Written by Angelos Delivorias.
Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are a relatively new method of raising capital for early-stage ventures. They allow businesses to raise capital for their projects, by issuing digital tokens in exchange for crypto assets or fiat currencies. They constitute an alternative to more traditional sources of start-up funding such as venture capital (VC) and angel finance.
ICOs can potentially offer advantages in comparison with traditional ways of raising capital. At the same time, their opacity and the general tendency for issuers to exploit regulatory loopholes can carry significant risk for investors, may make ICOs vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing, and could even create financial stability concerns.
ICOs have been met with a wide range of initial regulatory responses: from an outright ban in the case of China and South Korea, to more supportive approaches in other jurisdictions, with Singapore in Asia and Switzerland in Europe leading the way. As for the European Union (EU) and the United States, the relevant regulatory agencies initially published warning notices, reinforced by statements that securities laws could apply and registration be necessary. The EU went a step further and is currently seeking to partially regulate ICOs, with a proposal for a regulation on markets in crypto-assets (MiCA regulation). Meanwhile, some Member States are currently implementing regulatory sandboxes, to provide an impetus for innovation without imposing the immediate burden of regulation.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding initial coin offerings: A new means of raising funds based on blockchain‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.