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IdentityMind Global releases ICO data

Tony Zerucha

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IdentityMind Global today announced key mid-year 2018 insights into ICOs and virtual currency exchanges, highlighted by findings in regulation uncertainties, dynamic pricing movements, and the growth of new virtual currency exchanges.

“IdentityMind is now working with over 10 per cent of companies conducting a compliant ICO and over 25 virtual currency exchanges around the world,” said Neal Reiter, director of ICO and Virtual Currency Business Unit for IdentityMind. “With that much interaction we have gained a huge amount of knowledge and insights about the ICO and virtual currency markets.”

IdentityMind has assisted more than 165 clients conduct an ICO or STO. More than $6 billion was raised via ICO/STOs in 2017, and already in Q1 and Q2 of 2018, $13.7 billion has been raised.

“IdentityMind insights are unique given our ongoing consultations with government regulatory bodies worldwide, existing clients, domain expertise in ICOs, STOs, digital currencies and virtual currency exchanges,” Reiter said. “The bottom line? We facilitate regulatory compliance, fast track onboarding, and accelerate time to revenue for our clients.”

Reiter explained IdentityMind’s insights are based on conversations and consultations with more than 650 global companies conducting ICOs in 2018, from large utility tokens with more than 25,000 contributors requiring KYC to small security tokens with 10 contributors needing KYC and accredited investor verification. IdentityMind has also spoken with more than 65 companies launching a virtual currency exchange in 2018 and works today with more than 25 exchanges worldwide.

Key findings

ICOs

  • Regulation uncertainty continues: Where Bitcoin, the world’s first virtual currency, was several several years ago, is where ICOs are today – lacking clear guidance in the U.S. and internationally.
  • The view from the SEC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commissioner Robert Jackson’s recent comments that he “…hadn’t seen an ICO that wasn’t a security…”, and subsequent SEC letters to companies, has forced many companies to slow down and examine where they stand on the utility token/security question. More recently, Mr. William Hinman, SEC’s director of the Division of Corporation Finance, stated that neither Bitcoin nor Ethereum are securities, which eased some concerns, as the majority of ICOs are based on Ethereum.  In speaking directly with the SEC, IdentityMind was able to gain insights about this topic. 
  • The view from FinCEN: Companies are very concerned that if they’re not a security, their ICO is a money service business (MSB) per the Wyden letter. As discussed here, FinCEN’s March 2013 guidance states that a currency, virtual or not, that’s exchanged for another currency, is a MSB. Thus, companies receiving Ethereum for ERC-20 tokens are an MSB. The question now is whether FinCEN will enforce these regulations, and if so, when. 
  • Dynamic pricing movements: The price of Bitcoin has risen and then fallen this year. As the price has dropped, so has the number of ICOs, especially in the last few months. We’re seeing ICOs with a similar number of contributors, but lower amounts raised as the price of Ethereum is 40 per cent lower than earlier this year. 

Looking out at  the second half of 2018, IdentityMind anticipates the following events transpiring on the ICO front:

  • Regulation is going to get worse before it gets better: “The SEC has and will continue to shut-down blatantly fraudulent ICOs, and will start targeting ICOs that claimed to be utility tokens, but are really securities and should have been security tokens from the beginning,” said Reiter. “We’re not expecting FinCEN to target a company that has conducted a utility token ICO sale for not registering as a MSB, but if they do, expect a complete halt to utility token ICO sales in or available to U.S. residents.” 
  • Regulatory uncertainty affects the price of Bitcoin and Ethereum: “If there is favorable regulation, expect the price to rise,” said Reiter. “However, if uncertainty continues, or agencies take aim at companies, expect a strong price dip.” 

Virtual currency exchanges

  • Explosive growth: According to Reiter, there is tremendous growth in exchanges, but most people probably just aren’t seeing it. “In 2013, when the price of one Bitcoin went from $150 to $1,200, we saw the formation of hundreds of exchanges in the U.S. and Japan,” said Reiter. “However, this year while Bitcoin’s price has fluctuated from $17,000 to $6,000, and while we again saw a large number of exchanges, this time they were in Latin and South America, South Asia and Africa. 
  • Major exchange players are migrating: While smaller players are hard-pressed to go into larger and established markets, we are seeing the large players giving it a go, hoping to find efficiencies due to their size and ability to subsidize losses in the meantime. To that end:
    • BitFlyer and Huobi going to the U.S.;
    • Coinbase is going to Japan;
    • Binance investing in Bermuda and opening an exchange in Uganda. 

As we move into the second half of 2018 IdentityMind anticipates the following developments:  

  • Companies such as Huobi will continue to expand, vying to be worldwide exchanges;
  • The shaking out and establishment of companies that will take leadership positions in countries without established leaders such as India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. 

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Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha is an alternative finance journalist with more than seven years experience in the space. The author of more than 1,000 articles, Tony was named LendIt's 2018 Journalist of the Year.

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