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Gods Unchained Guide: Investing In The First Blockchain TCG

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Birth of NFTs

Collectibles has been a hot topic in the crypto world ever since CryptoKitties exploded onto the scene in December 2017. Combining the power of the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) technology, the mainstream adoption of creature catching/breeding games thanks to Pokemon Go, and the soft-spot we all have for just about anything with kitties, CryptoKitties became an overnight success. Its disruption was so significant that it not only congested the Ethereum network, using 20% of its computing power at one point, it also had some of its kitty tokens sell for over $100,000. Seeing the immense potential ERC-721 NFTs, many blockchain developers entered the space with their own Dapps – one of those being Gods Unchained developer Fuel Games.

Meet Founder Cat #18, the most expensive cryptokitty ever sold.

Fuel Games

Fuel Games’s first foray into the field happened in March with a game called Etherbots. Etherbots allowed users to create their own bots with parts of varying rarities (ERC-721 tokens) randomly dropped from purchasable crates, and ultimately battle others’ bots – all on the Ethereum network. At its much-anticipated launch, more than $1 million worth of parts were sold, accounting for 5% of all Ethereum transactions, while some parts were selling for as high as $18,000. With the success of Etherbots, Fuel Games were able to secure $2.4 million in funding in July from various Capital ventures, including Coinbase, for their next title: Gods Unchained.

Etherbots Marketplace where players sell their tokens for Eth

What is Gods Unchained?

Have Gods and Mythical creatures do my own bidding? Sign me up!

Gods Unchained is a Tradable Card Game (TCG) with a unique IP that borrows some gameplay mechanics from industry leaders like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering while also mixing in some of Fuel Games’ own innovations. Players choose one of six God, each with their own unique God Powers, and build 30 card decks to do battle (see the Gameplay Trailer – revealed on November 15th – below).

The first innovation Gods Unchained brings to the table is the ability for each player to choose and lock one of 5 God Powers at the very beginning of each game. This allows for players to somewhat adapt their deck’s strategies on the fly according to their expected match-up. Here are the Gods along with their revealed Powers:

The God of Light Thaeriel can use only one of the above 5 God Powers each game. The first 4 can be used repetitively while Equinox (the Ultimate) can only be used once per game (if chosen as the God power).

The God of War Auros’s 5 God Powers.

The Goddess of Nature Aeona’s 5 God Powers.

The God of Magic Elyrian’s 5 God Powers.

The Goddess of Death Malissus’s 5 God Powers.

The Goddess of Deception Ludia’s 5 God Powers.

The other innovation that sets Gods Unchained apart from the other card games is the game’s very own Mana Lock resource system.  In Gods Unchained, you will unlock one mana lock at the start of each of your turn and refresh all empty mana gems. There is one lock on each of your first five mana gems, so you’ll be unlocking one gem turns 1–5, just like any other traditional automated system. The sixth mana gem, however, starts the game with two locks on it, and won’t be accessible until turn 7. There will be two locks on your seventh mana gem (accessible turn 9), three locks on your eighth mana gem (accessible turn 12), and four locks on your ninth mana gem (accessible turn 16). Designers hope this unique system will create snappier games with more interactions between players while they have the leeway to print much more powerful cards at higher mana costs.

The other aspects of the game are made up of the tried and true characteristics of successful TCGs of the past. Cards are obtained via opening randomized packs. Packs contain 5 cards, which are all unique ERC-721 tokens, that come in 4 different Rarities (Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary) as well as 4 different Shine – or cosmetic – levels (Standard, Shadow, Gold, Diamond). Each card even has its own Purity value within each Shine category and the highest ones actually have shinier in-game graphics. The probability of each Rarity, Shine level, and Purity value is hard-coded into smart contracts while the scarcity of each and every card is visible for all to see thanks to the transparency of the blockchain. You can check the Purity values of your cards by inputting your Eth address here.

Each card opened in packs has a % to spawn with a cosmetic upgrade. The scarcity of the higher tiers will make them truly sought-after collectibles.

True ownership of their cards is something TCG players had never achieved going from the paper card days to the modern era of digital card games – until Gods Unchained. In fact, the hype for this unreleased game is so high that $2 million worth of Genesis Set packs have already been pre-sold on their website. A Mythical card (one-of-a-kind, with only 4 unique ones released per year) was auctioned off for over $60,000, making it the second most valuable card in the world behind Magic the Gathering’s Black Lotus.

The Mythical Titan Hyperion. Mythics will not be legal in Tournament play.

Why Invest?

The game is expected to release its Beta in Q4 of this year and purchasing any amount of packs will grant you access to the Beta.  The Limited Edition Genesis Set, made up of 380 unique cards, will be sold until either the hard-cap of $15 million is reached or the game launches in Q1 2019 and will never be available again. There is also still 1 ultra-rare Mythic card that have yet to pulled from the Genesis Set packs.  There will be a separate non-tradable Core Set of 250 cards that is fully unlocked with Free-to-Play, with which one can make decks good enough to compete. However, having access to the Genesis Set cards will give an edge through the flexibility of being able to craft the most powerful meta decks of one’s choosing. The rarer Genesis Set cards are therefore expected to fetch hefty prices in the secondary markets.

Another good reason for backing this project is that Fuel Games have established a good track record with the success of Etherbots and are known to reward their early adopters handsomely with goodies in their future titles (see Etherbots promotion below), already mentioning having plans for Genesis card owners. Last but not least, the importance of the design team having the influential mind and streamer “ADWCTA” from a game whose playerbase is being targeted (Hearthstone) cannot be understated.

What Packs to Buy?

There are currently 4 types of packs on offer at different price points: Rare Pack, Epic Pack, Legendary Pack, and Shiny Legendary Pack. Which pack has the best value? How much of each pack should you buy? We’ve done the math and here are the results:

If your goal is to complete a Set of all 380 cards:

Rare Packs + Legendary Packs

Rare Packs are the best source of Rares + Epics and should be prioritized over the Legendary packs (Epic Packs are terrible value and should not be touched). Once you reach the desired amount of Epics – as you will collect all Commons & Rares way before Epics – you can switch to cracking Legendary packs only.

