to continue supporting the project by buying the reserved tokens, they can release the reserved tokens and also have their ETH refunded. That way scammers will have no chance of getting away with investors’ money.

The two phases make it possible for investors to understand the project as they invest to avoid losing the opportunity as they try to figure out if a project is legit or not.

The reversible ICO holds close resemblance to Vitalik Buterin’s proposal to have ICOs that resemble the DAO. According to Buterin, the DAO like ICOs would permit DAO participants to vote on milestones while still funding the project behind the ICO.

It is needless to point out the other numerous proposals on ICOs that were floated in trying to combat the issue of ICO regulation.

The rICO has some advantages over Buterin’s proposal in that rICO is simple and it is fast compared to the DAO like ICOs that would experience stumpy voting participation by the DAOs.

The future of ‘reversible ICOs’

Germany is one of the largest economies in Europe and its regulatory authority Bafin has made great strides in the field of tokenized assets compared to countries like the USA.

Germany was actually among the first countries to approve the use of Security Token Offerings back in 2019.

Although it is not yet clear if investors in the other parts of Europe or the world would be eager to approve the rICO fundraising mechanism, rICOs represent a great step towards regulating ICOs.

The first use case for reversible ICO (rICO)

The first blockchain project that shall use rICO to raise funds shall be LUKSO, which is a sister to Ethereum when it comes to making mainstream decentralized applications

The LUKSO rICO is scheduled for some time next month if all things go as planned.

Access to capital is essential for Fintech companies looking to embark on rapid growth. However, the available traditional fundraising methods have lots of drawbacks that hinder Fintech companies from realizing their full potential.

Most of the traditional fundraising methods rely on middlemen, who end up making the process too expensive. Also, the process involves a lot of paperwork, which ends up slowing down the whole process.

The rapid evolution being witnessed in the cryptocurrency and blockchain arena has stepped up the efforts of removing intermediaries from most business transactions. The invention of blockchain-based fundraising methods like Security Token Offerings (STOs) has completely revolutionized the way fintech startups and companies engage their customers in raising funds.

Security Token Offerings have stood out among the blockchain-based fundraising methods and offered great competition to methods such as the Initial public offerings which are quite expensive due to reliance on middlemen.

Security Token Offerings within the Fintech industry

Security Token Offerings (STOs) issue security tokens, which are digital financial products that experts and analysts believe could replace the way everything is conducted in the future. Despite being secure and highly liquid (making them easier to buy and sell), they have also provided a better opportunity for transparency and oversight among investors, businesses and regulators.

Security tokens have provided an avenue for digitizing almost anything in the world. A host of industries, among them the real estate industry, and the capital markets, among many others, have seized the opportunity by tokenizing their assets and offering them as security tokens.

Security tokens can easily be offered through smart contracts or STOs.

While STOs allow the Fintech startups and companies to net serious investors, the investors also benefit since the STOs makes it easier for them to monitor the performance of their portfolios. STOs are also easily regulated since the security tokens have an added layer that makes them able to comply with regulations.

Investors who purchase security tokens through STOs are entitled to a given stake, voting entitlements or dividends in the company.

Some of the STOs that have stolen the show recently include that of AssetBlock, a real estate investment firm that has embarked on tokenizing about $60 million worth of exclusive hotels in partnership with a luxury hotel asset manager, for investors to cash in.

There is also another case in Manchester, UK, where a luxury residential development it tokenizing about $25 million worth of assets on Tezos blockchain, with a plan to tokenize over $600 million real estate within the United Kingdom.

Comparing STOs to other blockchain-based fundraising methods

STOs are among several other models for fundraising blockchain projects, among them Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs). Among the three, STOs have stood out after gaining prominence following the regulatory issues facing ICOs.

Initially, ICOs were the go-to fundraising option since they were very simple to orchestrate and required no regulations at all. However, scammers noticed the loophole and started issuing fake ICOs to milk vulnerable investors, thus making investors keep off from them or at least be very careful when participating in one.

The fall away of ICOs saw the invention of the IEOs, which are safer compared to the ICOs. However, most IEOs do not offer security tokens due to the strict restriction that goes with offering security tokens. In the US for example, if an IEO offers security tokens, the IEO should be issued through a registered/regulated securities exchange and the company behind the IEO should disclose adequate information about its business, the token sale as well as the terms of the token sale.

Therefore, though IEOs solved the issue of safety with ICOs, it hasn’t been able to attend to the need of the evolving trend among most Fintech companies to use security tokens instead of using utility tokens. Security tokens are best issued through STOs.

As a result, Fintech companies and startups are opting to run STOs even though they are more involving compared to the ICOs and IEOs. And since the STO landscape is persistently evolving, companies are forced to constantly conduct in-depth market research to thoroughly understand the anticipations of their target audience.

