In case you haven't noticed the consultation paper
, staff notice
, and report on Quadriga
, regulators are now clamping down on Canadian cryptocurrency exchanges. The OSC and other regulatory bodies are still interested in industry feedback. They have not put forward any official regulation yet. Below are some ideas/insights and a proposed framework.
- This framework was developed through a study of 96 past exchange hack/scam/fraud events. It prevents all historic cases where funds were lost in cryptocurrency exchanges.
- Typical securities frameworks will cost Canadians millions of dollars (ie Sarbanes-Oxley estimated at $5m USD/yr per firm). Implementation costs of this proposal are significantly cheaper.
- Canadians can maintain a diverse set of exchanges, multiple viable business models are still fully supported, and innovation is encouraged while keeping Canadians safe.
Many of you have limited time to read the full proposal, so here are the highlights:
Effective standards to prevent both internal and external theft. Exchange operators are trained and certified, and have a legal responsibility to users.
Regular Transparent Audits
Provides visibility to Canadians that their funds are fully backed on the exchange, while protecting privacy and sensitive platform information.
Establishment of basic insurance standards/strategy, to expand over time. Removing risk to exchange users of any hot wallet theft.
Background and Justifications
Cold Storage Custody/Management
After reviewing close to 100 cases, all thefts tend to break down into more or less the same set of problems:
• Funds stored online or in a smart contract,
• Access controlled by one person or one system,
• 51% attacks (rare),
• Funds sent to the wrong address (also rare), or
• Some combination of the above.
For the first two cases, practical solutions exist and are widely implemented on exchanges already. Offline multi-signature solutions are already industry standard. No cases studied found an external theft or exit scam involving an offline multi-signature wallet implementation. Security can be further improved through minimum numbers of signatories, background checks, providing autonomy and legal protections to each signatory, establishing best practices, and a training/certification program.
The last two transaction risks occur more rarely, and have never resulted in a loss affecting the actual users of the exchange. In all cases to date where operators made the mistake, they've been fully covered by the exchange platforms.
• 51% attacks generally only occur on blockchains with less security. The most prominent cases have been Bitcoin Gold and Ethereum Classic. The simple solution is to enforce deposit limits and block delays such that a 51% attack is not cost-effective.
• The risk of transactions to incorrect addresses can be eliminated by a simple test transaction policy on large transactions. By sending a small amount of funds prior to any large withdrawals/transfers as a standard practice, the accuracy of the wallet address can be validated.
The proposal covers all loss cases and goes beyond, while avoiding significant additional costs, risks, and limitations which may be associated with other frameworks like SOC II.
On The Subject of Third Party Custodians
Many Canadian platforms are currently experimenting with third party custody. From the standpoint of the exchange operator, they can liberate themselves from some responsibility of custody, passing that off to someone else. For regulators, it puts crypto in similar categorization to oil, gold, and other commodities, with some common standards. Platform users would likely feel greater confidence if the custodian was a brand they recognized. If the custodian was knowledgeable and had a decent team that employed multi-sig, they could keep assets safe from internal theft. With the right protections in place, this could be a great solution for many exchanges, particularly those that lack the relevant experience or human resources for their own custody systems.
However, this system is vulnerable to anyone able to impersonate the exchange operators. You may have a situation where different employees who don't know each other that well are interacting between different companies (both the custodian and all their customers which presumably isn't just one exchange). A case study of what can go wrong in this type of environment might be Bitpay, where the CEO was tricked out of 5000 bitcoins
over 3 separate payments by a series of emails sent legitimately from a breached computer of another company CEO. It's also still vulnerable to the platform being compromised, as in the really large $70M Bitfinex hack
, where the third party Bitgo held one key in a multi-sig wallet. The hacker simply authorized the withdrawal using the same credentials as Bitfinex (requesting Bitgo to sign multiple withdrawal transactions). This succeeded even with the use of multi-sig and two heavily security-focused companies, due to the lack of human oversight (basically, hot wallet). Of course, you can learn from these cases and improve the security, but so can hackers improve their deception and at the end of the day, both of these would have been stopped by the much simpler solution of a qualified team who knew each other and employed multi-sig with properly protected keys. It's pretty hard to beat a human being who knows the business and the typical customer behaviour (or even knows their customers personally) at spotting fraud, and the proposed multi-sig means any hacker has to get through the scrutiny of 3 (or more) separate people, all of whom would have proper training including historical case studies.
