ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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Will 2018 Mark the End of Initial Public Offerings?

Jan
18

2017 turned out to be a great year for technology-based IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) that were backed by venture capital.

So many names in a corporate world went public last year, including SendGrid, StitchFix, BlueApron, Cloudera, and Yext. In fact, one of the most successful IPOs in the last few years was Snapchat. In 2018, there are some potential firms that are likely to go public, which is great because the Dow and S&P 500 are at the record high.

 

Beginning of the End for IPOs?

However, dark clouds have started to form on a distant horizon regarding IPOs. Spotify will probably go for direct listing and bypass the bank underwriting to go public. On the other hand, blockchain technology is booming and has attracted many retail investors, especially the ones who are skeptical about the IPOs and the corruption in this sector. Similarly, SoftBank Vision Fund is also trying to raise as much private capital as possible to provide protection to firms from the devastating effect of vulture funds.

There is an increasing awareness that current IPO sector is a hub of corruption, wherein, only those people are benefiting from the firms growth cycle who know the ‘right people’. The retail investors, however, are on the losing end as they are getting sufficient returns. This growing awareness is not going to subside, especially when there is a constant increase viability of other options.

 

Robust Technology – An Alternative to Conventional IPO

The fall of IPOs has been predicted so many times in the past, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ten or so years back when Google went for a Dutch-style IPO, so many people anticipated that it could a soon-to-be-ending road for banks who want to run a roadshow for investors. Similarly, a few years ago, when the pipeline of initial offerings dried up, the same hype was created.

Despite all the noise, the IPO has continued to provide good business. Although, firms will continue to go public by trading shares or securities, they are undergoing certain changes. For example, conventional ways of big banks to charge a huge fee is going to be replaced by more effective alternatives. So many bankers have already begun to lose their jobs after the introduction of technology. Goldman Sachs has already built an application that manages the IPO process. These steps are being taken to enhance the efficiency of operations.

There are only a few who have anticipated that IPOs will get a support of ethereum tokens and the Dutch East India company. However, no one can deny the fact that IPOs are growing weaker day by day, and they won’t survive in the long run if drastic measures are not taken.

 

Spotify’s Direct Listing

The company has managed to secure around 70 million paying subscribers, but at the same time, its chief content officer has resigned. In addition to that, the company is also dealing with some lawsuits filed by the music labels, which can be very damaging in the future.

Despite all the ups and downs, the news has come to light that Spotify is planning to go public via the direct listing. By undergoing direct listing, the company will not issue any new shares nor will it raise any capital through the process. For IPOs, this arrangement can be very devastating as financial institutions like Goldman Sachs will become deprived of underwriting fees, whereas, institutional investors will lose an opportunity to buy IPO shares at a huge discount like they did in the past.

Although, a direct listing of Spotify will be a little bumpy, it doesn’t mean that the process will end in disaster. The rise of digital trading based on algorithms will help Spotify stabilize the price after analyzing the market. The process will be executed as fast as it does for other initial offerings.

 

Increasing Trend of ICOs

Another disruptive disaster expected to happen is the rising trend of ICOs. Initial coin offerings or ICOs are being considered as a replacement for VCs. The rush of initial coin offerings among startup companies has placed a big question mark on the existence of IPOs. ICO model might not be applicable to every company, but being a competitive threat to IPO, they do not necessarily have to apply to every firm.

All in all, IPO is facing back to back attacks; a direct public offering will dramatically reduce the fees involved in conventional IPO, whereas, ICO will be an effective tool for potential financial growth. These disruptive tools are definitely going to rule out the need to go public so as to achieve financial strength, which would eventually impact the long-term sustenance of IPOs.

Rising Trend of Initial Coin Offerings

Nov
09

According to a report by Mangrove Capital, 204 ICOs have made a return of about 1,320 percent.

At the same time, investment banks and hedge funds have shown increasing interest in the digital currency with over 55 crypto-specific hedge funds. Before diving deep into why investors are showing greater interest in cryptocurrency, let’s take a look at what ICO is.

 

What is ICO?

Unlike conventional financial system, ICO or Initial Coin Offering is an alternative and unconventional way of crowdfunding. It has enabled a number of successful firms and projects to get the finance to start their business. New businesses and startups around the globe are getting millions of dollars in funds by issuing digital coins. The rising trend of digital currency has made people both worried and excited.

In ICO, the coins bought by investors are for businesses and marketplaces that are not developed yet. By purchasing these coins, they make a bet that a firm or startup will end up becoming successful and as a result, the coin will increase in value.

In average it takes about six months or a year to raise money with conventional venture capital (VC) system, but it is different when it comes to ICOs. In this token crowdfunding, you get to have a large crowd of engaging supporters who want to see you succeed. Not only do they campaign for you, but they are also your early adopters.

 

Growing Trend of ICO

Startups have raised more than 2 billion dollars since the start of 2017. It is a huge amount of funding, given the fact that not many people knew about it a few years ago. Businesses are making money via this mode of funding faster than usual.

In April this year, Gnosis (prediction market for Ethereum) managed to raise 12 million dollars in just ten minutes. In June, Mozilla’s founder raised 35 million dollars by selling Basic Attention Tokens in under 30 seconds for his new web browser startup called ‘Brave’.