 

Though ICOs and STOs are great fundraising methods that startups can use in raising funds for their projects, it is paramount to asses the risks involved.

Launching ICOs/STO requires quite an amount of investment and therefore requires due diligence to ensure that that money is used for the right cause.

Besides, the sole purpose of the ICO or STO is to raise funds for your project. So, one should assess whether the ICO/STO shall be able to meet its target.

What to consider when doing ICO/STO risk assessment

In assessing your ICO/STO, you should consider the following:

  1. Market assessment

It is good to keep in mind that the market shall play a very great role in the success of your ICO/STO and your project.

Before launching your ICO/STO, it is good to assess the market to find out if your project shall be accepted and even adopted by a significant number of people. If a lot of people like your project, they shall be ready to invest in it. However, if people don’t find the project to be worth it, they will not be interested in investing in it and your ICO/STO could end up being a total failure.

To ensure that your project fits in the market, you should ensure that it tackles a solution to something crucial in society. Your solution must also be viable and unique. Remember, you also have other competitors and you have to prove to the people that your project is better than the rest.

Besides, you must be able to identify your target group. You must clearly distinguish the people that you want your project to help. This ensures that your marketing strategies are trained towards this group. And the wider the target group, the higher the likelihood of finding more investors. To identify a target group, you should ask yourself what services your project intends to offer; and who is best suited for those services.

  1. Regulatory risk assessment

This is very critical in launching an ICO/STO.

You have to understand what is required of you depending on the regulations that are set within the region or country where you want to run your fundraising. Failure to adhere to those regulations could cost you a lot and could even result in your ICO/STO or project being put on hold by the regulatory authorities.

Since at times those laws and regulations are quite intricate, like when launching an STO, it is good to involve an ICO or STO advisory firm to help you maneuver those regulatory issues.

Legal liabilities can be very costly to your company or startup especially if you are involved in court cases. Also, once it goes public that your project is on trial at the courts, people/investors will tend to become extra cautious and it may hamper the rate at which people find it worthy to invest in the project even if you manage to handle the cases.

Why do an ICO/STO risk assessment?

  • Preparing yourself for eventualities in future

Countries and regions are still struggling with regulation cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. As a result, most of the countries are still formulating laws and regulations to govern anything related to blockchain technology.

Therefore, your antennas should be up all the time to ensure that your blockchain project adheres to all the laws; even those that were just released. The best way to do this is by looking for a competent advisory firm like Gravitas International that will be concerned with the regulatory issues.

A good advisory firm will help you maneuver the current legal matters and also prepare you for legal issues that may come up in the future.

  • Ensuring that you ICO/STO does not violate any laws/regulation

There is nothing that can be bad like finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Risk assessment ensures that you are on the right side of the law.

  • Estimating the success of your ICO/STO

Carrying out a risk assessment, enables you to find out your weak points and helps you to come up with ways of improving to ensure maximum success of your ICO/STO.

It also enables your team to identify risks and develop plans and contingencies to mitigate risks for your investors. This instills confidence in the investors.

ICO/STO PR is all about making sure the public gets to clearly understand the project behind your ICO or STO. It deals with managing the spread of information about the project behind the ICO/STO to the public in a bid to market the project.

PR is, therefore, an integral part of marketing an ICO or STO. A well-marketed ICO or STO ends up attracting millions in investments while a poorly marketed ICO or STO could end up not hitting their targeted amount in the fundraise.

With that said, it is therefore very important to plan and manage the PR to ensure that it gives the right results. PR campaigns are quite expensive and if not handled professionally, they could end up eating into your pocket without any returns.

Planning an ICO/STO PR

To start with, it is advisable to get your development team together and figure out a PR strategy for your project. The strategy should be guided by the project objectives and milestone deadlines.

Of importance, you should come up with a content plan containing the content topics, titles and the targeted media where the content shall be published. Once the content plan is ready, you should hire an experienced copywriter to create the planned texts, which your PR manager send out to the various media outlets.

The cost of an ICO/STO PR

The cost of ICO/STO PR is not something that is universally set. It all depends on how much campaigning you want to do and how much you are willing to cough for it. Nevertheless, you should work at ensuring that every coin used in the PR is bringing in investment into the project. Otherwise, your PR will become a total loss.

Below is an average of what various PR practices would cost you:

  1. Hiring content writers

You should hire a professional content writer that will produce quality content for your project. Remember the quality of the content has a direct impact on the image of the project. Therefore, you should not settle for a cheap content writer.

You can hire freelancers through the various freelancer sites available. The cost could range from anywhere between $100 and $1000.

  1. Having your PR articles posted on popular websites

Having articles that talk about your ICO/STO project published on popular websites makes it easy to reach more probable investors who visit these sites for updates.