If your goal is to complete a Set of all 380 cards in Shadow, Gold, or Diamond Shine level:

Rare Packs + Legendary Packs

It’s not really feasible to collect a Shiny Set of any level from solely opening packs as their drop rates are very low (5% for Shadow, 1% for Gold, 0.2% for Diamond). For Commons, Rares, and Epic Shinies, Rare packs are still the best source because you’re giving yourself the maximum chance to proc the Shinies for the least amount spent. For Legendaries,  regular Legendary packs offer better value than Shiny Legendary packs. Shiny Legendary packs at first seem great due to having 25% Gold and 74.8% Shadow chance (Diamond is still 0.2%), increasing your Gold chance by 25 times and Shadow Chance by 15 times while only being 9 times more expensive than regular Legendary packs. However, when we factor in plain Legendaries and our ability to forge them into higher Shine (5 Regular –> 1 Shadow, 5 Shadow –> 1 Gold, 5 Gold –> 1 Diamond), the regular Legendary packs end up giving the better deal.

Forging along with Trading will be the best way to complete your Shiny collection once the game launches.

If your goal is to pull the undiscovered Mythical card from packs:

Rare Packs

The chance for any card in any pack to be Mythic is one in a million – literally. “So you’re saying there’s a chance?!” Yes! And Rare packs are once again your best bet.

If your goal is to achieve maximum value now so you can trade your cards for whatever you want later:

Rare Packs

Every Rare Pack gives you 1/40 of a Legendary, 1/5.7 of an Epic, and 1.1 Rares, not to mention the greatest chance at Shinies and Mythic per amount spent. If we assume some of the most played and sought-after cards will be Rares and Epics (as Legendaries will be limited to one per deck, compared to 2 for every other Rarity), you will be able to trade your duplicates for great value in the secondary markets.

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Metamask or don’t know how to get some Eth, you can find full instructions on how to buy a pack here.

The first gameplay screenshot was revealed on September 27th.

Championship Tickets

As Gods Unchained labels itself an E-sports game, the competitive scene will be heavily supported. Sometime in Q1 2019, the first Gods Unchained World Championship will take place. The prize pool is set to be $100,000 + 10% of all card pack sales, capping at $1.6 Million if the project hard-cap is reached. Entry into the tournament will require a Championship Ticket, which are ERC 20 tokens that were inserted into the first 20,000 Legendary Packs sold. They have long since sold-out but can be purchased second-hand in exchanges such as EmoonIdaxRadar Relay, and GUdecks.

Prizepool at the time of writing this article

Other Ongoing Promotions

Gleam Giveaway (now concluded)

Until the end of October, the Gods Unchained Gleam giveaway gave you a shot at winning $10,000 in prizes. You could increase your entries by spreading the word through different channels, with 5 Entries guaranteeing a Gold Legendary (Blessed Chimera) prize. Prize winners were chosen and pack prizes were sent. Chimeras will be distributed right around the time Beta is released.

Etherbots

Each Etherbot part that has existed before July 17th can be used to receive 1 random card in the Etherbots Promotional Set – a special Set made up of 16 unique cards. Shadow or Gold parts used will earn you Shadow or Gold cards. Parts will be turned in sets of 5 to redeem a pack of 5 cards, and if one of those parts happens to be a Lambo or an Ancient Protector, you will receive an exclusive Etherbots Promotional Legendary card.

Etherbot parts can be purchased second hand in Fuel Games’ official Etherbot Marketplace (look for parts with the “GU Eligible” label). The promotion contract will launch in November, and will be available for at least two weeks.

Marketplaces

OpenSea and Rare Bits are 2 marketplaces where users will be able to trade Gods Unchained cards. Special Promotional cards Open Sea Raider and Rare Blitzer will be made available through these 2 marketplaces, respectively. Details on how to obtain these non-tradable cards have not yet been disclosed.

Community Tools

GodsUnchained.info

Global stats of all cards in existence & global collection ranking & detailed collection browser with stats, including packs bought, referrals used, and estimated collection value.

GU.cards

Visual card browser, including all cosmetic versions & deck editor, importer, browser with draw-test tool & multiple-pack-opener tool.

GUDecks.com

Deck editor, browser & card, collection browser.

GUcardprices.com

Rough card pricing estimates based on rarity probabilities and scarcity (Note: we do not endorse their “buyer’s guide”).

 

The home screen of the first GU Beta client

Further Official Info (from Discord)

Status & Beta

– Beta will roll out in several stages. The Closed Beta has been released to about 130 active community members on November 28th. The next big wave of invites will go out around the time of the next Beta build (0.8) on December 10 to other users who have purchased packs (and registered on apollo.gg). Smaller waves are also going out between patches as the engineering team sees fit. An Open Beta period of around three months will come next, followed by full launch.
– Gods, Genesis Set Cards and Core Set cards will all be released gradually over the course of the beta to give each God and card more analytic attention. You’ll always be able to play the game once you’re in Closed Beta, but there will be time windows where PvP is enabled for stress testing which will gradually expand as beta goes on.
– In Beta, you will have access to the Genesis Set cards you have purchased, and all the Core Set cards (the Core Set cards will be earned through gameplay once the game launches).
– The 1st build of the Closed Beta includes 131/377 Genesis Set cards, 50/250 Core Set cards, 4/6 Gods, and 8/30 God Powers. The 2nd build will have around 400 cards total (around Dec. 10).
– The Beta’s computer spec requirements are quite high for now and does not run well on Mac. Optimization is important to the Devs but it is at least one major update away – they’re focusing on getting all the core functionality into the game first, so the can optimize at the right time.
– Streaming the game and sharing videos is permitted. Devs would just ask at the beginning of any stream or video to share how this is a closed testing beta, with limit cards and features in play, where the point is to gather initial feedback and find bugs.
– Sound effects for individual cards is on the roadmap but may be a couple of releases (builds) away. Voicing is being worked on and casting for it is most likely already finished.
– Shiny cards will get a new animation in a future build (targeted within December) + more cool stuff after that.
– In its current form with most cards not being in the game, Beta gameplay is naturally not balanced (the two most aggressive Gods are not out yet, and the board clears are barely there. So, midranged tokens is going to be dominant). Devs have an internal target for when balancing will kick in and that’s when they will actually start reviewing things from that perspective in terms of beta analytics and feedback.
– The current Mulligan system is not the one Devs designed and the first/second mechanic is just a placeholder that is not designed to be balanced.
– Beta roll-out priority can be summarized as: 1.Fun & competitive gameplay, 2.Missing cards, 3.QoL features (such as chat/friendlist), 4.Missing game modes (such as Battle Royale).

