It’s not your imagination. Initial coin offerings, or ICOs, have exploded this year.
According to Coindesk, companies worldwide have used the blockchain investment tool to raise an astonishing $1.366 billion in 2017. Between 2014 and the end of 2016, a total of $295 million was raised in ICOs.
For perspective, in the second quarter of 2017, startups in the U.S. raised $21.8 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association. In that same quarter, startups across all industries in U.S. held 52 IPOs that raised $11 billion, according to Renaissance Capital.
So ICOs on a relative basis, especially because they are global, are still quite small. Nonetheless, the surge this year has been remarkable.
The ICO fundraising frenzy has been led this year by Tezos, which raised $232 million in July to fund its new blockchain technology that’s currently in alpha testing. That ICO came just a few weeks after Bancor raised $153 million to expand its technology that lets anyone create their own cryptocurrency, according to Coindesk.
Both were backed by Tim Draper, a venture capitalist who has been extremely bullish about blockchain technologies.
What will be interesting to see now is what impact a recent statement by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will have on this phenomenon.
ICOs in general have been falling into a somewhat gray area in terms of securities regulation. An ICO for a decentralized autonomous organization called The DAO also became controversial because a hacker exploited a flaw in the company’s code and stole about one-third of its assets, according to the SEC. In looking at the DAO ICO, the SEC said the sale of the tokens in this case would have been considered a sale of securities, and thus subject to relevant rules and regulations.
However, it’s still unclear how widely that decision will apply going forward.