There is an elephant in the room and that room is the current ICO market. The elephant is the unignorable fact that the majority of ICOs offer no protection to their token buyers who consider themselves as investors. These buyers are not investors. Here’s why.
In 2017, initial coin offerings, or ICOs, emerged into the big time. Over the course of the year, startups conducting an ICO as a way of raising startup capital raised over $6.5 billion. Since then, many ICOs have issued utility tokens under the guise of security tokens, and they have raised millions of dollars by promising their holders huge returns and part of their income. In reality, they may not able to deliver on these promises.
The difference between a utility token and a security token was explained by Laimonas Noreika, the CEO of DESICO, the world’s first fully legal security token platform: “if Google were to have launched an ICO to raise capital by selling utility tokens, then Google utility token holders would now receive free Google ads in exchange for their tokens. Were Google to have issued security tokens, then Google security token holders would now be eligible to revenue share of the company.”
A security token is an investment and a financial product. It is a token that gives its holder ownership of a real asset, which can range from tokenized commodities and tokenized real estate, to tokenized funds. Meanwhile, a utility token simply provides access to a platform or product, and unlike a security token, it is not an investment and does not provide its holder with any rights.
Due to the different characteristics of security tokens and utility tokens, plus the lack of legal regulation, this has led to the ICO industry being shrouded in mystery. In mid-2017, this perception surrounding the credibility of ICOs led to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC, cracking down on security ICOs and making them “subject to the requirements of the federal securities law.”