7 Trends Shaping the Evolving ICO Economy

Sure, there were white papers, prototypes and theories, but in the land of ICOs, 2017 was largely about one thing – money – and lots of it.

Entering 2018, those closest to the sector, the area of the industry that’s actively applying learnings from cryptocurrencies to startup models, see a bit of a different story. White papers, prototypes and conferences, they believe, will persist. But changes, too, are on the way.

Namely, insiders see a wave of testnets, betas and iterations as the signal and noise begin to separate, and projects begin to differentiate.

As the stakes get higher, CoinDesk broke out a list of trends we see coming for 2018 and reached out to entrepreneurs and investors for further findings:

1. Regulatory purgatory will continue

Despite the ongoing discussions globally, most experts surveyed seemed to think global governments will keep the crypto community waiting for what it wants most, regulatory clarity.

Look for the courts to provide most of this year’s guidance, including further action against issuers.

“The real news will be actions against non-issuers,” former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) enforcement attorney Nicolas Morgan, now at Paul Hastings, told CoinDesk, indicating celebrities touting tokens without disclosure and brokers and exchanges that don’t properly register could be targeted.

ICOs that want to play by the rules will need to get used to interpreting past rulings from other industries, another SEC alum, Timothy Peterson of Murphy and McGonigle told CoinDesk.

He said, “ICOs will need to be comfortable dealing with enforcement inquiries.”

As with any complex financial product, it’s “part of doing business,” he said. Still, even if the SEC or the CFTC did start circulating draft regulations, most seem to think it is unlikely they would be enforced this year.

2. The funding pipeline will grow

Notably, no one CoinDesk contacted seemed to think that the overall investment in tokens will shrink in 2018. Although, it appears the size of rounds may vary more.

“Both humongous deals and smaller, faster rounds [are happening now],” Wendy Schadek, a VC from Northzone pointed out.

She and many investors predict rounds will rather be broken up, into more complex deals, structured more like traditional venture capital.

“The action will continue to move increasingly to private sales and the tokens reserved for the public will be smaller or, in many cases, disappear entirely,” MacLane Wilkison, co-founder of NuCypher, predicted.

3. Startups could seek ethereum alternatives

In order to serve the general public, ethereum needs to process vastly more transactions at faster speeds. Kik already gave up on it in December, and we even saw a $39 million ICO launch on Stellar. But generally, founders continue to bet that ethereum will scale successfully.

“Ethereum is still the clear winner today in terms of the community and developer tools that are available. We’re rooting hard for Plasma and the team at OmiseGO as they try and build the first implementation of it,” Josh Fraser of the Origin Protocol told CoinDesk.

Wilkinson agrees but predicts major ICOs on Stellar in 2018, as well as further development on other protocols. The chief scientist for one of those protocols, Dfinity, said on The Third Web podcast that the only real solution is unbounded transaction volume.

As long as it’s got a max, entrepreneurs will hit it and clog the network.

However, multiple entrepreneurs CoinDesk confirm they have back-up plans in case ethereum’s backlog issue isn’t yet resolved.

4. Decentralized apps will deploy

Boost VC’s Brayton Williams has already declared 2018 the year of “talent and shipping” on Medium.

“Boost VC has always been about backing the builders, but now we are altering that slightly and we are looking to back those who ship,” Williams wrote.

As such, entrepreneurs will feel intense pressure to get products into the hands of the public so people can start using tokens for their intended use…

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