ICOs have become the name of the game as they have left the venture capital market behind and are the biggest source of funding. It is a great option for those companies that are pursuing the application of blockchain technology.

 

Concerns by the Regulators

Despite the increasing trends of ICOs, regulators have shown serious concerns. They are warning investors that it is a high-risk investment.

Although, some coins value has dramatically increased, a very high volatility cannot be ignored. Some have also considered it a ‘speculative boom’, but that did not stop investment banks and hedge funds from showing their interest by making an investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

 

Reason behind the Increasing Interest of Institutional Investors in ICOs

The digital currency market has made massive profits in the past one year or so. Initially, institutional investors were curious about what this is all about, but they started getting a hang of it gradually and became less apprehensive and more interested in this alternative investment. It is a kind of chain reaction that started with the rising interest among venture capitalists and now institutional investors, including mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds are following their lead. They have shown growing interest and are making an effort to estimate and grab the opportunities in the cryptocurrency market.

The reason why they are more interested in the new and unconventional currency is that it promises a higher return as compared to market averages. According to a fintech analytics firm, there have been at least 55 cryptocurrency hedge funds and a former manager at Fortress, Mike Novogratz, has recently announced a plan to use 500 million dollars for a new digital currency hedge fund. Blockchain Capital also made an announcement of raising 150 million dollars; a part of this fund will be for cryptocurrencies.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Approval

Goldman Sachs is planning to set up a bitcoin trading desk, as they believe that institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrency more than ever. The firm has reported it to be ‘a major milestone’. They believe that the investors need an over-the-counter brokerage platform where they can sell or buy as much cryptocurrency as they want. Goldman Sachs is of the opinion that it can take up this role, but there will be other issues, including market infrastructure and serious concern by the regulators.

 

If, however, ICOs becomes regulated, it will change the way how businesses raise money and will also impact the venture capital market.

ICOs Surpassed Early Stage Venture Capital Funding

Sep
15

New startups that raised funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have now surpassed the early stage VC Funding for internet firms.

But before diving into it, it is important to know what ICOs are.

 

What is Initial Coin Offerings?

This is another way of raising cash.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain startup companies raise capital through ICOs by selling tokens of investors in exchange for equity funds. It is somewhat the same as Initial Public Offering in which stocks are issued in exchange for equity. Just like crowdfunding, ICOs provide a way to get funds from users by enabling them to have a share of the business. They get digital currency in exchange for the money they invest in the business.

 

Rising Popularity of ICOs and VC Funding

ICOs have gained massive popularity in the last few months among blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. In April this year, the total capital raised via these offerings was around $100 million and in May, the amount went up to about $250 million. The month of June turned out to be the biggest surprise when the total funding exceeded $550 million. According to Goldman Sachs, it was the first time that it performed better than seed and angel venture capital funding. Early stage and angel venture capital funding was less than $300 million in June.

In July, the offerings were a little more than $300 million, whereas, early stage and angel funding was just a bit higher than $200 million.

 

Popularity Among the Celebrities

ICOs have become so popular that even the celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather, have started jumping on board. In fact, Paris has been involved in it for over a year now and also met the COO of Ethereum last year.

 

Total Value of ICOs in 2017

The total value raised by 92 ICOs in 2017 is $1.25 billion. This is a really good number, given the recent boom of such offerings in the VC sector. There are so many firms that have used these offerings to raise money. For example, Tezos managed to get the capital of over $200 million by creating a new blockchain, whereas, another firm, Bancor secured $153 million via ICO.

 

Criticism and Scrutiny from Regulators

Despite the boom, this phenomenon has been under severe criticism and scrutiny from regulators and other authorities. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement in which it was mentioned that these offerings are exposed to money laundering and other terrorist financing risks, because the nature of these transactions remains anonymous. Another concern raised by the MAS was the collection of large amounts of capital in such a short time frame, which makes ICO vulnerable to high-level risk.

On the other hand, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in July this year that the security law of the U.S. will be applicable to this cryptocurrency. The experts are also showing concern over its legitimacy. They have highlighted that the sale of a cryptographic token makes the investor entitled to a certain share of profit in the firm, which can be considered as a violation of financial rules and regulations. The People’s Bank of China and a lot of other government departments have released a joint statement that people and firms that have raised money through ICO should also make arrangements to return that capital.

 

Firms Facing Increasing Risk of Getting Hacked

Despite all the boom and criticism, the risk of ICOs cannot be ruled out. A clear example of this is CoinDash that initiated an ICO, but ended up getting hacked in July. As a result, all of its funds got stolen. Although, it has gained popularity in the past few months, yet, the risks cannot be ruled out entirely.

 

Future of ICOs

The Chief Information Officer of UBS, Oliver Bussman, raised his concern and said that strict regulations and measures, as applied to IPO businesses, are required in ICO to safeguard the interest of investors. However, he is quite confident about this new mode of raising funds and expressed that such offerings will continue to happen in future. He said that as a new business model that is benefiting the blockchain technology, ICO will continue to sustain by combining hybrid equity ownership/currency and crowd funding.