By Edward Dartley, Anthony R.G. Nolan, Mary Burke Baker, John ReVeal and Amanda M. Katlowitz
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have rapidly emerged as the hottest trend in FinTech financing, albeit one that is not without controversy. Put simply, an ICO is a method of fundraising somewhat akin to an initial public offering of securities, except that in an ICO, the fundraiser uses blockchain technology to issue customized cryptocurrencies (commonly known as coins or tokens), typically in exchange for other established cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether. The proceeds of an ICO can provide kick-start funding to develop the technology and platforms for the token holder’s access. An ICO that is properly conceived and structured can provide relatively easy transferability of tokens and the potential for those tokens to be traded on exchanges or resold and converted to government-issued legal tender, also known as fiat currency.
The dramatic rise in value of Bitcoin, Ether, and other cryptocurrencies in recent months has generated great interest in this new form of financing, with new players entering the market literally every day and raising millions in new financing in very short offering times. At the same time, ICOs raise a myriad of complex legal issues in the United States and around the world.
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