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Bitcoin

What is an Inititial Coin Offering (ICO)?

It’s undeniable that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been turning the financial world on its head in recent years. These decentralized digital currencies are unlike fiat currencies in that they do not rely on a central bank or another major financial institute for their production and credibility, instead making use of a technology known as blockchains to keep track of transactions via a public ledger. Given how unorthodox the entire world of cryptocurrency use and investment already is, it should come as no surprise that those startups tasked with creating new cryptocurrencies are also using some fairly unorthodox methods to raise venture capital. One method that has been swiftly growing in popularity despite regulatory concerns is known as an Initial Coin Offering, or an ICO.

What is an ICO?

An ICO is a largely unregulated method for raising venture capital to get new cryptocurrencies off the ground. It allows startups to bypass the highly regulated alternative of capital-raising through venture capitalists and banks. Instead, an ICO campaign sells a percentage of its future cryptocurrency, known as a token, to early backers in return for either fiat cash or another established cryptocurrency.

The ICO Process

When a firm decides it wants to raise funds via an ICO, its first step is to create a project plan known in the industry as a whitepaper. This document describes what, exactly, the project is about, including how much money will be required to complete it, how many of the new digital tokens will be kept by the project’s pioneers themselves and its initial backers, and how long the ICO campaign is intended to be run. A firm’s whitepaper also lays out what needs their project is intended to fulfill once it is completed and what type of money they will accept in exchange for percentages of its cryptocurrency.  If the firm manages to meet its minimum requirements for getting the project off the ground within the time frame specified in its whitepaper, it will then use its backers’ money to initiate or complete the creation of a new cryptocurrency.

Advantages Over Traditional IPOs

Some financial experts cite this process as being similar to that of a more traditional Initial Public Offering, or IPO, transaction; however, this new means of acquiring venture capital is still largely unregulated, making it potentially riskier than an IPO, which trades shares of the company rather than tokens.  That’s not the only difference between ICOs and IPOs, though. IPOs are designed specifically with venture capitalists and large-scale investors in mind, while ICOs are open to anyone and tend to draw in small-scale enthusiastic backers rather than major players within the investment world.

Unlike the venture capitalists investing in IPOs, those who choose to purchase ICO tokens are not offered partial ownership of either the project or its parent company. They do, however, still stand to reap substantial benefits in the event that the cryptocurrency is successfully adopted within the larger marketplace.

Risks of ICOs

While investing in ICOs can be quite lucrative for those who choose their cryptocurrency startups wisely, the process is certainly not without its risks. Many enthusiastic investors are unaware that the development of ICOs as an investment strategy is still in its infancy, so they will not have the same protections as venture capitalists do when they invest in more traditional IPO shares. In fact, even the blockchain technology itself that lies at the base of all new cryptocurrencies is still in development, which has the potential to leave investors vulnerable to both unanticipated code errors and intentional theft by hackers.

Digital theft isn’t the only thing investors should be worried about, though; ICOs themselves are, as they currently stand, an ideal platform for fraudsters looking to prey on enthusiastic but ultimately ignorant investors. Unfortunately, even legitimate ICO providers are often less than transparent in offering information to potential investors, making it even more difficult for them to distinguish legitimate startups from fraudulent projects. When combined with the fact that tokens are exchanged on specialized trading platforms that are not currently subject to financial supervision, it should be clear that ICO investors face substantial risks even in the event that they choose to invest in a legitimate startup.

International Regulations

The fact that ICOs, as they currently stand in their largely unregulated state, offer a perfect opportunity for those looking to defraud investors has played a large role in some countries’ decisions to ban this practice entirely. China and South Korea have both unequivocally banned the use of ICOs for raising capital and have required those companies that have already completed their funding cycles to refund any fiat currency or cryptocurrency altcoins invested.

Other major players in the international business world, such as Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States, and the European Union, are tentatively allowing the use of ICOs despite their risks and are beginning to implement market regulations such as licensing, consumer protections, and designation of altcoins as a security rather than a currency.

The Future of ICOs

ClockWhile critics, including many financial experts and government officials alike, say that ICOs constitute a serious risk to investors and should not be trusted, there are still plenty of proponents of this investment strategy who believe that ICOs are the wave of the future, but only if companies and investors start focusing on blockchain technologies rather than the cryptocurrencies themselves. Given that ICOs are both more cost-efficient and more time-efficient than traditional IPOs, and that they make global investment strategies much more feasible for a larger number of companies, they still constitute a practical means of raising venture capital for startups using blockchain technologies.