Genesis Set

– The Genesis Set is aimed to be evergreen (will not rotate out of Standard play). Also the Genesis cards will never be re-printed (there may be functional re-prints depending on the meta, but the exact same card will never be released again).
– Prometheus and Atlas are the 2 Mythics in Genesis packs. Prometheus was opened on November 23 but Atlas is still waiting to be found. If it never gets opened, Devs have not confirmed whether it will ever exist. A pack-based lottery is the first system they discussed as it seems the best way to do it, but nothing is finalized.
– The 4th Mythic will not be in packs, will also not be auctioned off.

Game Design

– The God Powers are a little higher impact than Hearthstone hero powers and have varying mana costs (1 to 6). They are designed to be evergreen and the goal is for them not to change or rotate out in any fashion after game launch. God Ultimates are designed to not really be played around (or else they wouldn’t be powerful enough).
– Devs want to create classes (Gods) that play drastically differently in their goals, but are forced to interact with each other repeatedly. Comparatively, MTG’s deck construction aspect is amazing, but its interactions are clunky. And Hearthstone’s decks feel on rails or gimmicky, but interactions are good. GU aims for Lego-like design, but to still retain the Hearthstone levels of interaction (and make those interactions more meaningful).
– Devs have a set power level for all cards, and they won’t be printing cards that are intentionally above the power level of cards that see play.
– There are no “Color-mechanics” in the game because the new player experience wasn’t great with it. For deck-building, GU cards are a lot more modular than Hearthstone. Devs wanted the cards to feel like Lego blocks, as opposed to in Hearthstone where they feel more like puzzle pieces.
– Generally, Deception is the RPS (Rock Paper Scissors) heavy God, Nature is the RNG heavy God, War is the math heavy God, Magic is deep strategy heavy God, and Death/Light are more middle ground.
– Devs’ approach to RNG in GU is to avoid absolute randomness (which is rampant in Hearthstone) and limit it to strategic randomness and/or give players ways to reduce or remove randomness. Controlling RNG of resource generation is one of the top levels of skill to master in a card game, and Nature is the class that will explore it the most. Variance will always be high, but overall, GU’s variance will be significantly lower than Hearthstone, but still present. It will be nowhere near chess.
– Balancing is taken very seriously as GU aims to be an esports game. A lot of math in the form of formulas and processes is used to balance the mechanics and stats of cards. Devs also have a pro Hearthstone player to help with light deckbuilding for basic archetypes of each God to make sure they’re relatively balanced.
– In terms of depth, GU will be more strategic than Hearthstone which is designed for a wider audience. GU cards will have a lot more text space than Hearthstone, but still nowhere near what MTG allows for.
– When comparing GU card power to Hearthstone cards in terms mana cost, the design wants 1 and 2 mana cards to be more powerful than Hearthstone, 3 and 6 mana cost cards to be on the same level, and 4 and 5 mana cost cards to be less powerful than the Hearthstone cards.  GU’s removals are also more costly than Hearthstone (Arcane Explosion is where removal options are balanced around, not Twilight Flamecaller).
– All the cards that aren’t blatantly super RNG/meme-y have been designed with archetypes (not specific decks) in mind, that works with God Powers and Core Cards. The goal is any time you think “my deck needs a bit more X”, that you can do that without destroying your whole deck. Subgoal is for the vast majority of cards to be usable by at least 2 God Powers
– There will not be another re-balancing at anywhere near the scale that happened right before Beta. But individual cards will be adjusted through beta, so catching them early means the correct version will get more testing time which would be super helpful. Devs appreciate feedback if anything looks out of balance.

Game Mechanics

– Starting deck size is 30 and the starting hand size is 3 cards. Max creatures on the board is 6 and max cards in hand is 9.
– Runes (a set of small spells), Anims (small creatures), and Enchanted Weapons are are all properly valued (same as if they were independent cards) 2 Mana cards.
– The mechanic “Delve” lets you choose a card at random (not from your deck). All Delve effects from your deck will specifically say so.
– The mechanic “Foresee X” lets you look at the top X cards of your deck and choose whether to keep any of those cards on top or send any of them to the bottom of the deck.
– The mechanic “Ward” blocks one effect that originates from a Spell or a God power (including friendly ones). It does not block Weapons, creature Abilities or Roars.
– The mechanic “Backline” means the creature cannot attack. The creature also cannot be attacked until all friendly non-backline creatures are dead.
– The mechanic “GodBlitz” means the creature or weapon can attack any target the turn it is played (Weapons without this keyword cannot attack right way, just like creatures cannot).
– The mechanic “Flank” allows you to attack any target (including Backline) as long as one other attack has been made this turn.
– Any mechanic appearing more than once in a class (God) is probably a core class concept that will occur in its pure form in the Core Set.
– Gods cannot go above 30 health with the Heal mechanic.
– The order of things when a creature dies is as follows: creature dies, afterlife effects trigger, then it goes to the Void (or is removed from the game if Soulless). Buff effects do not remain when a creature is moved to the Void, unless specified.
– Discards do not go into the Void unless specified. The Void is for cards that have been played from your hand or from the board.
– For any card that has “obliterate cards in the void”, if you have less cards in the void than the amount specified on the card you will not be able to cast the spell. Obliterating specified number of cards in the void is part of the casting condition.
– The God “replace” Legendary cards all have God powers that are stronger than your starting God powers. If you have picked and already used an Ultimate God Power, you cannot get the stronger God power as you have no existing God power to “replace”.

Game Economics

– One does not need to Activate their cards (turning them into ERC 721 tokens) in order to play the game. This is just for selling/trading/transferring your cards once trading is enabled with game launch. Developers have also hinted at implementing a way to only activate the cards/packs of your choice and recommend waiting on activation till Gas prices are low.
– There are plans to support the bundling of cards/sets/decks so they can be transferred in large amounts with one transaction.
– There are no plans for an in-game currency. Although there will be a progression tier where you unlock untradable cards, earning tradable cards/packs through gameplay will not be easy. They will be reserved for winning tournaments / Battle Royales.
– Forging (turning 5 identical cards into 1 of higher Shine) is essentially a burn and mint process, as you’re exchanging old tokens for new ones.
– The upcoming version of the Activation tool will allow for activation of individual cards and will make it possible to forge cards before activating them (you also will be able to forge without doing the activation step at all).
– Unopened packs will not be sold due to legal purposes. Although Devs don’t think they would be classified as securities, they lack the utility to make the team comfortable enough to sell them in such a grey space.
– The official GU marketplace that is being developed with 0x tech is targeted for release sometime between Beta and game launch. It will at first be web-based (as opposed to having an in-game interface) and will allow GU cards as well as Etherbots parts to be traded.
– The goal is to have 4 Seasons per year (new Set every 3 months) with Rare packs for each Season priced around $5 and pegged to USD.

