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Author Topic: 3 kinds of ICOs — Protect yourself  (Read 12175 times)
jlp
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October 06, 2017, 07:55:53 PM
 #1

There are 3 kinds of ICOs:

1)  SCAMS

There have always been a lot of scammers, hackers and thieves in the crypto space since day one. Think of Mount Gox. According to Business Insider:

Quote
“…one out of every 16-17 Bitcoins belongs to someone who stole it”

If you don’t think that these thieves are trying to steal money through ICOs or from ICOs, you are kidding yourself. You just need to see the Bitcointalk forum dedicated to scams, or to participate in a Slack channel and you will see the never-ending phishing e-mails trying to lure you to their sites, in order to empty your wallet.

In addition to thieves and scammers, there are those who lie or exaggerate. Many users on Bitcointalk are pump and dumpers.

2)  CRAP

Everyone is desperate to host an ICO to make money. Therefore, they are throwing anything and everything onto the blockchain, including the kitchen sink. They may not be intentionally trying to scam, but they think that they have a good enough idea for an ICO. But these will fail because the blockchain will not solve anything for them. Examples include ICOs that want to put 3D data (which would equate to hundreds of Terabytes of data) or 153 exabytes of medical data on a blockchain. This shows that they are clueless about the blockchain and have never run Bitcoin’s full node. Bitcoin’s blockchain is 120 GB and Ethereum’s blockhain is 200 GB and they are both having scaling problems.

Even though crypto veterans and fans would like it to be, the blockchain is NOT the panacea to every problem in the world.

ICOs are also throwing any kind of business problem that they can make up, into the ICO. If they cannot make up the business problem, they will exaggerate about it. They will fail because the business problem doesn’t really exist, isn’t significant enough, cannot be solved by a blockchain or they do not really have the solution, though they try to make it sound like they do with lots of technical jargon.

Swarm Fund cites this business problem:

Quote
“You need large amounts of money to buy real estate and your money is tied down for an indefinite amount of time.”

This is a lie and not a business problem. You can buy one share of a REIT, and there are thousands of REITs to choose from, and you can sell it one minute later. If they start off their pitch with a lie, what else are they lying about?

Energi cites this business problem:

Quote
“A small number of large energy companies supply millions of customers who are price takers.”

Therefore, the solution is to create more energy suppliers, especially nuclear power plants, which is the cheapest source of electricity. But the project does not propose this. They propose to enable consumers to sell their solar self-generated electricity directly to other consumers.

To do this, consumers should have BOTH solar panels and batteries. This is a TINY market. Though solar panels are growing, it is still a tiny percent of the market and solar generated electricity is still much more expensive than nuclear generated.

Consumers with solar panels do not have that much surplus electricity to sell anyways. They use most of what they generate. Tesla and Enphase hyped up their batteries for solar panel owners to store their surplus electricity. These batteries are NOT selling. Enphase spent over $100 million to develop their battery and partly because of the lack of battery sales, their stock has plummeted approximately 85%.

Of course, the project’s pitch looks impressive at first glance.

3)  LEGITIMATE

There are only a few applications that make a lot of sense for the blockchain: transfer of value (currency), store of value, remittances (disrupt Western Union and bank wire transfers), smart contracts, gaming and gambling. These applications will disrupt their respective industries, because the blockchain will provide a lot of cost-savings or time-savings to the users. There might be other applications that make sense that I missed, but applications proposed by many ICOs do not make sense. Jesus Coin is an extreme example, but there are applications that fall across the spectrum from Jesus Coin to Bitcoin.



YOU CAN REDUCE THE RISK AND THE NUMBER OF ICOS TO REVIEW, BY USING 3 FILTERS

1)  The project’s idea should make sense, but do not base your investment decision purely on the idea. Watch:

“Ideas are like assholes - everyone has one, no one cares”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhJgrEackis

Entrepreneurs typically try to hide their ideas because they think they are the only ones that came up with the ideas. Venture Capitalists tell them to scream their ideas to the public and they’ll see that nobody will steal them. Ideas are a dime a dozen. There are probably 10 other people with the same idea that you have or that the ICO has. The most important factor to success is the ability to execute. This is why Venture Capitalists refuse to sign non-disclosure agreements and rarely invest in startups which haven’t built a prototype or product.

HAS THE ICO TEAM BUILT ANYTHING THAT WE CAN USE TODAY?

If not, take a pass. This is the best evidence that the team can execute. It takes way more skill, time, work and money to build an app than to create a one-page website and video. It shows:

  • The team has proven that they can develop.
  • It is less likely that the team will invest so much and not follow through.