There are strong arguments both for and against using use of third party custodians. The proposal sets mandatory minimum custody standards would apply regardless if the cold wallet signatories are exchange operators, independent custodians, or a mix of both.
On The Subject Of Insurance
ShakePay has taken the first steps
into this new realm (congratulations). There is no question that crypto users could be better protected by the right insurance policies, and it certainly feels better to transact with insured platforms. The steps required to obtain insurance generally place attention in valuable security areas, and in this case included a review from CipherTrace. One of the key solutions in traditional finance comes from insurance from entities such as the CDIC.
However, historically, there wasn't found any actual insurance payout to any cryptocurrency exchange, and there are notable cases where insurance has not paid. With Bitpay, for example
, the insurance agent refused
because the issue happened to the third party CEO's computer instead of anything to do with Bitpay itself. With the Youbit exchange
in South Korea, their insurance claim was denied
, and the exchange ultimately ended up instead going bankrupt with all user's funds lost. To quote Matt Johnson in the original Lloyd's article
: “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
ShakePay's insurance was only reported to cover
their cold storage, and “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held”. Physical theft has never, in the history of cryptocurrency exchange cases reviewed, been reported as the cause of loss. From the limited information of the article, ShakePay made it clear their funds are in the hands of a single US custodian, and at least part of their security strategy is to "decline to confirm the custodian’s name on the record". While this prevents scrutiny of the custodian, it's pretty silly to speculate that a reasonably competent hacking group couldn't determine who the custodian is. A far more common infiltration strategy historically would be social engineering, which has succeeded repeatedly. A hacker could trick their way into ShakePay's systems and request a fraudulent withdrawal, impersonate ShakePay and request the custodian to move funds, or socially engineer their way into the custodian to initiate the withdrawal of multiple accounts (a payout much larger than ShakePay) exploiting the standard procedures (for example, fraudulently initiating or override the wallet addresses of a real transfer). In each case, nothing was physically stolen and the loss is therefore not covered by insurance.
In order for any insurance to be effective, clear policies have to be established about what needs to be covered. Anything short of that gives Canadians false confidence that they are protected when they aren't in any meaningful way. At this time, the third party insurance market does not appear to provide adequate options or coverage, and effort is necessary to standardize custody standards, which is a likely first step in ultimately setting up an insurance framework.
A better solution compared to third party insurance providers might be for Canadian exchange operators to create their own collective insurance fund, or a specific federal organization similar to the CDIC. Such an organization would have a greater interest or obligation in paying out actual cases, and that would be it's purpose rather than maximizing it's own profit. This would be similar to the SAFU which Binance has launched, except it would cover multiple exchanges. There is little question whether the SAFU would pay out given a breach of Binance, and a similar argument could be made for a insurance fund managed by a collective of exchange operators or a government organization. While a third party insurance provider has the strong market incentive to provide the absolute minimum coverage and no market incentive to payout, an entity managed by exchange operators would have incentive to protect the reputation of exchange operators/the industry, and the government should have the interest of protecting Canadians.
On The Subject of Fractional Reserve
There is a long history of fractional reserve failures, from the first banks in ancient times, through the great depression (where hundreds of fractional reserve banks failed), right through to the 2008 banking collapse referenced in the first bitcoin block. The fractional reserve system allows banks to multiply the money supply far beyond the actual cash (or other assets) in existence, backed only by a system of debt obligations of others. Safely supporting a fractional reserve system is a topic of far greater complexity than can be addressed by a simple policy, and when it comes to cryptocurrency, there is presently no entity reasonably able to bail anyone out in the event of failure. Therefore, this framework is addressed around entities that aim to maintain 100% backing of funds.