Game UI

– There will be many customization options including Card Backs and custom board items (things which show up on your side of the board which the opponent can also see).
– A deck builder with a share button + an easy way to import decks into the game is in the works.
– In the game when you mouse over cards, you will get an explanation of the relevant keywords to reduce confusion.
– The Tribe info will be on the cards in the game.

Game Modes

– There will be an Elo/Ladder-based Standard competitive (Constructed) mode besides the Battle Royales (Limited mode). Battle Royale may feel a little like “a PvP Slay the Spire”.
– There’s no set date for the World Championship but the target is March – April 2019. In terms of what cards will be legal for it, Season 1 cards most likely will also be in play besides the Genesis Set and The Core Set.
– After about 2 years, Devs will likely create 2 play modes: Standard and Extended. All the cards printed in the last 2 years will be legal in Standard (along with the evergreen Genesis Set) and all the cards in existence will be legal in extended.
– “Single player vs the AI” mode is in the game. However, some type of PvE Story mode will not be in at launch, though the Devs plan to have it eventually.
– There could be content/modes allowing for “dual-god” gameplay in the future (like Hearthstone’s dual-class events). But the early days testing will first make sure the vanilla constructed experience is well-balanced.

Regulation

– Card bans, if necessary, will be done in a decentralized and community-driven manner.
– One is allowed to have more than 1 account. Devs feel they can’t do much to stop that & won’t bother – they’ll leave it trustless.
– Each Eth address can use only 1 World Championship ticket.
– Devs are forbidden from selling their cards on the marketplace.

Wallets

– It is possible to buy packs on mobile using Coinbase Wallet (old name: Toshi), though desktop MetaMask extension is recommended. You cannot transfer the cards from Coinbase Wallet to MetaMask Wallet until the game’s launch, but you can export your private keys from Coinbase Wallet and import into MetaMask to have access to them on your desktop.
– imToken wallet has rolled out support for NFTs  and is officially endorsed by GU.
– You will be able to change your email address associated with your card wallet once the game launches.

Miscellaneous

– Devs have plans to support the game in Japanese, Korean, Chinese (simplified), German, and Spanish with plans to support additional ones based on demand.
– When you buy super quickly with two separate purchases of same size, same user, same type on the same block, it is possible to get duplicate packs. Can be avoided by spacing out transactions.
– As of September 12th, Fuel games has 15 full-time employees. Lots of devs are working on the Apollo platform which underpins all their games, as well as the games themselves.
– GU team overseas about 70 different artists from different studios who have all come together to create the beautiful card art. Each artist is sent a description for each piece of art which are commissioned exclusively for the game.
– The concept of renting/lending cards as well as distributing prize winnings in a trustworthy way (with blockchain contracts), and this in turn enabling an E-sports team ownership infrastructure has been acknowledged as “awesome” by devs. They will try to push this concept forward.
– The Etherbot promotional set and how to claim the cards (for part owners) will be revealed at the same time as the GU in-house marketplace – because this will be the marketplace for both GU and Etherbots.
– In terms of blockchain code security, an external contract developer was hired to perform an audit for the Genesis contract (it’s also been reviewed by MANY people). Additionally, Devs will be deploying new contracts for Season 1+ to add functionality such as single card activation. All these contracts will also undergo an external audit.
– There will be no rush to try and reserve the desired in-game username as they will not be required to be unique.
– Game APIs (including image API) are being moved around in preparation for Beta and will receive a large update soon. Fansites relying on these APIs may experience repeated downtimes as a result.
– The game will eventually be released on mobile/tablet, but launching on PC first is the priority.

 

 

To interact with the Gods Unchained community or dev team, make sure to drop by the official Discord.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you’ve found this guide helpful, feel free to purchase Gods Unchained packs using our referral code (at no extra cost to you). 

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Guides

Guide To Wall Street Interest In Crypto

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It wasn’t too long ago that Bitcoin and cryptos were largely frowned upon, seen as a tool only relevant to terrorists and drug dealers. But 2018 has seen a huge spike of interest from Wall Street and many of the top firms in the traditional financial space have been scrambling to find their footing around regulatory uncertainty and react to the surge in demand from their clients. 

It’s no secret that fresh capital and demand is needed to take the crypto market to new highs, and thus everyone has been wondering where the institutional demand will come from and which large companies will lay the groundwork to allow this on-ramp to happen. Below we present the key actors that are starting to make moves and could serve as catalysts to drive demand upwards.

Founded: 2000
Assets Under Management: $2.8 Trillion

JPMorgan Chase

JP Morgan has been exploring blockchain tech for over two years in a bid to use the nascent technology to solve banking-related inefficiencies. The bank’s Blockchain Center of Excellence department developed in conjunction with the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance a project called Quorum, which is currently branded as an “enterprise-focused version of Ethereum”. In March 2018 JP Morgan announced that in light of the platforms popularity and potential, they were considering spinning it off as a separate entity. This is just one of the enterprise platforms that they’re working on and JPM has continuously been at the forefront of financial firms seeking to patent blockchain based securities services. 

Even JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon who grabbed headlines in September of 2017, when he slammed Bitcoin as a fraud and pretty much threatened anyone in his company they’d be out of a job if he caught them trading cryptocurrencies, has since softened his tune. In an interview with HBR in July 2018, Dimon admitted that blockchain is something they’re testing and that they “will use it for a whole lot of things”.

JP Morgan has thus far been more focused on blockchain tech than offering its clients with crypto investment opportunities, despite a report in November 2017 by the WSJ that they were considering whether to provide its clients access to CME’s new bitcoin product through its futures-brokerage unit. In May 2018, the firm created a new position called “Head of Crypto-Assets Strategy” with the aim of seeking out cryptocurrency projects that can be taken to market.  It’s recently been rumored that they will be using Bakkt’s infrastructure to service their clients.

Founded: 1869
Assets Under Management: $1.5 Trillion

Goldman Sachs

In 2015 Goldman Sachs got its feet wet into the world of cryptocurrencies by investing in a Bitcoin brokerage firm called Circle. Towards the end of 2017, rumors began circulating that Goldman Sachs was setting up plans to open its own crypto trading desk. This was confirmed by Bloomberg in December 2017, with plans to launch sometime at end of June 2018. In May of 2018 the NY Times reiterated Goldman’s crypto ambitions, but regulatory approval was quoted as a key hurdle from allowing them to move forward. In July 2018 Lloyd Blankfein’s 12 year long tenure as the Goldman Sachs CEO came to an end, replaced by David Solomon who was reported to be much more keen on Bitcoin and crypto than his predecessor. Solomon mentioned that his firm already offered clients publicly-traded derivatives tied to Bitcoin but said they must “evolve its business and adapt to the environment.”