The Take-Away

While ICOs currently constitute an extremely high-risk investment due to their current lack of regulation, their future as a feasible method for gaining venture capital still looks bright. Potential investors should be hesitant to jump on the bandwagon today but should keep an eye out for regulatory and market changes that may make ICO investment a far more reliable strategy for moving forward with blockchain technologies in the future.

Blockchain

What is Blockchain and How Will It Change the Global Economy?

Blockchain is the new buzzword among bankers in the know. For those who are still new to the concept, this article will help explain how the technology works and how it is likely to impact the future of banking. Read on to find out more and learn, how a secure dataroom can be a useful technical basis for a Blockchain.

What is Blockchain?

A Blockchain is an unchangeable, secure, open ledger system. Unlike a conventional bank, everyone on the ledger is able to view the chain’s transactions across its entire lifespan. It is essentially a database that is copied and shared across all of its main users.

When using a Blockchain system, each monetary transaction is represented as one “block” online. This block is then shared using the web with all relevant parties via a closed network. Everyone in the network then approves the transaction, at which point the block is added to the chain and the money is transferred from point A to point B with less hassle.

Although it was initially created to record Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency transactions, the technology has begun to catch on in a variety of other contexts as well. It is moving in the right direction to become more widely adopted by mainstream society in the near future.

What are the Advantages?

Allowing all users access to the centralized database comes with a variety of advantages. The most obvious of these is that everyone has access to the exact same records, which removes the need for reconciliations. It also offers a long-term transparent record for future use.

Distributed ledger technologies can also significantly reduce the amount of time required to settle transactions. Once all of the system’s initial flaws are addressed, it will also add a good deal of security to transactions. As the technology develops, it could result in revolutionary new business models as well.

What are the Flaws?

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy. In order to be universally adopted, the technology will have to be perfect to remove any possibility of external editing.

What Does the Future Look Like?

BlockchainIt is very likely that banks and other financial firms will be the first entities to adopt Blockchain technology. Currently, nine percent of financial services firms are already investing in related technologies. It is predicted that 36% of those not yet actively engaged in investing will be within the next three years.

According to the IDC, by 2020 $45 million will be spent by financial institutions on enabling Blockchain technologies. By the same year, 20% of global trade finance will likely incorporate distributed ledger technology. Financial institutions are not the only businesses that stand to gain from the use of distributed ledger technologies, though.

The PwC recently found that 11 percent of leisure and hospitality companies have already begun to invest in associated technologies. They are joined by 12% of healthcare companies, 7% of energy and mining companies, and 6% of automotive companies. Ultimately, the possibilities are endless.

New Regulations

Because the technology is so new, most governments haven’t yet established set rules to govern cryptocurrency. This allows startups to use Blockchain technology in innovative new ways. However, it also makes more risk-averse businesses less likely to begin implementing their use until more regulations are put into place to mitigate risks.

Some international organizations and national governmental agencies have begun the process of establishing regulations. Japan has already recognized Bitcoin as a legal currency, and various U.S. agencies have begun to establish policies on virtual currency and its use.

Why Invest?

Venture capitalists are already rushing to invest in distributed ledger technologies. Nearly $1.8 billion in investment funding has already entered the market. Forward-thinking investment firms and businesses would do well to consider doing the same.

There are a number of tech companies engaged in improving existing distributed ledger technologies. As they progress in their projects, they will be able to further improve transaction speed and scalability. Those interested in getting in on the ground floor would be well-advised to look into investing soon.

Skyrocketing Demand

The future of cryptocurrency is looking promising. There are few universities that offer relevant courses through their computer science programs, yet the need for developers continues to grow. Experienced engineers are currently commanding salaries of about $250,000 per year, and these numbers are likely to increase to meet rising demands.

The impact that cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technologies are likely to have on emerging markets is almost certain to be particularly stunning. Across the world, developing economies could stand to gain quite a bit from Bitcoin and other similar technologies. The global economy is likely to experience significant changes as a result.