There may be some firms that desire but have failed to maintain 100% backing. In this case, there are multiple solutions, including outside investment, merging with other exchanges, or enforcing a gradual restoration plan. All of these solutions are typically far better than shutting down the exchange, and there are multiple cases where they've been used successfully in the past.
Proof of Reserves/Transparency/Accountability
Canadians need to have visibility into the backing on an ongoing basis.
The best solution for crypto-assets is a Proof of Reserve. Such ideas go back all the way to 2013, before even Mt. Gox. However, no Canadian exchange has yet implemented such a system, and only a few international exchanges (CoinFloor in the UK being an example) have. Many firms like Kraken, BitBuy, and now ShakePay use the Proof of Reserve term to refer to lesser proofs which do not actually cryptographically prove the full backing of all user assets on the blockchain. In order for a Proof of Reserve to be effective, it must actually be a complete proof, and it needs to be understood by the public that is expected to use it. Many firms have expressed reservations about the level of transparency required in a complete Proof of Reserve (for example Kraken here
). While a complete Proof of Reserves should be encouraged, and there are some solutions in the works (ie TxQuick), this is unlikely to be suitable universally for all exchange operators and users.
Given the limitations, and that firms also manage fiat assets, a more traditional audit process makes more sense. Some Canadian exchanges (CoinSquare, CoinBerry) have already subjected themselves to annual audits. However, these results are not presently shared publicly, and there is no guarantee over the process including all user assets or the integrity and independence of the auditor. The auditor has been typically not known, and in some cases, the identity of the auditor is protected by a NDA. Only in one case (BitBuy) was an actual report generated and publicly shared
. There has been no attempt made to validate that user accounts provided during these audits have been complete or accurate. A fraudulent fractional exchange, or one which had suffered a breach they were unwilling to publicly accept (see CoinBene
), could easily maintain a second set of books for auditors or simply exclude key accounts to pass an individual audit.
The proposed solution would see a reporting standard which includes at a minimum - percentage of backing for each asset relative to account balances and the nature of how those assets are stored, with ownership proven by the auditor. The auditor would also publicly provide a "hash list", which they independently generate from the accounts provided by the exchange. Every exchange user can then check their information against this public "hash list". A hash is a one-way form of encryption, which fully protects the private information, yet allows anyone who knows that information already to validate that it was included. Less experienced users can take advantage of public tools to calculate the hash from their information (provided by the exchange), and thus have certainty that the auditor received their full balance information. Easy instructions can be provided.
Auditors should be impartial, their identities and process public, and they should be rotated so that the same auditor is never used twice in a row. Balancing the cost of auditing against the needs for regular updates, a 6 month cycle likely makes the most sense.
Hot Wallet Management
The best solution for hot wallets is not to use them. CoinBerry reportedly uses multi-sig
on all withdrawals, and Bitmex is an international example known for their structure devoid of hot wallets.
However, many platforms and customers desire fast withdrawal processes, and human validation has a cost of time and delay in this process.
A model of self-insurance or separate funds for hot wallets may be used in these cases. Under this model, a platform still has 100% of their client balance in cold storage and holds additional funds in hot wallets for quick withdrawal. Thus, the risk of those hot wallets is 100% on exchange operators and not affecting the exchange users. Since most platforms typically only have 1%-5% in hot wallets at any given time, it shouldn't be unreasonable to build/maintain these additional reserves over time using exchange fees or additional investment. Larger withdrawals would still be handled at regular intervals from the cold storage.
Hot wallet risks have historically posed a large risk and there is no established standard to guarantee secure hot wallets. When the government of South Korea dispatched security inspections to multiple exchanges, the results were still that 3 of them got hacked after the inspections
. If standards develop such that an organization in the market is willing to insure the hot wallets, this could provide an acceptable alternative. Another option may be for multiple exchange operators to pool funds aside for a hot wallet insurance fund. Comprehensive coverage standards must be established and maintained for all hot wallet balances to make sure Canadians are adequately protected.
Current Draft Proposal
(1) Proper multi-signature cold wallet storage.
