Tighter Regulation May Be Around the Corner for ICOs 6 1308

Even the most bullish commentators on the future of cryptocurrency and the rise of ICOs won’t be surprised to learn that the clampdown is coming. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ICO community is starting to feel the warm breath of the SEC on their necks. The commission is said to have “issued dozens of subpoenas and information requests” to companies that have raised funds through ICOs and token sales, as well as a number of prominent advisers.

What is the SEC Looking for?

Specifically, the SEC is currently requesting information. They want to know more about the sale structures and the presale elements involved. Some frowned-upon action has certainly taken place, including large discounts for investors with deep pockets, or for early adopters.

The amount of money raised by ICOs so far is simply astounding. In 2017 alone, almost $6 billion was raised in token sales, with a further $1 billion in the first two months of 2018.

The Need to Rein in the Wild West

So far, the financial world and regulatory bodies, including the SEC, have been lenient on ICOs, yet the cry for regulation has been heard on several occasions. There are plenty of opportunities for scam artists to steal investors’ money currently, and the galloping volatility of crypto has dented many an investor’s pocket. Regulation would perhaps be of benefit to all, provided that the SEC doesn’t clamp down too hard on this burgeoning area.

Regulation could also help to give credibility to cryptocurrency and extend its chances of being widely adopted. Pyramid schemes, such as BitConnect, would no longer be able to occur, and some standard practices would be put into place. This would also prevent anyone with an internet connection and a white paper from requesting funds, while separating the ICOs shrouded in marketing hype from those that have a viable idea and solid plan.

Currently, the SEC is looking into several token sales and will be watching out for any wrongdoing, although, no specific guidelines have been released as of yet. Many a tech team behind a high rise ICO will be watching in anticipation, as the SEC have already warned that security laws may have been violated last December alone.

Regulation is the Name of the Game for 2018

It’s not only the SEC that is getting heavier handed with ICOs. Governing bodies around the world have also been shining the spotlight on crypto and token sales. The EU will be discussing how to monitor crypto at the next G20 Summit in Argentina this year, while Japan is also in the process of establishing a regulatory framework for ICOs, in order to prevent scam teams and pyramid schemes.

Not only will these measures apply to Japanese ICOs, but they will extend to ICOs targeting Japanese investors. There are also plans to revise the April 2017 Bitcoin Payment Law. Austria and Germany aren’t staying behind, with plans of clamping down, and India is considering banning cryptocurrency completely, following China’s lead.

Whatever the future holds for ICOs and cryptocurrency, one thing is certain: the activity that was going on behind the scenes is now out in the open and token sales will not go on unnoticed or unobserved any longer.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? Comments Off on Why Is Everyone Talking About NFTs? 51975

In this writer’s opinion the NFT hype is warranted — but not for the reason most people are investing. 

For those who’ve been in the space since Bitcoin’s early surge, you’ll remember the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) boom of 2017. The crowdfunding vehicle, which mirrored an IPO on the public market, brought with it massive amounts of investment into the blockchain space that seemed to mirror Bitcoin’s rapidly increasing value. 

In retrospect, none of it made sense. 

With all the hype, the investment in the space didn’t match due diligence. As of August 2018, investors had lost nearly $100M in ICO exit scams, a major reason we no longer hear about ICOs. 

From there, crowdfunding through token sales was rebranded alongside SEC regulation as Security Token Offerings (STOs). Additional fundraising iterations to enter the scene are Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs) and Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs).

NFTs are having a similar moment to the immature and potentially reckless ICO market of 2017. The danger can be credited to a mix of hype and a widely unregulated environment with various points of entry and gatekeepers that are not incentivized to shore up fraud. 

As a result, many purchasers of NFTs are falling victim to a spectrum that spans undeserving projects on the mild end and outright scams at the extreme. Meanwhile, hackers are exploiting the unregulated environment. 

Just yesterday, $3 million in NFTs were stolen via an Instagram phishing scam. 

This writer, however, is still bullish on NFTs — just not the ones that are getting all the attention.

NFTs represent a concrete entry-point into the blockchain with a tangible utility and infinite disruptive implications. 

Here are a few.

Digital Assets as Social Proof 

As a Millennial, I personally have a hard time understanding the notion of owning and assigning value to a digital asset, but my kids don’t. 