To post PR articles on top-tier sites like CoinDesk and Cointelegraph, could cost you between $2000 and $12,000 per article.

To post on second-tier sites would cost you between $500 and $2000.

  1. Get Trusted YouTube Influencers

Getting a trusted YouTube influencer with thousands or millions of subscribers would give your project an insane exposure. However, you have to do thorough research on the influencer since some influencers have fake subscribers.

The cost of getting a good YouTube influencer could range between $4000 and $40,000.

  1. Get your ICO/STO listed on popular ICO/STO listing sites

In choosing the listing sites, you must ensure that you are fully aware of the target audience. You should get a listing that will ensure that your target audience is reached.

The average cost of having your ICO or STO listed ranges from $200 to $5000 per listing.

  1. Joining Cryptocurrency Forums

There are quite several cryptocurrency forums with a huge number of users who could be potential investors.

Examples of such forums are:

  • Reddit threads
  • com
  • Bitcointalk
  • Quora

Also, the majority of ICO/STO listing sites have platforms for social activity and if the team is active on the platform, it could become more influential and possibly sway investors to invest in the project.

This is usually the cheapest and most underrated method of marketing ICOs and STOs. You will not need to pay to be allowed to join any of these social forums. The only people you could pay are your contributors.

  1. Holding/Attending Events and Conferences

You should attend events and conferences oriented and related to your project’s objectives. For example, if your project is related to blockchain healthcare, ensure that you participate in as many events related to healthcare as possible.

And as you attend the events, also ensure that you get a chance to speak and let people know about the objectives of your project in terms of the services or products you intend to offer. You should also be ready to part with some money in the form of donations. The amount will depend on your judgment of what can make a significant impact.

Compared to other forms of crowdfunding, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) offers a more democratic approach. It gives tech startups and firms the ability to net-in a wide range of investors.

The beauty of it is that ICOs have no limitations on who should invest or how much one should invest. There are basically no regulations or laws that define how ICOs should be conducted. All the powers of the token sale are usually at the hands of the issuers and third parties, like ICO advisors, helping in the ICO.

By allowing any investor to invest any amount of money into the ICOs, the issuers are able to raise the required capital faster owing to the fact that investors flock to get a share of the ICO tokens.

However, the lack of a provision for regulations has also become a disadvantage to the ICOs. Crooks found the loophole and started airing fake ICOs targeting vulnerable investors. Compared to other fundraising methods like Security Token Offering (STO) and Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) that have provisions for regulations, ICOs simply had no provision for regulations.

Between 2016 and 2018, a collective of over $10 billion was raised by startups through ICOs. An example of a successful ICO was that of Ethereum (ETH). Ethereum issued ETH tokens whose value appreciated as the project rose to become the second-ranked cryptocurrency.

But Ponzi Schemes and doggy projects started using ICOs to defraud investors making investors more cautious. This cost ICOs greatly. In 2019, ICOs hardly raised $1 billion.

Finding genuine ICOs

Even with the current trend, tech-startups are still conducting ICOs. Therefore, it is still very possible for investors to find genuine ICOs.

However, due to the high cases of Ponzi schemes and scammers using ICOs, it has become increasingly difficult to identify a genuine ICO. It requires a thorough investigation into a project to verify if it is fake or something worth investing in. In this case, ICO advisory companies like Gravitas International comes in handy in helping to identify genuine ICOs.

ICO advisory companies have become the best platforms where investors can get genuine ICOs. The advisors play a key role in managing how startups run their ICOs and they are therefore able to identify if a project is a scam or legit. And no ICO advisory company can advertise and run a scam because that would place its reputation on the line.

The intervention by IEOs

In late 2018, Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) was invented to incorporate regulation in ICOs. An IEO is an ICO that is run on a cryptocurrency exchange. The exchange helps in verifying the projects, thus ensuring that investors (who are usually the exchanges’ users) are shielded from Ponzi schemes.

IEOs approach brought a sense of regulation to the chaotic market. It shifted the power of token sale from the hands of the issuers to exchanges which are regulated by regulatory authorities.

In 2019, over $3 billion was raised through IEOs and the trend seems to gather momentum in 2020.

Security Token Offering (STO) has become one of the most appreciated methods of raising funds for blockchain projects and startups. However, it is strictly regulated since it falls under financial securities. Therefore, any person, company or organization thinking of conducting an STO in any part of the world must first be aware of the regulations they need to adhere to.

The regulatory requirements set for STOs are primarily set to educate and protect investors.

Due to the seriousness and complexities involved in most regulations, individuals, firms or companies looking to tokenize their assets or equity for sale to investors through STOs are advised to hire an STO advisor like Gravitas international to develop successful strategies and identify the various regulatory requirements for the specific region they want to operate in.

It is worth noting that different countries have different rules for STOs.