(a) Each private key is the personal and legal responsibility of one person - the “signatory”. Signatories have special rights and responsibilities to protect user assets. Signatories are trained and certified through a course covering (1) past hacking and fraud cases, (2) proper and secure key generation, and (3) proper safekeeping of private keys. All private keys must be generated and stored 100% offline by the signatory. If even one private keys is ever breached or suspected to be breached, the wallet must be regenerated and all funds relocated to a new wallet.
(b) All signatories must be separate background-checked individuals free of past criminal conviction. Canadians should have a right to know who holds their funds. All signing of transactions must take place with all signatories on Canadian soil or on the soil of a country with a solid legal system which agrees to uphold and support these rules (from an established white-list of countries which expands over time).
(c) 3-5 independent signatures are required for any withdrawal. There must be 1-3 spare signatories, and a maximum of 7 total signatories. The following are all valid combinations: 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7.
(d) A security audit should be conducted to validate the cold wallet is set up correctly and provide any additional pertinent information. The primary purpose is to ensure that all signatories are acting independently and using best practices for private key storage. A report summarizing all steps taken and who did the audit will be made public. Canadians must be able to validate the right measures are in place to protect their funds.
(e) There is a simple approval process if signatories wish to visit any country outside Canada, with a potential whitelist of exempt countries. At most 2 signatories can be outside of aligned jurisdiction at any given time. All exchanges would be required to keep a compliant cold wallet for Canadian funds and have a Canadian office if they wish to serve Canadian customers.
(2) Regular and transparent solvency audits.
(a) An audit must be conducted at founding, after 3 months of operation, and at least once every 6 months to compare customer balances against all stored cryptocurrency and fiat balances. The auditor must be known, independent, and never the same twice in a row.
(b) An audit report will be published featuring the steps conducted in a readable format. This should be made available to all Canadians on the exchange website and on a government website. The report must include what percentage of each customer asset is backed on the exchange, and how those funds are stored.
(c) The auditor will independently produce a hash of each customer's identifying information and balance as they perform the audit. This will be made publicly available on the exchange and government website, along with simplified instructions that each customer can use to verify that their balance was included in the audit process.
(d) The audit needs to include a proof of ownership for any cryptocurrency wallets included. A satoshi test (spending a small amount) or partially signed transaction both qualify.
(e) Any platform without 100% reserves should be assessed on a regular basis by a government or industry watchdog. This entity should work to prevent any further drop, support any private investor to come in, or facilitate a merger so that 100% backing can be obtained as soon as possible.
(3) Protections for hot wallets and transactions.
(a) A standardized list of approved coins and procedures will be established to constitute valid cold storage wallets. Where a multi-sig process is not natively available, efforts will be undertaken to establish a suitable and stable smart contract standard. This list will be expanded and improved over time. Coins and procedures not on the list are considered hot wallets.
(b) Hot wallets can be backed by additional funds in cold storage or an acceptable third-party insurance provider with a comprehensive coverage policy.
(c) Exchanges are required to cover the full balance of all user funds as denominated in the same currency, or double the balance as denominated in bitcoin or CAD using an established trading rate. If the balance is ever insufficient due to market movements, the firm must rectify this within 24 hours by moving assets to cold storage or increasing insurance coverage.
(d) Any large transactions (above a set threshold) from cold storage to any new wallet addresses (not previously transacted with) must be tested with a smaller transaction first. Deposits of cryptocurrency must be limited to prevent economic 51% attacks. Any issues are to be covered by the exchange.
(e) Exchange platforms must provide suitable authentication for users, including making available approved forms of two-factor authentication. SMS-based authentication is not to be supported. Withdrawals must be blocked for 48 hours in the event of any account password change. Disputes on the negligence of exchanges should be governed by case law.
Continued review of existing OSC feedback is still underway. More feedback and opinions on the framework and ideas as presented here are extremely valuable. The above is a draft and not finalized.