Everything else is useless. Don’t be fooled by big teams, fancy pretentious titles, references, roadmap, video, fancy animations, escrow, blogs, Slack, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and white paper.

One project stacked their team with a dozen people and then lied about them. One member had the title of “Blockchain Expert”, but he worked in Inside Sales until 1.5 months prior. One member had the title “Blockchain Developer”, but he never developed a blockchain before.

Here is an example of a project team using fake photos and fake names: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1949528.msg19485217#msg19485217

Don't rely on Github unless you can verify that they didn't copy the code from someone else and you can run it.

Several high profile projects, with big teams, nice videos, lots of social media activity and hype, raised millions of dollars and still have not produced an app. This number will grow and become more evident in the coming years.

Gnosis raised $12.5 million and their website says:

Quote
“The Hunch Game is nearly ready and can be launched in the first half of 2017 as an example Gnosis app.”

No app yet.

Qtum raised $15.6 million. I don't see anything produced on Qtum's website.

After raising $50 million, Cosmos's website is still pitching its white paper. Come on. What have they produced with that $50 million?

Augur had Vitalik Buterin on their team. After Satoshi Nakamoto, Vitalik is the most desirable person in the universe to have on an ICO team. After raising multiple millions and after two and a half years, all they’ve released is a simple beta that is barely usable.

Don’t be suckered by animations and videos. Satoshi didn’t have any of this and his coin was the most successful. Besides, the animations aren’t that impressive anymore, as I’m beginning to see the same animation on multiple websites. Some of these teams must be using the same graphic designer.

There is no guarantee that any business will not fail. But, when the ICO team has a prototype/product, they have proven that they can develop. That significantly reduces your risk. With many ICOs, you have no idea if they can build anything. You cannot trust the information on the profile of many ICOs. Just because they can hire somebody to make a video, it does not mean they can write thousands of lines of complicated code. It's like you giving money to someone to fix your car, simply because his video says he can fix cars, but he has never fixed one before.

Y Combinator is one of the biggest startup incubators in the world. They provide a small amount of funding (approx. $25k to 50k) to startups, which usually consists of 2 founders each. Then they build prototypes or products. Then the startups give pitches to angel investors or Venture Capitalists. If prototypes or products are unnecessary, then why do they waste so much time and money before pitching to angels and VCs?

Almost all incubators have startups that consist of usually only 2 founders, that are building prototypes and products. ICOs are stacking their team with a dozen people and they still cannot build anything. With 12 people, they should've built 6 prototypes/products by now. This shows that they are simply stacking their teams with useless people, in order to impress you or sucker you in.

2)  IS THE TEAM FROM A CORRUPT COUNTRY?

Check Transparency International's ranking.

If so, take a pass.

The number of ICOs from corrupt countries, especially those that were famous for sending out phishing scams for years, have exploded.

Yes, there are scams from countries that are not corrupt and successful projects from corrupt countries. What is important is the probability and if you are willing to take the extra risk.

In non-corrupt countries, people grow up with lots of regulations and enforcement. Though there are exceptions, the people feel that the way to get ahead is based largely on merit. In corrupt countries, there is less regulation, less enforcement and more people trying to find ways to get ahead by working around the system. In fact, they see that the most successful people in their country, usually in their government, are those who get ahead by lying, cheating or working around the system, instead of based on merit. If you do not think this is a risk, then we will agree to disagree.

Law enforcement is a big deterrent. Hurricanes prove this. After hurricanes Katrina and Irma, there were widespread lootings. Why? Because police are not on the streets and criminals feel immune from punishment.

Law enforcement through extradition is a deterrent. If an Australian defrauds investors in Germany, Germany can extradite the Australian and punish him. This makes the Australian think twice before he defrauds Germans. However, there are many countries without extradition agreements. This provides immunity to ICO teams. Therefore, they can lie, defraud and cheat investors from other countries, and there will be little to no recourse from the other countries. This can bring out the looting mentality.

There are many ICOs enticing investors, by claiming that their token or coin will go up in value or that token holders will get dividends, profits or ownership in other assets. Some tell buyers that they are “investing”. This means that they are selling securities and are breaking security laws.

I watched a video of a conference. ConsenSys was warning about the repercussions of selling securities. Waves’ CEO, who is from a country without extradition agreements with Europe or U.S., debated this, downplayed the concern and shrugged it off. Why should he care? No European or American government is going to be able to punish him if he broke security laws. Even if Europe cannot punish him, if Europe bans his coin, will you suffer?

Without law enforcement, ICOs can lie and get away with it. One project claimed that they will make 400+% return per year for the investor. In countries that enforce securities laws, if you make this claim and do not deliver, investors can sue you. In countries with advertising laws, the police can punish you for false advertising. In countries that are immune from these laws, ICOs can make any claim they want. One of the most egregious claims is when an ICO tells you that you will be a part owner of a physical company. Good luck in getting a judge in their country to force the company to give you equity because you own some ERC-20 tokens. Good luck to you and your multiple flights to that country.