On September 5 2018, Business Insider surprisingly reported that Goldman was ditching its near-term plans to open a trading desk to focus instead on a crypto custody solution, which was hinted at in August. Goldman CFO Marty Chavez quickly refuted that report as “fake news” the next day in an interview with TechCrunch and said that while their custody solution is not ready so trading ‘physical’ Bitcoin wasn’t not yet possible for them, they were building a trading platform modeled on a commodities futures trading platform. Thus currently Goldman is on track to provide over the counter derivatives, with physical custodial solutions coming further down the line. 

Founded: 1935
Assets Under Management: $474 Billion

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley, just like JP Morgan, has been a bank that’s been proactively testing blockchain technology in some use cases. Along with Bank of New York Mellon, Morgan Stanley have been using blockchain technology based platforms as far back as March 2016 to maintain backup records and process transactions.

Morgan Stanley joined Goldman in January of 2018 when it announced that they too were clearing Bitcoin futures contracts for big institutional clients. CFO Jonathan Pruzan said at the time that Morgan Stanley were not offering custody solutions but were having regular meetings among executives to consider how else to engage with cryptocurrencies. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman hasn’t been as dismissive as some other Wall Street CEOs regarding digital currencies and admitted back in September 2017 that they were ‘more than just a fad’. 

In July 2018, the firm hired Andrew Peel, a self declared “subject matter expert for bitcoin and cryptocurrency” as “Head of Digital Asset Markets”. In September 2018, Bloomberg got the scoop on Morgan Stanley’s plans for a product that would allow clients to get synthetic exposure to the performance of Bitcoin. It would allow investors to go long or short price return swaps and Morgan Stanley would charge a spread for each transaction. The technical capability seems to be there and Bitcoin swap trading will supposedly go live following an internal approval process and once there is proven institutional client demand.

Founded: 1988
Assets Under Management: $6.3 Trillion

BlackRock

As the world’s largest assets manager , BlackRock made huge waves in July 2018 when they announced they were setting up a working group to assess their potential involvement in the crypto space. A BlackRock spokeswoman said the company had been “looking at blockchain technology for several years”, dating back to 2015. The newly formed cross-functional team will investigate crypto currencies and their underlying infrastructure and report their findings to senior management. 

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink hasn’t historically been too fond of cryptos, highlighting back in October 2017 its frequent association with money-laundering.  Fink remained skeptical on cryptos in an interview with Bloomberg in July 2018, but expressed that he’s “very excited” about blockchain technology. It was reported in September 2018 that Coinbase has been in talks with BlackRock’s aforementioned working group to seek help in launching a Bitcoin ETF. BlackRock reportedly didn’t give any concrete recommendations, which is inline with the firms mixed stance on the subject after the CEO had said in the previously mentioned interview he didn’t believe “any client sought out crypto exposure”. It remains to be seen how the world’s largest exchange-traded fund (ETF) provider will proceed.

Founded: 2018

Bakkt

In August of 2018, the crypto world got perhaps its biggest news of the year when ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) announced their 14 months in the making grand ambitions in the digital asset space. In conjunction with Microsoft’s cloud expertise, Starbuck’s extensive know-how in the field of mobile payment, and ICE’s (as one of the largest exchange groups in the world) leadership in the field of financial and commodity markets – a new platform called “Bakkt” was formed.

At the time much of the focus was on the consumer facing section of the platform, and whether the likes of Starbucks would really be accepting cryptosHowever it soon became apparent that this was only a fraction of the plans and perhaps most important was the announcement of a fully regulated onramp, which would combine a major CFTC-regulated exchange with CFTC-regulated clearing and custody. Such a solution would actually be backed by real bitcoins and contrary to many of the services offered by other names on this list, would signify direct exposure to physical Bitcoin and potentially other digital currencies down the line. 

Bakkt, which has been actively recruiting former Coinbase employees, will begin its onboarding and testing phase in November 2018 with trading scheduled to begin in December, subject to CFTC approval. Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler hasn’t shied away from expressing the extent of the company’s vision: “We are collaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce.”

Founded: 1946
Assets Under Management: $2.6 Trillion

Fidelity

Fidelity has always had a bullish tone when it came to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.  The world’s 4th largest asset manager dipped its toes into the world of cryptos back in 2015 when it began accepting Bitcoin donations for its charity operation Fidelity Charitable (the second-largest nonprofit fund-raiser in the U.S). The company has mined cryptos and even allowed employees to make purchases with Bitcoin in their Boston offices. In 2017 the firm’s internal crypto fund was forced to suspend operations after two employees involved in the project left to start their own crypto funds. However Fidelity plans to resume operations as it seeks to find a new fund manager

Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson (who’s family owns 49% of Fidelity) hasn’t shied away from from evangelizing Bitcoin and admitted to being a big fan of the space in a rare speech at Consensus 2017. Ms. Johnson first became interested in Bitcoin and blockchain tech back in 2014 when the company’s Fidelity Labs began researching disruptive emerging technology and has allegedly personally participated in several of the firm’s crypto initiatives since.

In June 2018, Business Insider reported that Fidelity is planning to make a big move into the world of cryptocurrencies after it got its hand on some job ads. While some clients can already view their crypto holdings next to their other accounts, the plan is to go much further including building its own digital asset exchange as well as custody solutions. During Boston Fintech Week, Ms. Johnson confirmed they had “a few things underway” and that they hoped to have some things to announce by the end of 2018. 

In mid-October Fidelity announced a new and separate company called Fidelity Digital Asset Services that will handle custody of cryptocurrencies and execute trades on behalf of institutional clients. The new standalone company has around 100 employees and is already in the process of onboarding its first clients with more widespread availability scheduled in early part of 2019.

Founded: 1998
Assets Under Management: $158 Billion

Citigroup

Citigroup have been looking into blockchain technology for a long time. Back in 2015 Ken Moore, head of Citi Innovation Labs, was quoted as saying that they have been looking at distributed ledger technology for “the last few years”. They were running tests on their very own version of Bitcoin called Citicoin, in the hopes of removing inefficiencies and counter party risk relating to the bank’s cross border prescence. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2017, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat made it clear that he didn’t think cryptocurrencies were going away and that governments would likely feel threatened and produce their own versions.