The process of further developing and bringing a suitable framework to protect Canadians will require the support of exchange operators, legal experts, and many others in the community. The costs of not doing such are tremendous. A large and convoluted framework, one based on flawed ideas or implementation, or one which fails to properly safeguard Canadians is not just extremely expensive and risky for all Canadians, severely limiting to the credibility and reputation of the industry, but an existential risk to many exchanges.
The responsibility falls to all of us to provide our insight and make our opinions heard on this critical matter. Please take the time to give your thoughts.
Financial ministers and central bankers from the G20 states met over the weekend in Argentina to discuss the challenges for the global economy. They reiterated their position that cryptocurrencies do not pose a risk to the financial stability. The officials also called on the Financial Action Task Force to clarify by October how its anti-money laundering standards apply to crypto-assets. Also read: Ukraine’s Financial Stability Council Supports Crypto Regulatory Concept submitted by
Reiterated: Cryptocurrencies Not a Risk to Stability
The representatives of the G20 member-states said in a communique
released after the meetings on July 21-22 that growth remains robust and unemployment is at a decade low. However, they also noted the need to strengthen the dialog and adopt measures to mitigate the risks for economic development like “rising financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions, global imbalances, inequality and structurally weak growth.”
The statement does mention cryptocurrencies, or crypto-assets as they are called, but not among the risks that need to be addressed immediately. “While crypto-assets do not at this point pose a global financial stability risk, we remain vigilant,” the government officials stated. G20 members also issued a warning that sounds familiar – cryptos “raise issues with respect to consumer and investor protection, market integrity, tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing.”
Ministers and bankers didn’t miss the chance to point out, not for the first time, that crypto-assets, “lack the key attributes of sovereign money.” And, of course, they didn’t skip another favorite talking point of governments and regulators – “technological innovations, including those underlying crypto-assets, can deliver significant benefits to the financial system and the broader economy,” a confession that’s not really a concession.
G20 Wants AML Crypto Standard in October
The participants in the meeting reiterated their commitments from the G20 summit in March regarding the implementation of the standards on combating money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation adopted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF
). They called on FATF to clarify in October this year how these AML
standards apply to crypto-assets. The G20 also welcomed the updates provided by the Financial Stability Board (FSB
) and the standard setting bodies, adding that it expected them to continue to monitor the potential risks of crypto-assets and assess multilateral responses.
FSB, an international organization that makes recommendations about the global financial system, announced last week a framework to monitor the financial stability implications of crypto-asset markets, as news.Bitcoin.com reported
. It has been developed together with the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI
), another international body serving as a standard setter for payment, clearing, and settlement arrangements.
The previous meeting
of the Group of Twenty
, on March 19-20, ended with pretty much the same results, as far as cryptocurrencies are concerned. The forum did not adopt unified crypto-related regulations but urged FATF to apply their standards to crypto-assets. Right before the last summit, the Financial Stability Board dismissed calls from member-states for global crypto rules. FSB’s assessment
at the time was identical – crypto-assets do not pose risks to the global financial stability.
The G20 is an international forum of government officials and central bank governors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union – the economies that account for 85% of the gross world product and 80% of the world trade. Many of its members have already called for adopting global crypto regulations. Do you expect the G20 to eventually propose common rules or guidelines for regulating the crypto space? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below. Images courtesy of Shutterstock. Make sure you do not miss any important Bitcoin-related news! Follow our news feed any which way you prefer; via Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, RSS or email (scroll down to the bottom of this page to subscribe). We’ve got daily, weekly and quarterly summaries in newsletter form. Bitcoin never sleeps. Neither do we.
DISCLAIMER: The authors of this article by no means are advocating, advising or persuading anyone to invest in Cryptocurrencies, ICOs or any other form of investment. Investments are subjected to market risks and you must do your own research before investing and seek financial advise and help from qualified personnel. Any businesses or companies quoted in this article have not paid us financially or through any other means for profit or gain. The authors also do not intent to challenge, disrespect or disobey any specific government, institution or personnel of authority including Banks, Financial regulators, governing bodies and laws of the land. All viewpoints in this article are our own and does not relate to any company, partner, employment or body that we are associated with in our day to day life.