I’ve written about how Gen Z has already adopted the concept of social proof in digital environments by assigning socially relevant value to digital assets like video game skins. 

As Gen Z ages and becomes an increasingly powerful consumer population, this experience will matter. Whether or not their purchase behavior translates to adulthood remains to be seen, but our kids are already leveraging digital assets in the metaverse to exhibit their position in the social hierarchy in the same way that my generation assigned value to Jansport-brand backpacks. 

Their concept of digital assets will be fundamentally different from ours, and NFTs are likely to benefit. 

But Why Are NFTs Relevant to Me Now?

Social proof is far from the most interesting use case for NFTs. 

In the near-term, NFTs can be utilized to store sale information of physical goods on the blockchain in order to eliminate nefarious actors in fraud-riddled industries like fine wine and art. 

Moreover, NFTs can disrupt any industry with a substantial secondary market. By coding royalties into the smart contract of NFTs, original sellers of wine, art and other trade-susceptible brands and industries can ensure they’ll capture a fee anytime an item is transferred. 

This solves a major problem for creators like photographers, artists and musicians that are notoriously underpaid in comparison to the value they create for brokers. It also has the potential to cut out middlemen like auction houses, record labels, and galleries to democratize the creator economy. 

Other Innovators Have Introduced Creative Use Cases for NFTs

Gary Vaynerchuk utilizes NFTs as tickets for events and other value-adds to his community. Forbes introduced a series of NFT Billionaires that will update alongside the real-time NYSE to gamify their user’s NFT experience in a way that’s brand-relevant. Foxies.art is using a gamified version of NFTs to fundraise blockchain education for women. 

The utility of NFTs is confined only by the imagination of our innovators. Whether or not NFT headlines today will remain relevant is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: the disruption is only beginning. 

Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans Comments Off on Fidelity to Offer Bitcoin in 401(k) Retirement Plans 48970

The move is the first for a major retirement plan provider and may signal more widespread adoption of the cryptocurrency. 

On April 26, Fidelity announced its intention to add a Bitcoin investment option to its 401(k) retirement plans. Employees of businesses that pursue the option will be able to allocate as much as 20% of their contributions to Bitcoin, all from the company’s main investment dashboard. According to reporting by the Washington Post, Fidelity said that at least one employer has already signed up for the option which will launch later this year.

“Fidelity’s leadership, especially CEO Abby Johnson, has been at the forefront of institutional Bitcoin and crypto integration for years and is no stranger to the space, with Fidelity’s private equity and venture capital arm being a major source of capital for crypto miners, crypto SPACs, crypto hedge funds and more,” says Eric Lamison-White, Director at STS Capital Group LLC, a cross-border advisory and investment firm. “It is completely in character for Fidelity to steadily and cautiously extend access to their working class customers as the regulatory climate becomes more productive.”

Critics suggest that the volatility of Bitcoin poses an unnecessary risk to a retirement portfolio. It’s a reasonable argument. At the time of this writing, the cryptocurrency’s price has fallen by more than 6% just today. Meanwhile, at $37,978 it’s a far cry from Bitcoin’s high of $68,000, representing more than a 40% drop since November 10th of last year. 

However, advocates of cryptocurrency’s long-term utility disagree.

“Cryptocurrency is a reliable, long-term store of value because it cannot be corrupted by central authorities,” says Lisa Carmen Wang, founder of The Bad Bitch Empire, a platform for female investors in web3. “We’ve already seen hyperinflation, bank failures, and other egregious disasters happen in the last few years, so trust in governments is at an all-time low. Crypto is inevitably volatile now because it is an early stage high-risk/high-reward investment, but for those who believe in the values of a decentralized economy, crypto is an attractive long-term investment that people should consider having in their portfolio.”

Regardless of your appetite for risk, the notion that savers will be able to easily manage contributions to Bitcoin in a respected retirement plan is meaningful.

As of last year, 63% of US adults that did not hold crypto were curious about it. Many people in the crypto-curious category don’t invest because they simply don’t know how. There’s a technological barrier to entry that can feel daunting. 

When you have major retirement plan managers like Fidelity making it easy to add Bitcoin to a portfolio through a dashboard users are already familiar with, we may see this group start investing in the asset class, moving digital currencies further along toward mainstream adoption.

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