Why most ICOs will fail

Almost every day, I get an email about a hot new initial coin offering (ICO). These come from tech companies selling their future services. In my stock portfolio, I’m happy to find anything that can give me 10 percent return over the course of a year. These days you can measure a crypto portfolio in 2x, 3x, or even 10x (as in, 1,000 percent). But lately, all this good news has been bothering me.


The financial magic works like this: imagine if someone builds a casino in your neighborhood and they fund the entire operation by selling their poker chips ahead of time. With that money, they will pay for every slot machine, every bottle of liquor, every plate in the dining room, and the salaries of every manager and construction worker involved. Would you go for it? Most of us would say no, and even most gamblers would just rather buy some chips when they actually go to the casino.


Now imagine that casino is being built by Terry Benedict, the fictional casino owner from Ocean’s 11. Benedict offers you a deal: they’re selling the chips now, but they are only ever going to have 1 million of them total. In the future, the casino’s customers will have to buy chips from you. Benedict has created an artificial supply problem. They even look at Benedict’s past success (he got robbed and got his money back with interest—that’s security!) and his team on this project and they go all in. Even non-gamblers (“investors”) are buying chips and holding on to them. They’re placing bets before the casino is ever built. Heck, why go to a casino when you could stay home and watch your chips go up in value?


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