THE HEADLINE: As we reflect upon on 2017, it is probably fair to make a bold statement that it has been a phenomenal leap forward for the trio of Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and the ICO. Here is why: • Bitcoin (the most popular cryptocurrency and once defamed as a ‘hyper-coin’) hit another all-time high passing $8000. Today, Bitcoin is worth about $50 billion and has been accepted under the law and tax frameworks of Canada, Australia, and Japan. • Ethereum network (platform) and its own fuel ( coin) Ether has appreciated more than 2,800% since it was launched in 2015. • Underlying Blockchain technology is no more a hype, it is disrupting every industry through its secure public ledger • ICOs have raked in over 3.6 Billion Dollars, the largest ICO in 2017 has been Filecoin raising over 257 Million Dollars. This is the just beginning of the ICO revolution where IPOs and traditional stock exchanges are going to become a thing in the past.
Let’s admit it. We either have a tribe of people who love the whole concept of decentralized and autonomous Peer to Peer network completely secure and away from the control of the regulators and bureaucrats OR you still belong to the other tribe, you think Cryptocurrencies are dark alleys and ‘good’ people should stay away lurking in these areas. We respect views on either side and we would like to just attempt to demystify few basic practical concepts here that one should know if you are new to this so called “Crypto Tribe”.
EVOLUTION OF CRYPTO AND BITCOIN The first internet currency, known as DigiCash, was created by David Chaum and is said to have its origin from Netherlands. This was arguably the first attempt, but the idea failed and the company went bankrupt in 1998. Keeping up with the trend PayPal ( one of the global leaders in Payments Industry) was next to follow-up and became highly successful, but did not create an actual cryptocurrency. So history was made when the first real cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was invented by someone went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and went online in 2009. There has been several failed attempts to identify this person. This ground breaking and revolutionary makes it possible to take to replace central authorities, government, watchdogs bureaucrats and politicians with the decentralized blockchain, and take power away from Wall Street. Bitcoin has already broken its own records several times since it started. The chart below will obviously blow your mind if you have not tracked Bitcoin recently. In less than 8 years Bitcoin has given over 8000% return. From 0 to 8000 USD per coin. And ofcourse there are talks of the next bubble and market for Bitcoin crashing down anytime. Really? Let’s address them a bit later in this paper.
The legacy of crypto goes back to the days of World War II when cryptographic systems were devised to securely transmit messages between various parties. All has happened is the technology and evolution has progressed since with the advancement of Computer systems and underlying hardware and software. We hence now have a very powerful system on the network for anyone to harness.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN? A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. A blockchain can serve as "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way not in citation given. For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority. And that is the latest Wikipedia definition for you. However, in layman terms, what is the best way to explain it? Let’s think of a used-car for a purpose of illustration. The new buyer would like to ensure that the car is genuinely owned by the seller, that the car servicing history is fully up to date and any major issues has been picked up transparently in the car service history. In real world that may not be possible always. Let’s take another example. We go to our regular family doctor ( GP). Their computer has full history of our health records from illness, diagnosis, medicines and treatments. If we go to another city, it would be very important that the new doctor has full information as well. Sometimes things do not work that way. And this is where the power of Blockchain comes into play. Blockchain is like a decentralized and distributed computer or electronic database existing on multiple computers at the same time ( but not owned by any big company specifically atall). The database keeps growing continuously as new sets of key information, or ‘blocks’, are added to it. Each block contains a very important information - timestamp and a link to the previous block. These then actually form a chain, everyone in the network gets a copy of the whole database but the database is not managed by any particular body, person or corporation. Entire old block are preserved forever and new blocks are added to the ledger irreversibly, making it next to impossible to manipulate by faking documents, transactions and other information. And yes, hackers know this and they have no interest in this area as they cannot manipulate here. They will most likely to continue to pry on large private businesses and public sector for ransom not Blockchain for a very long time or may be forever! It is also worthwhile mentioning here that since Blockchain runs on a public network, there are concept of ‘mining’ and rewards to the ‘miners’. In simple terms, people are rewarded for allowing their computers to be used for harnessing the ‘processing power’ of Block execution. Every new transaction on a block ofcourse needs to be executed. Now that you have got a bit of history of the whole Cryptocurrency and Block chain technology mumbo-jumbo, you may be thinking what about another term ICO which everyone keeps talking at the Pub and every now and then on various websites and journals. What are ICO really? Let’s get that out of way as possible.