A Few Parting Words

The need for skilled developers and investment capital is predicted to grow exponentially in coming years. Forward-thinking companies interested in investing in Blockchain technologies stand to gain quite a bit as they continue to impact the modern global economy. Find out more about fintech, cryptocurrency, and distributed ledger technologies online today to discover why.

distirbuted ledgers

Distributed Ledgers: Providing Security and Efficiency

Conventionally, accounting information is held centrally and revisions or additions are carried out privately by accounts professionals. But when you are operating across borders and in cyberspace, this kind of system can become a liability, providing cyber-criminals with opportunities and leading to inefficiency. Read also about a virtual dataroom as solution for location independent sales managament.

Distributed ledgers may well be an effective solution to these problems. They take the form of databases which “distributed”. That is, they exist across a network of nodes and are not held in one particular place. Importantly, when the database is changed, every node on the network is notified. So whatever transactions take place, they don’t escape scrutiny.

How do Distributed Ledgers Work, and Why Are They Useful?

distributed ledgers blockchainThe underlying technology in distributed ledgers is based upon the Blockchain, which in turn forms the basis of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. As with Bitcoin, distributed ledgers combine transparency and security – valuable commodities for all companies.

When a change is made to one node on the distributed ledger, this change is immediately communicated to all other holders in a peer-to-peer network. This means that if a cyber-attacker decided to launch an attack on your transactions system, they would find it much harder to take it down.

Corrupting one dataset or file wouldn’t be sufficient, because all other nodes possess a full record of the network’s transactions. To succeed, cyber-attackers would have to take down every node at once – a tall order.

But security isn’t the only advantage of running distributed ledgers. It’s certainly a major consideration, but other factors are stimulating interest in the technology as well.

Many complex international businesses see distributed ledgers as a way to cut costs and raise the efficiency of their administrative bureaucracy. Just to take one projection, the investment bank Goldman Sachs believes that distributed ledgers could save global businesses $6 billion per year.

These savings would come by reducing the cost of every transaction. With responsibility for managing a firm’s ledger distributed, centralized oversight can be slimmed down, reducing the cost of doing business.

So there are at least two major benefits associated with distributed ledgers. As well as providing security in an increasingly risky business environment, they are seen by many as a route to increased efficiency.

If these projections materialize, or come close to materializing, this is a technology that companies, governments and even (or perhaps especially) charities cannot afford to ignore.

Understanding the Links Between Distributed Ledgers and Cryptocurrency

We mentioned above that distributed ledgers are based upon the Blockchain, which has also formed the basis for Bitcoin – easily the most famous cryptocurrency in the world, but what form does this link take in reality?

Firstly, let’s quickly define what we mean by the “Blockchain“. Basically, this is a database that is distributed across a peer-to-peer network. As the name suggests, the chain is made up of “blocks”, each of which has a specific time stamp. This allows members of the network to know who amended the chain and when.

distributed ledgers dataChanges to the chain are generally not possible on the initiative of a single user. Instead, they have to be accepted by all network nodes in some form. When that happens, the whole chain is transmitted to every node, and the process can begin again.

There’s a good reason why a functional distributed ledger would be based on something like Blockchain.

It’s all to do with trust. In a distributed network like this, every member can see when changes are made. Nobody can fiddle with the data without every member being notified.

Naturally, in some cases, there will be dissent about what constitutes the most accurate version of the ledger. However, distributed ledgers generally work around that problem by specifying in advance what proportion of members need to agree before the chain is approved.

When that capacity to generate trust is allied to efficiency and security against outside interference, it’s easy to see why the technology is causing a stir.

What are the Prospects for Distributed Ledgers Moving Forwards?

At the moment, distributed ledgers are an immature technology. Many of the benefits are hypothetical, rather than real. We don’t yet know how valuable the technology will be for banks, retailers, government departments and aid agencies.

Some doubts have been raised. For instance, trading platforms may not prove practical owing to the demands for data storage about millions of transactions and the speed at which such platforms are updated.

However, there are likely to be many suitable applications. These stretch from registering property claims in areas where property rights are unstable, to mapping solar panel installation strategies, clearing loans and negotiating intellectual property rights for music.

One thing is very real: the excitement about distributed data storage systems. Over the next few years, that hype will start bearing fruit, as distributed ledgers start to solve real world problems. How revolutionary they will be is yet to be seen.