Few corrupt countries have extradition agreements. For those that do, can you rely on their corrupt governments to fulfill their obligations?

3)  “NEVER INVEST IN A BUSINESS THAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND”

This is a quote from Warren Buffett. It is very applicable because many ICO teams try to impress the audience with technical jargon. Many investors are not tech savvy and are baffled or confused, but they invest because they think that the project team must have come up with a technological break-through.

Last word:

You need to be able to verify that the business problem exists, that the market size is truly as big as the ICO claims and that the solution is possible. Quite often, they exaggerate on most of these. You need to verify that a blockchain or a cryptocurrency actually is needed for the solution. Quite often, they’re not.

Do not rely solely on ICO listing or rating sites. They likely do not know about all of the ICOs. Not all ICOs are willing to pay to be listed. They have methodologies that you may not agree with. Some claim to be experts, but you are likely more of an expert in your own field, whether that is medical, law, engineering or finance, than they are. They will likely have biases, especially for ICOs originating from their country or region. Putin wants to increase the crypto industry in Russia. Is this why there has been an explosion of ICOs from Russia? Even Putin’s Advisor ran an ICO. If Russia took out Facebook ads to disrupt U.S. and European politics, who is to say that they will not pay off ICO listing and ratings sites to favor Russian ICOs?
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October 06, 2017, 08:05:24 PM
 #2

nice thread. Investing into something without understanding it based on someone else suggestion is like gambling in casino.
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October 06, 2017, 08:14:51 PM
 #3

Thanks for putting this together. It's well written and everyone should follow something similar to this before investing. I'm adding this as a favorite because I like your link.

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October 06, 2017, 08:19:13 PM
 #4

90% of ICOs are scams

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October 06, 2017, 08:21:58 PM
 #5

I think blockchain applications are not (a few), there are a lot of applications for blockchain, however, it is better to say that there are a few legitimate ICOs. From other side, most of people invest to make fast profit, even though an ICO is a CRAP, it might get huge investments with some hype and big names backing it.

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October 06, 2017, 08:31:40 PM
 #6

90% of ICOs are scams

Maybe not even scams but it end as fail like average startups does.
In REAL LIVFE:
1 of 10 startups survives 1st year
and then
1 of 10 startups survive next 5 years.
 so you have 1/100 chance to survive with ICO Cheesy...

this is nature of startups you won't win with it.

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October 06, 2017, 08:38:05 PM
 #7

Good and very insightful write up! I love the way you critic the primary intension and motivation of creating the ICO in the first place. Vast majority of ICO founder fall in to this category. The  other part of your writing  addressed the visible and workable project! In summary You have done a good Job. I will implore that you keep giving us food for thought on regular basis  concerning happening in crypto space!

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October 06, 2017, 08:45:09 PM
 #8

really nice thread. It is possible to beat the scammers at there own game if you are not greedy so let the scams go on.
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October 06, 2017, 08:45:30 PM
 #9

There are 3 kinds of ICOs:

****

And they is 4 type of ICO money grabers.
There is a lot of ICOs in space that will rapie you.
Have you heard of PRESALE Cheesy.. own yea.
Now imagine sand ico and regular price was like 1.5$ per token but...
insider got deal like 0.25$ per token. Those gy got so cheap token becouse those groups will promote an shill for that ICO.
With such shit you can essy and with bag of shit.

There is always option that ICO creator will self invest in own ICO making it price looking much better tht it is in reality.
This is crypto here all shit moves are possible guys.

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October 06, 2017, 09:05:15 PM
 #10

wonderful thread. ico101 for dummies:) i strongly recommend this suggestions to newbies, and non experienced users.


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October 06, 2017, 09:36:00 PM
 #11

I would say about 85% of all ICO's fall into category 1 and 2. Quite hard to find a legit ICO. What's funny is how even the bad ones still pump once they hit the exchanges!
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October 07, 2017, 08:34:15 PM
 #12

Somebody asked me to comment on Polkadot.

The white paper is written by Gavin Wood, founder of Ethereum & Parity. This is obviously a credible developer. It passes my first filter with flying colors. It also passes my second filter.

However, I don’t know if it passes my third filter. It is filled with technical features and functions, but little explanation of the benefits. It wants to connect (bridge) different blockchains, which will enable scaling, which is a good thing. However, to do so would be an incredibly difficult task and I question if Polkadot will be able to pull it off. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong.