THE DAWN OF INITIAL COIN OFFERING ( aka ICO) You are probably already familiar with the traditional stock market and the concept of Initial Public Offering ( IPO), so we will not go too deep into it. But in a nutshell, until recently businesses have raised money from the public by listing their businesses on the famous stock exchanges. Ofcourse, it is not possible for Mr. John Smith from a little village selling his home made secret strawberry jam globally until he has deep pockets. Neither he can even dream of getting his business listed on a stock exchange to raise cash from public. Hence listing businesses and raising cash has remain the forte of the big and bold with the backing of Venture Capitalist firms, Private Equity firms and the Brokers. And ofcourse there has been the means of the “Angel Investor” who would give cash by taking significant equity stake in a business started by the entrepreneur with their blood and sweat. Then emerged the concept of “Crowd Funding”. Online project funding websites like kickstarter, crowdcube, seedrs emerged. They allowed entrepreneurs to request for funds from the public. But these methods have raised limited funds, grossly regulated by the local authorities and not everyone could raise money from here. So you may ask what IPOs and Crowdfunding has anything to do with Blockchain technology and ICOs? Well what if we say that there are investors out there who believe in the disruptive nature of Blockchain Technology and are also early adopters of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin. Then there is whole liberal aspect of the unregulated market which makes the whole world shift towards a very different perspective. Now an entrepreneur could actually raise money for building their business from very early stages ( sometimes from just a concept level) and accepting the money not in traditional currency ( aka Fiat currency) but Cryptocurrency. And further, each of these new projects could even release their own version or token of an underlying cryptocurrency or digital currency. Now that’s sexy and awesome isn’t it? Well, we are not going to down the route here to inform the readers it is good or bad practice in this paper. We will leave that opinion formation to yourself. Now that you got a high level understanding of ICOs, the next thing you may want to know is that it is pretty straight forward to invest into an ICO ( we will cover more in this paper later). But you need to understand is ICOs just like an IPO are for short duration. Usually they last for few weeks (typically 4 weeks). You get bonus Tokens or the crypto coin to invest early. Once the ICO minimum target is reached ( Softcap) the coins gets listed on the CoinExchange and they start trading. Coinexchange? What are these then? Quite simple, just go back to the analogy between a traditional stock and traditional stock exchange. Very simple concept really. How you buy, sell and do the nitty-gritty just differs. Since there are no brokers or regulators involved here. The whole process is really simple and quick. It may worthwhile sharing a quick snapshot of the ICO market worldwide: It is mind boggling to see that new businesses in really concept stages are raising more money than traditional businesses in just few hours of ICOs getting listed. Obviously this is really bothering lot of people in high ranking posts. We are not here to again debate who is right or wrong here. What we essentially want you to understand is some of these ICOs are really shaping the next wave of revolution.
How many of you believed that a Smart Phone with a so called ‘mobile app’ would be worth billion of dollar? Look at Uber, Alibaba, Airbnb, Facebook. Why no one complains about their valuation? May be because these businesses have backing of very large venture capitalists, Private Equity firms? But who runs these VCs and PE firms? Do you really need 70 Billion Dollars to run a Taxi mobile app? We honestly do not know. But what we know for sure is disruptive technologies and businesses built on top of them always have an edge. And then you combine the technology and handover its power to the people you create a social eco-system that is so strong and powerful that it can override and form its own status. And that is what is happening with the ICOs. People are investing into their trust and belief. Now that’s more powerful than any single bank, government or institution !
