ICOs Raised 95% Less in January 2019 Than in Their Best Month, Data Shows

Omar Faridi
  • ICOs are not receiving as much capital as they did during the crypto bull market of 2017.
  • However, ICOs are still performing better than what they did January 2017.

Investments in initial coin offerings (ICOs) have dropped by nearly 95% according to data from cryptocurrency analytics firm Coinschedule.

In March 2018, ICOs raised over $5.8 billion, however Coinschedule reported the popular fundraising method attracted only $291 million in total investments during January 2019. Although ICOs have not generated as much capital as they did when blockchain project valuations were a lot higher, Coinschedule pointed out that ICOs still raised over 70% more funds last month than they did in January 2017.

When compared to the time period during which cryptoasset prices hit record-level highs in late 2017 and early 2018, the ICO market has slowed down considerably. Coinschedule’s data shows there were less than 50 ICOs launched in the first week of January 2019. Moreover, the ICO ecosystem received only $6 million in total investments from 424 different public token sales tracked by Coinschedule. Significantly, this is the smallest amount raised by ICOs since 2017.

$1.4 Billion Raised From ICOs In Q4 2018

As CryptoGlobe reported last week, ICOs netted 25% less in funding during Q4 2018 when compared to Q3 of the same year. This, according to data from ICOBench which also revealed in the same crypto market report that there were 594 ICOs completed in Q4 2018. During the previous quarter, 554 ICOs were successfully conducted (as they managed to reach their fundraising target).

Data from ICOBench revealed that $1.4 billion was raised by ICOs in Q4 2018, while Q3 of last year saw public token sales generate $1.8 billion - according to ICOBench.

As covered, a study conducted by Satis Group found that more than 80% of ICOs launched in 2017 were scams. However, the fraudulent token sales only managed to attract 11% of total investments made in ICO projects (during 2017). According to Satis Group’s report (published in July 2018), approximately 70% of the funds raised by ICOs went towards helping legitimate crypto and blockchain-related projects.

Security Token Offerings (STOs) Provide Regulated Investment Options

In December 2018, Jerry Ji Guo, a Chinese-American who previously worked a journalist for the New York Times, was charged for his alleged involvement in a $3.5 million ICO-related scam. Guo is now facing up to 20 years in prison as he was found guilty of orchestrating fraudulent schemes in which he stole large amounts of cryptocurrency from blockchain startups that had employed him as a consultant.

Due to the large number of scams orchestrated under the guise of ICOs and the lack of proper regulations for the crowdfunding method, many companies have introduced security token offerings (STOs). These are regulated token offerings that allow investors to acquire cryptoassets which are tied, or backed by, real-world assets such as stocks, debts, commodities, and real estate.

How Bakkt Can Bring the Crypto Space an Institutional Investor Influx

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts have for years been waiting for institutional investors to enter the space. While the introduction of bitcoin futures contracts on regulated exchanges in late 2017 didn’t gain a lot of traction, but Bakkt may.

Bakkt is a long-awaited bitcoin futures exchange and on-boarding platform from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) - the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange – and it’s set to launch this year. Bakkt itself has remained tight-lipped over the precise launch date after delaying its launch last year, with ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher in February simply saying “later this year.”

It’s possible that this quarter may see the launch or at least more news about when the exchange is finally coming. At the end of March, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler explained:

While we’re not yet able to provide a launch date, we’re making solid progress in bringing the first physical delivery price discovery contracts for bitcoin to the U.S.

Bakkt’s launch could be a major milestone for the cryptoasset industry. A venture backed by Microsoft and Starbucks, its institutional pedigree alone will switch many cautious investors on. Specifically, the firm is set to help consumers pay for goods and services with cryptocurrencies, with Starbucks being the flagship retailer in its arsenal.

Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures contracts will be the first physically-settled derivatives on a regulated trading platform. This means investors will receive the contract’s underlying asset, bitcoin, when it expires.

Currently the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) offers cash-settled bitcoin futures contracts, meaning investors get the equivalent of BTC’s value in fiat when the contracts expire. This is seen by some as a major development in the cryptocurrency space, as it shows traditional finance is willing to interact with the nascent cryptoasset industry.

It’s worth noting that earlier this year the ICE’s CEO called Bakkt a “bit of a moonshot bet,”  as it was organized in a way “very different than the way ICE typically does business.” The firm has its own offices and management team, and could undergo more rounds of financing in the future.

Bakkt And a Potential Bitcoin ETF

What’s significant about Bakkt’s launch beyond this, is that it may bolster the chances of a Bitcoin Exchange-Traded fund (ETF) being approved. Such a product would make it easier for institutional investors to gain exposure to cryptocurrencies.

In August, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected nine other ETF applications, in particular highlighting how those applying hadn’t provided evidence that “bitcoin futures markets are of significant size’” for an ETF to be launched.

Once Bakkt is launched its trading volumes may very well help quell the SEC’s concerns over the bitcoin futures markets’ small size as institutions and other investors may feel comfortable entering it. Larger futures contracts trading volume, increased liquidity and a well-established company involved may prove enough to convince the SEC that the time is right for a Bitcoin ETF.

Bakkt therefore represents a very significant milestone for a maturing cryptoasset industry and may well herald the “institutional influx” that many have been anticipating since 2017. Despite the markets remaining relatively flat throughout 2019 these looming decisions in the U.S. have the power to move the entire industry forward, for better or worse.