Almost 80 percent of 2017’s ICOs were scams

July 13, 2018
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Yup.

Image: Pilin_Petunyia/getty

Initial coin offerings are the way of the future, and oh boy is that future shady. 

A new study found that the favorite fundraising mechanism of the blockchain universe is often employed by those trying to fleece the world, not improve it. And, well, no one should be too shocked — it’s not like ICOs are exactly the picture of above board

For the blissfully unaware, ICOs provide companies with a poorly regulated way to raise large sums of money. Unlike the more traditional IPO, an ICO lets those in the cryptocurrency space sell tokens or so-called coins that will — in theory — be worth something at a future date. The reality often isn’t so pretty.

According to the study by the ICO advisory firm Satis Group, published on July 11, almost 80 percent of 2017’s ICO were “identified scams.”

“[As] a percentage of the total number of ICOs,” reads the report, “we found that approximately 78% of ICO’s were Identified Scams, ~4% Failed, ~3% had Gone Dead, and ~15% went on to trade on an exchange.”

That’s … not great. 

The skeptical investor doesn’t need to look far in order to see this in practice. In fact, the scam-filled nature of ICOs is so widely known that the SEC created a fake ICO just to warn people away from them. 

Yeah, it's fake.

Yeah, it’s fake.

“Combining the two most growth-oriented segments of the digital economy – blockchain technology and travel, HoweyCoin is the newest and only coin offering that captures the magic of coin trading profits AND the excitement and guaranteed returns of the travel industry,” read the pitch-perfect SEC parody site. 

Importantly, that 78 percent is the number of ICOs that were outright frauds. It doesn’t even take into account the ostensibly legit projects that struggled due to mismanagement or other factors. One example of the latter, Tezos, raised over $230 million last year before essentially imploding

As mentioned above, the Satis researchers found that around 4 percent of 2017 ICOs just straight up failed, while 3 percent had “gone dead.” They described ICO death as, having raised funds, not being “listed on exchanges for trading and has not had a code contribution in Github on a rolling three-month basis from that point in time.”

Basically, those ICOs have more or less ghosted their investors. All told, that makes around 85 percent of ICOs last year either scams or busted. 

If this report doesn’t inspire confidence in the ICO space then good, you’re paying attention. 

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