Digital Fundraising

The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.

Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.

We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.250x250

The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.

Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.

Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.

An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.

If you still do not believe it is possible, just listen to this testament from someone who did it after unsuccessfully knocking on doors of conventional funders – the angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.

The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.

Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.

Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.

Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in.  Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!

Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
  • Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.

  • Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
  • Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
  • You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
  • The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
  • Voila! you would then be in business!

Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time

NEO:

Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.

It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.

Ethereum:

Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.

Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.

Spectrecoin:

The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.

If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.

Stratis:

This UK-based start-up has craftily created a platform that is compatible with .NET and C#. As a result, the product appeals to veteran users of Microsoft products.

Raising 915 BTC in 5 weeks, those who cashed in on the low investment of $0.01 per token have seen a titanic ROI of 56,000%.

Ark:

With Ark, collaboration is the name of the game. The platform’s SmartBridge is a lightning-fast ecosystem designed to integrate other cryptocurrencies into its blockchain.

Investors were eager as any to buy in, and they have made a 35,400% gain given today’s token price of $3.54.

DigixDAO:

DGD, which stands for Digix Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a self-governing community. It gives out grants to different projects which will promote the growth of the DGX network.

At a current value of $346.88 per token, this gives them a return of 10,722%.

Quantum (QTUM):

QTUM is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform.

They hosted a highly successful ICO in March 2017, and since that time has seen an ROI of 6,400%.

Source: investinblockchain.com

The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.

As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.

Most importantly, one must  just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!

Advertisements

Already GDPR-ed Out?

Well it didn’t take long. Less than a full week in fact, for the first GDPR-related court cases to surface against none other than the biggest social tech giants Facebook and Google.

It was as if lawyers were just waiting to pounce on the tech giants for their apparent failure to protect our rights as an online users.

This pertains specifically to issues relating to data privacy and the sharing of private details mainly with third-party marketers.

Now the issue about how Facebook stores and shares data has been clarified by several intense inquiries in the US and recently in Europe. This is where the law is set to benefit users of the social media platform on that geospatial area of the world.

The said lawsuit, however, focuses on the opt-out clause that forces you and I to make a choice to comply or leave. The claimant is a privacy campaigner. He has made the Billion-Euro complaint on behalf of several users; seemingly a challenge to the likes of Facebook.

Additionally, he has launched a separate suit against Google, accusing them of “pressurizing” users into accepting their data collection policies.

This ‘comply and accept or get thrown out’ clause could leave many without their routine dose of social media consumption simply because they prefer to engage privately. Such a clause is deemed unfair.

It could cost a lot if they get their way based on the terms stipulated in the new law.

The social media giant could be fined up to a few billion or a sizeable fraction of their earnings in punitive damages.

The aim of the new law

The passing of the new regulation on May 25th, 2018, better known as the General Data Protection Regulation {GDPR} has been a long time coming.

Despite the warnings several months or even a year in advance of the “kick-in” of the regulation – many find themselves unprepared for it.

Some of the reactions to the law include that of confusion, anxiety by both large and small firms alike and plain comical hysteria!

Non-compliance now carries heavy fines and penalties, up to 20 million euros for anyone operating within the EU borders.

So, what then, is the big fuss about GDPR?

Well, it boils down to a right that has since the launch of the Internet to the mainstream, been waivered and overlooked.

The CONSENT to use your data for anything other than the reason you went public on the world wide web is now very crucial.

This has become a contentious issue as many companies have over the years, unscrupulously benefited from data acquired (mined) without your consent – Facebook only brought this into the spotlight recently.

Read more about data mining here

Who needs compliance?

If you hold a folder, database of clients whether online or on your internal server, you would have to comply with the rules which stipulate full disclosure. This includes who you share your details with, and how the information is tracked, shared and kept private/secure.

Furthermore, research in March this year showed that only 39% of the Fortune 500 companies in the UK and 47% had GDPR compliance taskforces. It is unlikely  that that statistic is 100% by now.

Another UK firm commissioned study found that our buying behaviours these days, are heavily influenced by we perceive our data is being handled by the company offering the good or service.

The consent given to use your basic information such as one’s name, phone number and email address cannot be taken for granted – even in the medical environment.

German doctors’ practices, in the wake of GDPR, are manually making their clients sign consent forms. Doctors are required to fully disclose who they share your contact information with.

This is a practice that we have always treated with levity. The new law nevertheless clearly stipulates that henceforth, it will be mandatory.

How to be compliant

There are simple ways you can stay GDPR compliant. One method is to adopt an attitude of embracing it rather than just complying with it.

Being transparent with your customers can be achieved in the following ways: Adding a cookie bar to your website. You can also add a clause/paragraph to that effect (in your website’s disclaimer) in the ‘About Us’ section.

Similarly, you must state clearly on any opt-in forms. Newsletters for example, and any forms where their data is collected, used and passed onto other third-parties must be announced. State clearly who they are and which data they have access to.

You then need to give your customer the option to select what they want to share even if it seems insignificant.

Even if such data may not be necessary for them to receive services from you.