In 2017 Nasdaq and Citigroup partnered up and revealed a new blockchain payments initiative that was 3 years in the making. In July 2018, it was announced that Citigroup and 8 other banks would be part of a trial project by CLS and IBM called LedgerConnect, an app store trial for programs based on blockchain technology. In September 2018, Citigroup announced perhaps their biggest plans yet with a product called Digital Asset Receipt (DAR) that is said to enable institutional investors to invest in cryptocurrencies in a fully insured and regulated manner. This direct investment method goes around the tricky regulatory hurdles by emulating American depositary receipts, which has enabled US investors to own foreign stocks for decades.

Founded: 1998
Assets Under Management: $1.1 Trillion

Bank of America

Bank of America are part of R3‘s consortium of dozens of banks developing frameworks for applying blockchain tech to markets. America’s second largest bank doesn’t exactly see cryptos in the best of lights however. In May 2017, BofA CTO Cathy Bessant expressed her opinion that cryptocurrencies as a payment system are ‘troubling’ since there is no transparency in between the sender and receiver. They admitted in February of 2018 in their annual 10-K filing with the SEC hat cryptocurrency poses a threat to their business. 

Despite what they’ve said publicly, BofA have been quietly trying to get its hands onto blockchain technology for years now, filing for over 50 blockchain patents going back to 2014, making it the largest holder of blockchain related patents. Recently in August of 2018, they filed for patents for a system that manages cyrptocurrency storage in an enterprise environment. Their recent filings relating to an online vault storage system and cold storage system suggests they might also be thinking of getting involved on the custody size as well.

Other Key Developments

Below is a series of important news that further demonstrate large players entering the space.

In May 2018 Nomura, a leading investment bank headquartered in Japan with nearly half a trillion dollars in assets under management, became the first bank to offer custody services for digital assets by partnering with Ledger and Global Advisors. The new venture called Komainu will provide infrastructure and operational framework to allow institutional level investments that previously was not possible.

After being one of the first online brokerages to offer investors access to Bitcoin futures back in December of 2017, TD Ameritrade announced in October 2018 that it was making a strategic investment in a cryptocurrency spot and futures exchange called ErisX. The platform will provide a crypto on-ramp to retail and institutional investors and signals the company is “all-in” to the world of cryptocurrences.

That wraps up our look at what some of the biggest members of the traditional financial space  are up to when it comes to cryptocurrencies. There seems to be a clear trend across the board on Wall Street first largely dismissing cryptocurrencies but instead electing to focus on researching the underlying blockchain technology itself. However in the last few months the trend has largely shifted with all major players seriously looking into providing their clients with custodial solutions to actually owning Bitcoin or derivatives of it. Whether this is due to overwhelming current client demand or just an expectation of the future remains to be seen – but one thing is clear and that’s the fact that cryptocurrencies have become something Wall Street can no longer ignore.

We’ll be sure to keep this page updated with any developments, so do bookmark it and revisit from time to time.

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13 Rules of ICO Investing

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One of the biggest use cases of cryptos besides Bitcoin has undoubtedly been ICOs (initial coin offerings) which allows anyone from anywhere in the world to easily raise money for a blockchain based venture and provide liquid tradeable tokens to investors that often represents a currency on the platform. This trend really exploded in the summer of 2017 and reached a peak in early 2018 with money raised totaling $6.3 billion in Q1 alone. Despite it falling off in recent months, it’s not something that’s going to just disappear due to the easy way in which it allows for venture capital and startups to effortlessly meet in a digital world. While investing in the right ICOs have resulted at times in incredible gains at times surpassing 100x returns within a calendar year, other such investments have actually ended up terribly with investors losing a huge chunk of their capital. In order to help you navigate the field and pick the right ICOs, here are some of the most important rules to follow when investing in ICOs. They won’t guarantee that you’ll stumble upon a winner, but it will most certainly reduce your chances to falling prey to many of the mistakes people make when putting their money in ICOs.

 

ICO investing has exploded in the last year…which has brought with it many risks.

 

Rule #1: Understand The Risks

This might sound a bit obvious as there’s a level of risk involved in pretty much any investing, but you won’t know true risk until you get yourself involved in the world of cryptocurrencies and especially ICOs. The things that happen in this space is mind-boggling and often times ridiculous, you’ll at times wonder how any of it is possible in this day and age when you’d think there should be rules and regulations to prevent some of this seedy behaviour from taking place. This is in fact why we started this website in the first place, to shine a light and do our best to help folks navigate the wild west of tokenized assets.

 

The above image looks like a transparent and investable team, except it’s not even real.

What do we mean by risks besides a very real chance that your investment could lose 90% of its value under a year? The team could have fake profiles like Benebit (pictured above), they could drastically switch the terms of their ICO like Mercury Protocol after launch, they can increase their hard cap after reaching a level of popularity like Enigma, they could cancel their ICO after a lengthy vetting process like Gems Protocol, or well…they could just exit scam with the money like dozens of projects do every month. You might be wondering why even participate in any ICO if the space is riddled with such shady behaviour, and the simple answer is that it is such risk that allows the few winners to post life-changing returns as is the case of successful ICOs like Ethereum, Neo, and Stratis just to name a few.

Rule #2: Realize You’re Investing In The Team

While ICOs are selling you on a revolutionary future and making all sorts of promises about their product, what you’re really investing in when you put money in ICOs is the team. Given that the ICO investment space is still largely unregulated and investments at max come with a loosely binding SAFT (Simple Agreement for Future Tokens), you really have to trust that the team is going to do right by the investors. Obviously an anonymous team is an absolute no-no and clear links to each team members LinkedIn or equivalent pages are a necessity so you can do your due diligence.

Different people have different methods for evaluating the team but past performance is indeed the best indicator of future performance in this case. You may think that the 19 year old CEO with no work history could be the next Vitalik Buterin, chances are he’s not and you’ll already be needlessly exposed to a gamble when there are already so many other facets of the investment that involve much risk which you can’t actually control. Another risk is picking teams from specific regions like Eastern Europe or China where the regulatory, business, and ethical frameworks are not as transparent or developed, and thus there’s increased chance of getting burned.

 

Dan Larimer’s success in previous crypto projects was one of the predominant reasons why investors were happy to give him billions when he launched the EOS ICO.

