The ICO model will soon be rendered redundant by a series of new token offering models focusing on security, transparency, and regulatory compliance. An explosion of token offering innovation is underway, with several new models emerging as prime contenders for the title of the “ICO of the future.”
In this three-part series, we’ll assess the current state of the ICO ecosystem, analyze the regulatory shift making the “traditional” ICO model untenable, and take a look beyond the ICO at the future of decentralized capital generation.
In our previous Beyond the ICO article, we examined the ICO market and regulatory response to the ongoing issue of ICO fraud. Regulators are playing a critical role in the creation of a new token offering model that allows innovative startups to access capital in a decentralized manner, but what shape will the future ICO take?
The Future of the ICO
The immunological regulatory response to the threat presented by the traditional ICO model will inevitably result in change, but regulation isn’t the only environmental factor shaping the evolution of ICOs. Community self-regulation will heavily influence the morphology of future ICOs as the crypto market adapts to fraud within the ICO market and eliminates less efficient models in a Darwinian manner.
The ICO model will fracture into separate models that fill different niches within the blockchain ecosystem; security token offerings and DAICOs.
Security token offerings address the core issue presented by bringing capital markets onto the blockchain. Instead of working against existing securities laws, a security token offering, or STO, works with them — the most obvious solution to the looming threat of regulatory action. Instead of attempting to camouflage what is arguably a securities offering as a utility token, STOs deliver regulatory certainty as well as investor confidence
While STOs aim to adapt to the impending fallout of an extinction-level threat, the DAICO model — proposed by Vitalik Buterin — is less concerned with regulation, and more focused on minimizing the inherent risk and complexity of ICOs. By fusing the concept of a decentralized autonomous organization and an ICO, the DAICO model allows development teams to publish a smart contract that launches in “contribution mode.”
A DAICO establishes the funding process as a smart contract that governs the contribution of ether to a project and the specifics of a sale, as well as allowing token holders to vote on the rate of funding delivered to the development team, or even put a contract into “withdraw mode” as outlined by Buterin:
“Voters start off by giving the development team a reasonable and not-too-high monthly budget, and raise it over time as the team demonstrates its ability to competently execute with its existing budget. If the voters are very unhappy with the development team’s progress, they can always vote to shut the DAICO down entirely and get their money back.”
The ICO Model is Here to Stay — But Not as We Know it
Both the DAICO and STO models address the major obstacles that ICOs face in the near future, but the evolving crypto industry may eliminate the ICO as a launchpad for new blockchain-based platforms altogether.
UK-based technology advisory and investment firm GP Bullhound predicts the end of the ICO model as the go-to capital generation method for blockchain entrepreneurs, stating that 2018 will see airdrops become new normal for token distribution. With venture capital stepping in at a pre-ICO stage, airdrops will function as a preferable option to traditional ICO models in order to maximize network effects.
While the ICO as it exists today may be gone tomorrow, the blockchain brings evolution, not revolution. Regardless of regulatory posturing, decentralized growth capital generation will exist as long as decentralized currencies exist and are used to exchange value. Ultimately, the ICO is identical to the underlying technology that drives it — regardless of the shape it takes in future, it’s here to stay.