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Despite their surging popularity, for digital currency start-ups remain almost entirely unregulated, leaving many institutional investors on the sidelines waiting for more clarity.
They're unsure if the cryptocurrencies should be treated as securities, which would subject them to heavier regulations and scrutiny from the SEC. Often the companies have no product to back, but just the promise of one.
Filecoin is seeking to attract sophisticated money managers with a new type of offering. The project, developed by start-up Protocol Labs, said on Wednesday that it will launch its ICO this month on Coinlist, a new platform it created with cooperation from AngelList, a service that connects startups and investors.
"The SEC is very well aware of this whole market and I think they're going to appear at some point and will try to fix it," Juan Benet, the founder of Filecoin, told CNBC.
Rather than making crypto tokens available to anyone, Coinlist is open only to accredited investors -- those making over $200,000 a year or have a net worth of over $1 million -- gating out the less sophisticated investors who tend to drive more volatility. It also uses a new security protocol called SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens) that was designed to meet existing securities regulations.
Filecoin's technology makes it easy for people to buy and sell unused storage space on their personal computers and uses blockchain technology to verify and track those transactions. The tokens being sold in the offering can be used to buy storage or they can be held as an investment.
Filecoin plans to sell up to 10% of its tokens through this offering, though it did not disclose how much it's trying to raise.
Filecoin's ICO represents a new development in the digital currency space. ICOs have drawn huge attention, with more than $1.2 billion raised this year alone, according to Autonomous NEXT, but they've been riddled with problems. Just this week, the CoinDash ICO lost $7 million to hackers.
Benet said Coinlist's platform could help broaden the accredited investor base by enabling more compliant offerings. It has a standardized profile page for each sale, and a unified payment structure that can be used across the platform. It could also help attract more U.S. investors who are often blocked out from directly investing ICOs.
"It makes the whole experience more accessible," he said.