In this article, we shall look at STOs rules and regulations in some of the counties around the world where STOs have gathered momentum over the past few years.

1. STOs regulation in the USA

In the United States of America, digital currencies are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

The CFTC in 2015 classified cryptocurrencies as commodities, which meant they were to be included under the Commodity Exchange Act.

SEC, on the other hand, has set in place several rules meant to deal with anti-fraud, and registration issues of digital currencies. Through the Howey Test, the SEC can tell if the token used to raise funds falls under securities.

There are three types of regulations that any STO issuer eyeing the USA market should be conversant with. These are Regulation D, Regulation A+, and Regulation S.

  • Regulation D

This specifies how some certain token offerings can avoid the SEC registration after filling a form known as “Form D” once the securities are sold.

The issuers, however, must stick to Rule 504, Rule 506 (b), and Rule 506 (c).

Rule 504 does not set any limitations to investors while Rule 506 (b) and Rule 506 (c) allow accredited investors in the US to take part but does not put any limit on the fundraising.

This regulation, however, has limitations on resale.

This regulation also allows the STO issuers to advertise their projects.

  • Regulation A+

STO issuers who want permission to issue SEC approved securities to non- accredited investors should work under this regulation. However, the regulation states that the maximum amount of investment by investors cannot exceed $50 million.

This regulation does not have any resale limitations.

However, it is more expensive and takes more time to register with this regulation.

  • Regulation S

This regulation shed light on how the securities act registration for security offering that shall take place outside the US should be carried out.

Whenever a security offering is being carried out outside the US, the issuer must follow the security regulations of the respective countries where the offering is being carried out.

This regulation comprises of Rule 901, Rule 902, Rule 903, Rule 904, and Rule 905 of the 1993 Act.

2. STOs Regulation in Europe

In Europe, STO issuers must create a prospect and also meet the security regulation of their respective local regulatory authorities. However, there are some exemptions for the European Union, which include:

  • The qualified investors’ exemption – STO issuers can freely request accredited investors to invest.
  • The limited network exemption – STO issuers can sell their securities to 150 people in any European member state freely.
  • The large investment exemption.
  • The nominal value exemption- if the value of each of the securities is worth 100,000 euros, then issuers can sell the securities without any need for registration.
  • The limited amount exemption – issuers can sell securities of up to 5 million euros without the need for a prospectus.

Regulation of STOs in France

In France, any activities involving financial instruments must be regulated.

The French Treasury came up with a new legislative framework for token issuance after the Financial Markets Authority identified that lack of ICO regulations was a risk.

This was added to the Title V of the French Monetary and Financial Code (CMF) as a new chapter titled “Intermediaries in Miscellaneous Property and Token Issuers.”

The second chapter of the Title V gives the specifications of the tokens that can be registered, or transferred. As a token issuer in France, you must conform to the requirements and conditions under article L. 550-8.

Regulation of STOs in Switzerland

In Switzerland, token issuers must ensure that their tokens comply with Swiss laws. The Financial Market Supervisory Authority ensures that it examines every token sale.

But, in a nutshell, Switzerland is considered to be one of the friendliest states when it comes to token issuance.

STOs regulation in Malta

STO issuers in Malta should ensure that they comply with the Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act, Innovative Technological Arrangement and Services Act and the Virtual Financial Asset Act.

Authorities in Malta are required to first look into the technology behind any project to deduce if it is feasible or not.

3. STOs Regulation in Asia

Asia has grown to become one of the best places for blockchain and cryptocurrency startups.

STOs regulation in Singapore

In Singapore, any STO issuer must first submit a prospectus and register with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) unless they qualify for the exemptions in the “A Guide to Digital Token Offerings”.

The MAS is mandated to regulate digital token issuance that falls under the capital market products under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA). To determine if the token issuance falls under the capital markets, MAS examines the structure and characteristics of the digital token.

STOs regulation in South Korea

In 2017, the Financial Services Commission in South Korea announced that token sales are illegal in South Korea.

STOs regulation in China

China was the first to ban the sale of tokens in its country in 2017 before South Korea followed suit.

Nevertheless, we could see an ease on the STO stand by the Chinese authorities in future when they come up with STO regulations.

4. STOs Regulation in the Middle East

In the Middle East, the two most countries of interest are Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

STOs regulation in Israel

After forming a committee in 2017 to examine if the Israeli securities laws were applicable in tokens sales, the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) planned to be evaluating token sales on a case by case basis.

According to the ISA, security tokens are cryptocurrencies thus giving the holder of the token entity to the cash flows and ownership rights in the future.

STOs regulation in the United Arab Emirates

UAE Securities and Commodities Regulator plans to recognize tokens as securities, which are governed by the Dubai International Financial Services Authority (DFSA) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) in Abu Dhabi.