This probably involves reviewing your relationships with third-party affiliates and partners to ensure that they are also complying with the law.

They could be jeopardizing your data compliance efforts – as Cambridge Analytica did with Facebook.

The last and most challenging step requires the action of what is promised above. This, therefore, means an upgrade of your internal software  to include security/encryption.

GDPR compliant software

You can obtain full compliance by using a GDPR-compliant package like Office 365 Enterprise E3.

This package has email software specially designed for those of you dealing with sensitive client’s data that need to be kept for long periods.  Litigation hold, heavy archiving features; as well as basic email encryption are all included.

You can add supplementary encryption software such as Azure Information Protection as an extra layer of security. This helps you to safeguard exchange-hosted emails and stored data from being lost, compromised or accidentally shared.

All said and done it is likely that if you are a bigger firm, you would either need to create the position of a data security officer internally (if your lawyers are not up to date with digital laws), or to outsource the service.

This should make you fully compliant thereby having to avoid issues with the data compliance authority altogether.

Criminal mindedness

One fundamental and often ignored view within economics is that humans have the propensity to display irrational behaviour in the decision-making processes.

Based on this notion, one can conclude that we have a fundamental tendency to act corruptly and be generally criminally-inclined except maybe the virtuous few.

How advanced our economy or society is, depends on what measures or incentives we enforce to deter or punish criminals.

In most cases, we find that in countries where punishment is severe (e.g. in Central Europe or Nigeria), the criminals end up moving to less strict countries.

The economics of crime, especially violent crime experienced in countries like South Africa and Brazil, is something that requires adept research if anything is to be done.

In the US, studies were conducted to access the impact of legalized abortion on the level of crime. This was discussed in detail in a best-selling book by Levitt and Dubner’s called Freakonomics.

The study found that legalizing abortion (seen by many as legalized killing equivalent to death sentences) reduces the level of drug abuse and subsequently other criminal activity.

The real problem

Perhaps there is no relevance here but for instance, abortion is legal in South Africa yet a high crime rate prevails. So, what’s the problem then?

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the incentives/benefits of committing crime far outweigh the “costs” and chances of being caught and convicted by the judiciary.

25046_200x300

John Nash through his renowned works (well at least amongst economists), devised what he called “game theory” or “the prisoner’s dilemma”.

Cheating occurs through degrees of severity from a classroom test or examination all the way to the plotting and execution of murder or indirectly killing individuals by selling users addictive drugs.

Then you have your white-collar crime such as insider trading, corporate espionage (unlawfully acquiring recipes, formulas, and technologies from rival companies).

Or simply ‘cooking the books’ or siphoning off profits from a company’s coffers.

Nash’s rationale for such cheating behaviour boils down to the attitude of: ‘if I don’t, someone else will, and leave me with the short end of the stick – so given the option, I’ll always cheat’.

His explanation is one ‘formally proven’ reason for human ‘irrational’ behaviour – or rather, could we say it is rational if the outcome is to favour the decision-maker in the short or long term? This is instinct is innate in human behaviour of not such a few.

Crime and law enforcement

Back to the subject of crime: higher than usual levels has often been blamed on the poverty caused by poor and exclusionary fiscal, social and monetary policies.

There are of course more layers and underlying factors unique to the history of political climate and resource allocation.

Further studies (such as that in the Freakonomics book) need to be carried out such as the potential effects of police presence in deterring crime in the diagram below:

Police officers per 100,000 population by regions and sub-regions (medians)

Crime deterrant

Source: www.unodc.org

Also, highly recommended if you are a law enforcer, economist, government official, or student, is a book entitled Economics of Crime by Erling Eide, Paul H Rubin & Joanna M Shepherd.

This book covers the theory of public enforcement including probability and severity, fines and imprisonment, repeat offenders, incentives of enforcers, enforcement costs and enforcement errors.

It might shed some light as to how criminally-inclined people can be dealt with once and for all. Because as we know – whatever government is doing to fight crime now is clearly not really working!

“When crimes are left alone long enough to fester, a second economy is borne.”

The proceeds from a ‘secondary’ economy because of criminal activity never benefit society. Even though people like Pablo Escobar were seen by locals (in his Colombian town) as philanthropists, their assistance came at a price. Such contributions which are naturally tax-free generally are referred to in economics as ‘social ills‘.

A third market is formed – one comprised of the need to feel secure.

Dealing with the scourge

But fighting fire with fire (with more guns & police who are sometimes corrupt themselves) will not alone solve the problem.

Criminals simply become more aggressive when met with a more confrontational approach as seen in South Africa. The Jeppestown (Johannesburg) shoot-out in 2006 for example, left several police officers and criminals dead.

It’s time to get ’smarter’ about crime and look to the accuracy and conclusive study of human behaviour and the use of incentives.

As crimes continue to ravage communities, cities and countries, we can question why government officials have relatives who own or have stakes in security companies.

It basically places less of an ‘incentive’ for officials to do much about crime.

So, conceivably, those with such vested interests in the third economy would need to be weeded out of the system for crime to be curbed.

That would be the first major step in order to bring about some rationality to society.