By any measure, 2017 has seen tremendous growth in the cryptocurrency space and particularly in regards to token sales, often referred to as initial coin offerings or simply ICOs. Our ongoing series looking at key issues related to these evolving markets has touched on a number of issues we consider to be central to the emergence and evolution of the industry, and today we extend that series with some observations on key trends related to the geographic distribution of ICOs.
Last month we discussed the global regulatory context relating to ICOs. The diverse regulatory attitudes towards cryptocurrencies and the growth of ICOs discussed in that article will undoubtedly remain with us for the foreseeable future, and this should be reflected in a the shifting geographic landscape of ICOs. There is widely held opinion that a few established countries dominate the industry–whether in terms of number of sales completed or funds raised–but given the turbulent year of ICOs, this could be changing. New countries and regions could be emerging in the global game of regulatory arbitrage or off-the-radar regulatory developments.
As the map above and the graphics below suggest, ICO geography is becoming more varied and much more global.
- In terms of both sales activity and raise amounts, Switzerland and Singapore are unsurprisingly leaders.
- The United States surprisingly is a leader in hosting sales, despite the SEC’s DAO warning and other widespread fear of US regulatory action. In 2017, more and more projects went through the process of filing for a securities exemption or taking the stand their sale was the sale of a product.
- The list of countries filling in the secondary tiers of ICO activities contains a number of countries that often don’t get mentioned in ICO headline articles. Whether this represents a relatively small number of globally-dispersed outliers or the beginnings of a new trend of projects moving away from traditional financial centers–crypto or traditional–is yet unknown.
- While the presence of the United States and Switzerland atop this list is hardly surprising, Singapore’s strong position in third place, as well as the range of countries boasting meaningful raise amounts, illustrates how ICO activity extends well beyond a few core financial centers.
- Our final chart suggests a surprising similarity in raise amounts across geographies and could be an early indicator of the relative lack of importance of domicile for companies completing ICO.
- Also of note is that while we identified last month a series of countries developing somewhat more flexible and welcoming regulatory approaches towards ICOs and the companies sponsoring them, suggesting that these countries may ultimately find themselves in an effective competition to attract ICOs and the associated jobs and innovations to their shores, our data today supports the idea that many of the more recently formed welcoming official attitudes towards ICOs (Canada, Gibraltar, Australia) are indeed found in locales not currently playing the leading roles in terms of ICO sales and fundraising.
- Finally, while the data presented today do not explore correlations between ICO activity and word counts of regulatory pronouncements in individual countries, we suspect that too could be an interesting study!
Data sources: Smith + Crown data. ICOs valued according to average daily exchange rates on the day the sale closed. Sales that raised less than $25,000 or returned money to participants are not included. Does not include EOS, which has an ongoing ICO. Not all sales reveal their location or actually have one. Location refers to the registration of the primary business entity launching the sale.
 While a presentation of average ICO amounts across geographies has obvious issues of sample size given that many of the less prominent nations have only one or two actual samples, the surprisingly small range of average raise amounts globally does make a general argument about the relative uniformity of raise amounts across geographies.