If you have followed this paper so far, you should have started to get an idea of what is really going on here about the trio – Blockchain Technology, Cryptocurrencices and ICO. However, I am sure you still have may have zillion questions about how you do certain things. Let us try give you answers to some of the most common questions asked by those who really want to get involved.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Question 1: I am interested in buying and investing into a Cryptocurrency. Should I buy Bitcoin? Answer: Bitcoin is one of the most popular cryptocurrency. We can not advise you anything specific as you need to do your own research. The number of cryptocurrencies available over the internet as of 6 November 2017 was over 1172 and growing. A new cryptocurrency can be created at any time. By market capitalization, Bitcoin is currently (2017-08-19) the largest blockchain network, followed by Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple and Litecoin.
Question 2: I am interested in investing into a ICO that what research and due-diligence I need to do ? Answer: We are glad that you mentioned the two magical words “research” and “due-diligence”. That is the most important golden nugget that we want you to take-away from this paper. Never-ever invest into a ICO unless you have researched it for how long it takes to build a strong opinion. Here is a good article that gives some really good tips. One quick tip from us would be ensure that Team is really strong and they are genuine people. http://mashable.com/2017/10/25/survive-ico/#CDVyGFJOiiqF
Question 3: How do I find out about upcoming ICOs and useful related news and press releases? Answer: There are plenty of websites now that can give you early headsup and keep you well informed. Our favourites are ICOBENCH, COINDESK, ICOALERT.
Question 4: Where can we buy and sell ICO and cryptocurrencies? Answer: If you are newbie, it may be a good idea to ask someone in your close network to guide you. There are lots of information and instructional video available on Youtube and other social media network and blogs. Sometimes too much information leads to confusion. You may also want to look into tutorials and training available at UDEMY.COM. But please steer away from self-proclaimed gurus. Do not buy any quick rich scheme related courses and scams. We have found that for beginners https://www.myetherwallet.com/
are good starting point for Ethereum Blockchain related transactions.
Question 5: When is a good time to invest in Cryptocurrency? Answer: We wish we had the crystal ball to give you the answer. If we had this crystal ball in 2009 ( when Bitcoin started), we would be very rich people right now. But with a bit of research and education, you can master this. You need to make your own decision when is the right time for you.
Question 6: ICO and Cryptocurrency are all hype and dodgy? Answer: We are assuming you are a beginner, you do not know enough about Blockchain technology and how it works, you possibly have not spent enough time learning and tracking about cryptocurrencies. There is also a possibility you have never invested in a cryptocurrency or ICO. Or possibly you invested in a ICO that was a scam. You possibly could be a sophisticated investor in property, traditional shares, gold, forex and much more. But may be you do not want to know any more about Digital currencies or Technology as it is not your “comfort zone”. So the question is how much of homework you have done to assess if this whole concept for you is really interesting or completely ruled out? The decision end of the day is yours.
AUTHOR: Avijeet Jayashekhar: Has over 20 years of entrepreneurial, management consulting , Technology leadership in UK Financial Services Industry. He also has a long successful property investment business in UK. In his last stint, as Vice President of Barclays Bank UK, he managed large Technology Programme in next generation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process automation and Digital Payments including Blockchain. He has track record of setting up 3 successful global Technology businesses. Integrally part of the London Fintech and PropertyTech businesses, he is a popular mentor and speaker. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic and Computer Science, a Business Management Qualification and Project Qualification from Stanford University. He is a British Citizen of Indian origin and lives near London with his family. Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/avijeetjs/
REFERENCES: https://icobench.com/stats https://www.coinbase.com/ https://www.icoalert.com/ https://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-a-distributed-ledge https://tokentarget.com/the-evolution-of-the-ico-2017-and-beyond-2/ http://www.ilovegrowingmarijuana.com/the-basics-of-cryptocurrency/ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/cryptocurrency/ https://themerkle.com/top-10-cryptocurrency-icos-throughout-2017-to-date/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockchain http://mashable.com/2017/10/25/survive-ico/#CDVyGFJOiiqF https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cryptocurrencies https://en.insider.pro/tutorials/2017-09-04/what-blockchain-laymans-terms/
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