A record-setting round of fundraising by Israel-based blockchain startup Bancor has focused international attention on the new and fast-moving technology in the country. Bancor on Monday (June 12) managed to gather around $150 million in what is called an ICO, an Initial Coin Offering, from a range of investors, accredited and non-accredited. It was one of the largest ICOs ever and was completed online in just a few hours.
Blockchain is a distributed and cryptographically secured database method best known for its use in Bitcoin and other more recent cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum's Ether. Bancor, which is still under development, sets out its business model in a 'white paper' on its website. Using its own tokens, it seeks to provide a method to easily switch between different cryptocurrencies, thus addressing the market's liquidity problems. It intends also to allow users to create tokens for use in their own projects, for example for their own ICO.
It's these virtual tokens that Bancor, which is registered in Switzerland, sold off this week to anyone who was interested. In an ICO investors don't get equity in a venture, nor do they lend money, they speculate on the future value of the tokens they buy. Even some of the people close to the startup warn about the uncertain and unregulated nature of such investments.
"There's a lot of hype about ICOs currently. Bancor raised a lot of money, which is nice but it leaves you to wonder whether they actually need all this money and whether the issuing was valuated correctly," says Meni Rosenfeld, chairman of the Israeli Bitcoin Association and a member of the advisory board of Bancor, in a technological capacity.
The Bancor ICO is likely to reverberate both in the blockchain sector in Israel and in the wider venture capital field, which may be encountering its own disruptors.