ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

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.

Venture Capital Ecosystem – Now

Aug
17

The current Venture Capital ecosystem has begun to revive and experienced growth in the last two-quarters. Let’s take a look at the situation of the venture capital ecosystem to evaluate the liquidity and investment position in the market.

 

Overview

In the first and second quarter of 2017, VC sector continued to grow despite the rolling financial market in China, Euro crisis, UK’s exit from the EU, controversial election in the U.S. and obstructed technology IPO market. Although, new uncertainties have surfaced, investors have learned to adapt and adjust. Whereas, the profits made in the first quarter further increased in the second quarter.

 

Funding Activity at a Global Level

The number of deals around the world has also increased. Equity funding rounds in the second quarter of this year increased by 5.7% as compared to the first quarter, adding about 300 rounds. This change took place as a result of angel investment and seed stage investment.

If you compare it with the second quarter of 2016, the overall growth in the funding rounds was about 8.8%, which came about as a result of early stage firms.

 

Dollar Volume

According to a report by CrunchBase, the overall investment increased by 16% in dollar terms, which is an increase of about $6.6 billion in the deployed capital. There was a fair distribution of gain. Late stage startups, early stage startups, startups at the seed stage and angels received about 20% funding in the current quarter as compared to the previous one. The only thing that faced a downturn was a technology growth rounds.

However, the global VC market is not yet restored. In the second quarter of last year, the total investment amount was $51.5 billion, but this year it was $47,8 billion, i.e., 7.2% less than the previous year. On the other hand, technology and seed sector experienced growth by 10.75% and 16.5% respectively.

 

Leading Investors

In a CrunchBase report, a total of 3200 VC rounds was analyzed during the second quarter of this year. During the first quarter, it was Tencent Holdings, Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners that secured the first position, wherein, each had a total of 9 rounds. In the current quarter, however, Tencent led 11 rounds, whereas, Sequoia and Accel led 14 and 20 rounds respectively.

In this quarter, some newcomers were also in the leading position, including Samsara, Grammarly, and General Catalyst. SoftBank also formed part of this list in the second quarter of 2017 along with True Ventures. Some firms dropped down from a leading position, while other newcomers made it to the top.

 

Technology Growth

Growth capital in the technology sector is also known as a growth equity in the business. Technology growth rounds have been defined as private equity rounds in the CrunchBase report. In these rounds, some VC investors from the previous rounds also participated as a continuation.

The dollar and deal volume also increased in this quarter compared with a volume of the same period last year. The overall increase was about 32%. The increase in dollar volume was of $160 million. Although, the deals in the current quarter were two times more than the deals in the previous quarter, the total value of funds was 45% less than the last quarter. This downfall represents the decline in round sizes over time.

 

Initial Public Offerings

The second quarter of 2017 experienced a small increase in the technology initial public offerings (IPOs), both in the United States and the Europe. This toned down the speculative noise that IPO window was closed for everyone except the big firms.

No significant regulatory filings or announcements were made in the third quarter of this year. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, filed documents with the Security and Exchange Commission, showing its interest to raise $100 million. And so far, it has managed to raise over $167 million from investors like Tiger Global Management, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and others.

 

Although, the global VC market experienced a severe decline at the end of last year, the second quarter of 2017 was relatively better. Growth was observed in the dollar and deal volume for two-quarters back to back. Rounds are also experiencing growth; some venture capitalists doubled the bet on their investing activities. If the upward trend continues, the third quarter will bring the market back to normal after full recovery.