It is passe to say 2017 was a wild year for ICOs. However, it is largely unconventional to say ICOs were a significant and mostly positive trend in the development of the blockchain and cryptocurrency sectors. It is rather tedious to read yet another mainstream press article mocking ICOs and their participants, (all too often sandwiched between articles on the further declines of ‘IPO of the year’ SNAP Inc., and another multimillion dollar fine paid by a major bank for defrauding clients or manipulating markets, with no hint of irony or editorial self-awareness.) Undoubtedly, there are most certainly extreme events that exhibit the worst of the industry that should not be whitewashed or glossed over: scam projects, flagrant disregard of publicly distributed regulatory guidelines, misrepresentations of technology and projects and companies, and wild speculation with no deep understanding of the underlying technology. Nonetheless, beneath this veneer that many delight in pointing out, an enormous amount of significant activity marked 2017, much of it promising meaningful long-term impacts. In many ways, the “ICO Industry” is a lens through which to understand broader developments in the blockchain and crypto-asset industry, and considering the figures and trends from 2017’s year in ICOs represents one manner of gaining insights into the evolutions of those sectors.
Below we offer some initial thoughts, alongside a few accompanying charts, as we begin to explore 2017’s major themes. Given the range of ICO activity during 2017, and the variety of trends that both contributed to and emerged from the ICO space and the broader blockchain and cryptocurrency communities, we will be presenting our ‘2017 in Review’ thoughts and commentary in several pieces over the next few weeks.
Today we offer a simple overview of the growth of the space as reflected through the lens of the general numbers for ICOs and amounts raised, with a few links to some of our previously published pieces that help illustrate some of these ideas, concluding with a brief consideration of how those numbers fell into the different sectors that shape the industry, a theme we intend to explore further next week.
One obvious beginning is simply the number of completed ICOs that, as many have already heard, grew strongly throughout 2017.
Turning from the number of ICOs to the the amounts raised, the charts looks similar, if not perhaps more impressive. The 2017 total, with over 525 completed sales raising more than $25,000, for a cumulative amount of over $6.5 billion, and an average raise amount of approximately $13 million, is impressive. 2017’s median raise amount of $5.0 million suggests the numbers for overall raise figures are heavily skewed by a small number of large raises, but this is hardly a new theme for our readers, as we have mentioned this theme throughout the year. Nevertheless, given that 2016’s token sales raised a collective $100 million–an amount surpassed by 15 individual sales in 2017–the scale of growth is rather clear.
Looking across the landscape of individual sales for 2017 also provides a powerful perspective on the range of activity throughout 2017. While a handful of the largest raises featuring in the upper half of the below chart garnered an enormous amount of media attention during 2017, a large number of projects raised significant capital.
Smith + Crown categorizes token sale projects according to the economic sector they are trying to disrupt. Below is the same data disaggregated into different sectors.
In Part II we’ll look behind the most prominent trends to consider some more subtle, and in many ways more revealing, ways of looking at the evolution of the sector.