There is another project that is trying to connect different blockchains together, as well, but I forget the name.

If Polkadot wanted people, other than blockchain developers to understand their project, they should’ve done a better job of explaining the problem(s) that they are trying to solve and the benefits of solving those problems to non-technical people. But, do they need to? I don’t see any info about ICO or token sale. Maybe they have enough money from their ETH holdings that they don’t need funding.

One interesting excerpt from the white paper is this:

Quote
Is Polkadot designed to replace (insert crypto-currency here): No. Polkadot tokens are neither intended nor designed to be used as a currency. They would make a bad currency: most will remain illiquid in the staking system and those that are liquid will face substantial fees for transfer of ownership. Rather, the purpose of Polkadot tokens is to be a direct representation of stake in the Polkadot network.

I’m not quite sure how the Polkadot tokens will go up in value. For any token or coin to go up in value, the usage or demand must go up. Bitcoin is going up because people are throwing money into it to store value. Ethereum is going up because people are throwing money into it, in order to buy tokens at ICOs. What will be the fuel for Polkadot?

If it is indeed Gavin Wood running this project, then it is obviously not a scam or crap. It’s just hard to quantify the benefits of holding Polkadot tokens.

Though, there is one minor stain on Gavin. Someone hacked $32 million from Parity. Who hacked it? Was it an inside job?
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October 07, 2017, 08:54:49 PM
 #13

Airtoken is lying or sounds like a pipe dream. In order to pay the users for advertising, Airtoken will need to get advertisers and earn advertising revenue. Then it needs complicated processes to show the ads where the advertisers want, to charge properly and to share the revenue with users. This incurs significant costs and is a huge undertaking, which requires much more than just creating an Ethereum token. They need to show how they will be able to do these numerous processes much more cheaply than the existing companies, in order to be able to share some of the advertising revenue with users. Have they ever done anything similar to this before? Probably not. They have 6 reviews of their AirFox Browser on Google Play, probably by people who saw their ICO.

Airtoken’s website states: “Publishers will have higher monetization, new user reach, and a better user experience.” But its white paper does not explain how. Is this blowing smoke?

There is another major problem with Airtoken. They want to provide micro-loans. This is a complicated, costly and money-losing business. Google “micro loan failure” and you’ll see articles like:

Quote
“The microfinance delusion”
“Tragic failure of microcredit”
“Microfinance Has Been A Huge Disappointment Around The World”
“Micro loans Don’t Solve Poverty”
“Perils of Microfinance”

Micro loans was concocted by emotional socialists who think with their hearts instead of their brains, which always makes a country poorer.

The Airtoken team only needs to do 5 minutes of research on micro-loans and would have found the above. This means that they are dishonest. If they did not do the research, then they are incompetent.
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October 07, 2017, 10:50:38 PM
 #14

Ambrosus doesn’t make sense.  Why do we need a new altcoin to record the history of products?  Even if you record the history of products on the blockchain, how do you know the data is accurate?  How can you trust the inputters of data?  How do you know it isn’t put in by the manufacturers, who will exaggerate or lie?  This sounds like another project trying to put the kitchen sink onto the blockchain.
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October 07, 2017, 10:54:34 PM
 #15

thanks you for clearing it up
i really dont understand how people choose their investments sometimes
and its sad when you see a shitty ico makes millions when real coins dont get enough attention
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October 07, 2017, 11:12:11 PM
 #16

Or you have ones like this one below?  Great tech and good team.  They even have a BIP.  However they are pathetic on the marketing, etc. 

https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=2190748.0
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October 07, 2017, 11:49:47 PM
 #17

There are a lot of scammy icos, and i agree with your tips list in there, but there are legit projects, maybe it doesnt seem like there are honest people in bitcoin world, but it happens sometimes, only that those "legit projects" are asking to raise for about $10 million dollars to make a simple idea that doesnt need more than $100k.
So it is a 50/50, they are legit, but they want a lot of money..



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October 07, 2017, 11:56:49 PM
 #18

Your tips are excellent and i'd say all on point.

The fact is that there are so many ICOs out there trying to rip you off these days. Especially the big ICOs that do an ICO without having any sort of product even done after a year of ICOing, that really really sucks.

However, there are some ICOs that are worth a buy, even if they don't fulfill your criteria. But it's sort of a gamble, nobody knows for sure.

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October 08, 2017, 02:01:00 AM
 #19

Fantastic thread! Would you mind reviewing every single ICO so I don't have to do any work? Grin
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October 08, 2017, 03:22:04 AM
 #20

Thanks for this detailed write up. Extremely useful as well. It was getting hard to chose which ICO was legitimate so just decided not to go with it lately. However it seems Airdrop is all the rage nowadays.

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