A mix of experience working on blockchain related projects and a link to the real business world where the project is going to be operating is the ideal mix. Often times you have an over concentration of one or the other and that will lead to either not enough development or not enough business development, both of which will lead to a project’s downfall. A leader that has proven entrepreneurial skills and built and exited a successful startup goes a long way.

Rule #3: Analyze The Advisor & Promoter Choices

While the intentions and mindset of the team might be hard to decipher based on looking at their resume, the way in which they go about picking advisors and influencers will be a very clear signal as to what kind of project you’re dealing with. ICOs that are looking for a quick raise and exit are much more likely to hire advisors that have short term benefits like ICO influencers and well-respected business folk that at first seem to lend the project legitimacy but you soon realize have their name tagged to dozens of ICOs and are basically just cashing in without providing much added value. We won’t call anyone out but stick around for a while and you’ll know exactly who these people are.

 

Paris Hilton promoting a shady project founded by a man convicted of domestic violence was the peak of the ICO bubble.

Another huge red flag that almost single-handedly should see you running for the exit is when ICOs use celebrities to promote their coins. While it might seem like a huge positive to have big names like Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather backing a project, these are simple promotional posts that are often times not even posted by the celebrity in question. Steven Segal even went on to promote a blatant scam ICO called, we shit you not, Bitcoiin with two i’s that unsurprisingly ended up being a pyramid scheme.

Rule #4: Make Sure The Price Is Right

Even the sounding ventures can be worth a punt when priced low enough and even the best sounding projects won’t make for a good investment if priced too high. The market cap of the project is the figure that’s looked at when evaluating this metric and it’s calculated by multiplying the ICO price of the token by the total amount of circulating tokens (funnily enough the total token supply is largely ignored in the space).

 

Currently Stellar Lumens has a higher implied market cap (when factoring in total supply) than even Ethereum, but market only seems to care about circulating supply.

What constitutes the right market cap from an investment standpoint has actually very little to do with how much the team really needs to execute their vision but more to do with the state of the market (whether we’re in a bull or bear market trend) and the type of project that the ICO is building. Infrastructure projects which are building new blockchains or new protocols tend to command a higher valuation in the market compared to projects that are building dApps (decentralized apps) on an existing platform like Ethereum.

For example in a down market, even $10 million might be too much for a dApp regardless of how amazing it sounds (eg: a decentralized Airbnb) while in a bull market investors won’t bat an eye throwing $50 million+ at a new “next-generation 3.0/4.0” blockchain project. Some really hot projects, usually with some kind of Silicon Valley backinglike Filecoin or perhaps existing companies with a popular product like Telegram can raise in the hundreds of millions or even billions. These type of investments have historically not had the greatest ROI so keeping it at under $50m for a great infrastructure project and less than $15m for a dApp is a good bare maximum when considering the amount raised.

Rule #5: Project Vision/Idea Aligning With The Team & Trends

Normally the idea behind a project is the first and nearly only thing that a newbie investor will consider, but in our view it holds much lesser importance. The first question that should be asked is whether the project really needs to be on the blockchain or be decentralized, the wrong answer here and the investment case no longer exists. But beyond that we already highlighted in rule #4 that the scope of the project is more important in investor’s eyes during the speculative stage than the specific business idea itself. In terms of the specific idea, it’s more important in the short term that the market, regulatory, and business trend is aligned with the idea. For example a decentralized exchange project might be deemed attractive if we’re in a period where centralized exchanges are struggling or getting shutdown and not many alternatives exist, but much less so if there are already countless decentralized ICO projects and centralized exchanges are thriving (as is the case today). Ultimately, projects that are tackling immediate problems are more likely to do well than projects looking for a solution to inexistent problems or just providing a small improvement to current existing options.

 

Theta is building a next generation video delivery solution but probably no one would care if they didn’t have the matching personnel.

From a more long term perspective, the execution of the idea has a much better chance at being successful if the team and advisors around the project are seasoned veterans in the specific field where they’re trying to apply a blockchain based solution. For example the crypto credit card project STK did not fare very well in the short term as the crypto card trend died down heavily following the VISA/Wavecrest shutdowns but they have a better long term outlook because they have a team made up of former banking and credit card execs.

Rule #6: Lookout For Early Investors & Bonuses

When you hear the phrase “initial coin offering” you might be thinking you’re getting in at the ground floor, but that’s usually far from the case. Depending on when the project started its funding, there could be venture capital investors that got in way before you and have secured tokens at a much discounted rate. There’s also tactics used like a pre-sale period which is more aimed at influencers or crypto hedge funds and perhaps a few well connected whales. They too will likely get bonus tokens and essentially be able to invest at a cheaper rate than you.

 

ICOs that give out large bonuses and use time pressure tactics are largely to be avoided.

While this doesn’t sound like much big of a deal when it’s a raging bull market and everything is mooning, the reality during a bear market is much more harsh. Everyone is much quicker to take profits and people are even happy at times getting out of the investment at breakeven. Their breakeven however, might sometimes be equivalent to you losing half of your investment as their selling push prices down way below your acquisition cost. It’s therefore imperial when participating in an ICO or even a pre-sale to know exactly who got in at how much and at what volume and what the lockups are for such discounted prices.

Rule #7: Make Sure Team, Advisor and Early Stage Investor Tokens Have Lock-up

Following directly from the above, it’s important for all the people who’re getting either ‘free’ or heavily discounted tokens to have a vesting period that ensures they can’t just dump them on the market. Besides protecting investors who got in at higher price, this also ensures that the team has to deliver on their milestones and actually do what they set out to do if they wish for their tokens to have any sort of value. The longer the lock-up, the more confidence you can have that the team believes in what they’re doing. Some teams have such confidence in their project that they will initiate a token buy back program like Blackmoon Crypto and that can give you somewhat of a safety net in case things go south.

 

Being aware of the lockup periods of the different tokens circulating the market can be really crucial in predicting the demand/supply dynamic.

For smaller projects, it’s even important to look at anyone else who might be getting free tokens like bounty programs or community airdrops. These tokens tend to be insta-dumped on the market regardless of price and not having enough volume will result in a very poor start out of the gate and could cascade into further investor panic.

Rule #8: Favorable Tokenomics & Token Distribution

We’ve covered parts of this throughout the post such as having a decent cap and guaranteeing the bonus and lockups are adequately set, but there’s a few more points here that are worth pointing out. Little things like setting the initial price low enough (such as 1c per token) can have a large psychological impact as many uninformed investors feel that tokens that costs multiple dollars are ‘expensive’ when in fact the market cap is where you’ll see whether a project is overvalued. What percentage of the total tokens are in the hands of the team compared to ICO participants are also worth watching out, especially if you are looking at it from a long term perspective.

