Crypto Thermidor

The Thermidor is the period in the French Revolution when radicals fed upon themselves to become ever more fanatical. Laggards were denounced and executed. I was reminded of this in February 2018 at a Blockchain conference in Los Angeles. Speaker after speaker declaimed the limitless glories of blockchain, with attendant requisite ICOs as the enablers. One speaker in particular discussed recent actions by governments to restrict access to cryptocurrencies and ICOs. He said anyone should be free to invest and bear the risks. The (US) government should not intervene.


Say what? If you buy a car with air bags, you have to take the word of the seller that the bags work. Few of us have the ability to check before purchase. If the bags fail in a collision whose fault is it? Yours or the seller or the manufacturer? This is not hypothetical. Takata who makes air bags just settled a big suit over defective bags and several deaths. The point is that the government sets rules in place to assign responsibility. Sellers and makers have an obligation to accurately describe their products.

By most unfortunate unhappy coincidence, the next day Bitcoin came out with an analysis of 902 ICOs that happened in 2017. Just by the 2nd month of 2018. 46% of the ICOs had already failed?! Wow. From fast fraud, where after an ICO ended, the sponsors vanished, to slow fraud, where they put dummy progress reports and then gradually wound down the purported development of the custom blockchain. Plus a third case, where there was a genuine effort but futile.

Kudos to Bitcoin for the survey. It does not mean that 54% of the 2017 ICOs were successful. They fully expect, and so should you, that more will fail with time.

I make this prediction. By March 2019, if another survey is made, 90% or more of the 2017 ICOs will have flopped.

There is 1 caveat. Perhaps my estimate of 90% is too pessimistic. The Bitcoin article pointed out that most of the ICOs occurred in the second half of 2017, both in the number of ICOs and the amounts raised. It could be that honest startups who bulked up on a lot of (real) money may have longer runway if they are careful about the burn rate. Maybe it will take 2 years after 2017 for the statistics to be finalised.

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