This post is part of CoinDesk's 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world. Andy Bromberg is the co-founder and president of CoinList, a platform for token sales. CoinList is also launching a cryptocurrency exchange, and provides compliance and developer engagement services to crypto projects.
Compared to the 2017-18 hype cycle, this was a quiet year for the crypto markets. There was no tidal wave of institutional money or cascade of mass adoption. Regulators gave encouraging crypto guidance while also putting Libra and projects like Kik and Telegram in their crosshairs. And for our business and the larger token sale space, we continued to see investors eager to back quality projects.
In other words, the crypto experiment continued.
In 2019, we saw startups tweak token-based fundraising models in new directions. For instance, Algorand ran a Dutch Auction sale on our platform where participants set and paid a uniform, market-determined price per token to ensure fairness and transparency – some of the core tenets of the project. There were projects like Blockstack that were the first to conduct a Reg A+ token sale. And, we saw projects starting to conduct Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs) in order to provide immediate liquidity for investors.
PUBLIC SALES ARE INCREASINGLY USED PRIMARILY AS A MECHANISM TO DISTRIBUTE TOKENS.
In other words, token sales survived the crypto winter. In 2017 and early 2018, public token sales were focused on raising large chunks of capital for projects. But based on what we’re seeing today, public sales are increasingly used primarily as a mechanism to distribute tokens to a broad array of stakeholders, with the capital raise being a secondary consideration.
But a lot of the continued viability of crypto projects and token sales alike hinges on the SEC and other regulators.
The crypto community got some mixed messages from DC in 2019. The government went after Libra, fined EOS, filed a lawsuit against Kik, and blocked Telegram from distributing its token. Some members of government were more supportive of crypto – including SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce, who called for a safe harbor for crypto projects, so tokens meeting specified criteria could be traded more freely, enabling a more open crypto ecosystem. As we approach the new decade, this – and other encouraging signals — give me confidence in the long-term viability and success of token sales.
What does that mean for 2020?
Just as our industry matures and projects experiment with different token sale mechanisms, we’ll see many live network launches – including many projects that raised money on our platform. These live networks will be a proving ground for even more novel crypto ideas.
On the institutional side, don’t expect to see a “wave” of new money come crashing in, but building off of 2019, we expect a gradual, slow-rising tide of institutional capital.
Finally, we’ll continue to see the industry working with the SEC and other regulators to provide clarity, with the aim of avoiding any more companies receiving punishments of the sort meted out this year.
Most of all, as ever, the experiment will continue.