Another major factor is the profile of the investor base that managed to get into the ICO. Highly hyped ICOs that saw a huge number of participants like for example 0x ended up doing great as no one party got too many tokens. Recent attempts at trying to manufacture a demand deficit by limiting ICO investors through whitelists and tiny allocations however is starting to be less and less effective. Often times many people are aware what the ‘hot projects’ are and making retail investors jump through hoops like ‘proof of care’ devotions or participating in quizzes only serves to aggregate them. Fairly involving retail investors and not lazily relying on VCs or investor syndicate pools seems to be imperative going forward, especially in a downmarket.

Rule #9: When Exchange?

The phrase “when exchange?” is one of the biggest memes of the ICO world as investors constantly flock ICO telegram groups asking over and over again when the tokens they’ve bought will become liquid so they can sell and get their capital back. It mind sound silly and somewhat short-sighted, but exchanges do play a big role in at least the short to mid term success of a project. A decentralized network needs a community to thrive and allowing the free movement of tokens so new people can come in and existing early adopters are motivated to keep participating plays a big part in community building.

 

The joke is that there are three important questions for an ICO investor. 1) When ICO? 2) When Exchange? 3) When Moon?

It doesn’t help that the exchange listing process seems to be more of a dark art than a science as some projects seem to be quickly listed as a result of personal connections or maybe the right amount of hype behind them, while others can’t even get listed regardless of accepting to pay the exuberant amount of fees to get listings on the top exchanges. As an ICO investor, since ICOs aren’t really allowed to directly mention exchange plans you kind of have to read between the lines of where your project is going to end up by looking at connections of team members, advisors, and even whether ICO funds have been set aside for this exact purpose. Some teams will openly declare they have no interest in paying any money to get listed in exchanges, and some even have gone as far as discourage exchanges from listing them, and these are projects you should be very careful with unless you don’t mind having your capital locked up for an indefinite period of time.

Rule #10: Having A Clear Roadmap & Timeline For A Working Product

ICO investors are largely an inpatient and restless bunch so a constant stream of news and developments is necessary to keep the spirits and confidence high and prevent early investors from dumping the token and moving on to the next shiny ICO. This is where a roadmap comes in and you’ll want to have a close eye on how detailed the roadmap is and how aggressively the dates have been set. A project that doesn’t have any milestone a few months down the line is doomed to see a lot of selling pressure. Ideally of course, a working product whether that’s an MVP, testnet, mainnet, a Beta, or a real live working product should be around the corner.

 

A detailed roadmap and expectation of when a working product will be ready are key requirements whether you’re investing at ICO stage or after.

There’s really no point to have your money parked backing a research project, you want something that’s going to hit the market soon or at least is going to have some kind of impact on the space and start creating value. Some even go as far as not investing in ICOs that don’t have a minimal viable product and that’s the best way to go. The communication and marketing prowess of the team to present the developments of the project in a clear, concise, and optimistic way is also key. Many teams think they should just put their headdown and work on the tech, but that often ends up being a costly mistake as the tech often requires a network effect and that can’t function without an actively engaged community.

Rule #11: Needing A Real Token Use Case

Sometimes a project will get everything right but the token use case just doesn’t make sense. This is not something that many people talk about as we haven’t really reached that point of the market lifecycle where these tokens actually get used other than for speculative purposes. Many projects try to tie a utility to their token but often times the value of the business and network is not fully translated into the tokens themselves. We’re eventually going to transition into a point where many will have STOs (security token offerings) but current projects have been unable to offer investors any sort of dividend or actual share of the company’s profits because they conducted their ICO in a way to go around rules governing securities.

 

Realize that ICOs don’t equate to an ownership in the company. So the tokens better have real utility.

So while this rule is not so important currently, in the later stages of the lifecycle of ICOs, this is probably going to be among the most important points and it’s something you should keep in mind.

Rule #12: A Marketing Department That Understands The Double Edged Nature of Marketing

Sprinkled throughout this guide is the reminded that ICOs need a healthy community to thrive. However getting the marketing just right to achieve this whilst not appearing like a empty projects that’s mindlessly shilled is a balancing act. Projects like Tron have grown very rapidly because of their outlandish CEO Justin Sun, but at the same time they do command a questionable reputation in the space. Ripple is another company that does marketing right, but they have not presented themselves to the crypto community in the best light and continue to get many haters in the crypto community to this day.

 

Some projects like Chainlink have picked up bad reputations because of the practically non-existant nature of their communication and marketing. Yet they still have a cult following on sites like 4chan, so it can really go both ways and there’s no clear working formula. The announcement of announcements and other such methods are artificially tried to generate hype usually result in pump and dumps, and if done repeatedly can result in loss in the integrity of the project. At the very least, projects that have frequent and predictable updates make investors feel at ease that development is on-going and that is a nice minimum baseline to have that even projects as large as ICON realized they need. Usually you can pickup on the skill of the team in this regard during the ICO stage, so you can apply that knowledge to see how they will fare with their marketing post ICO and invest accordingly.

Rule #13: Mind The Red Flags

Last but certainly not least, you should always be looking out for red flags that might appear during the ICO funding process. Always assume something is a scam before you start looking at a project and have them convince you they’re not. This is not anything specific and can take many different forms, but if something doesn’t look or feel right, don’t get FOMO (fear or missing out) and jump into a project regardless, there’s always going to be more opportunities. Some of the possible redflags include: a whitepaper that’s been partially plagirized, a dubious money raising process like an uncapped auction, an over inflated Telegram or Twitter account followed by bots, accusations around the team’s past history, Telegram admins banning people when asked relevant questions, lacking or non-existant GitHub code repository updates, not being SEC compliant or passing the Howey test, breaking legal rules like allowing participants from countries where ICOs are banned and there are many many more.


None of this is financial advicce, but we hope this has given you an idea of what to look out for when investing in ICOs and the points you should research in-depth and be vigilant around. Please remember that ICO investing is extremely risky and only invest what you’re willing to lose – that is probably the most important rule in all of this.

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Top Must Follow Crypto Entities

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“Crypto Twitter” shill accounts, private Telegram groups, YouTube personalities, and new ICOs/startups seem to pop-up daily all claiming to be the new hot thing. It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish who, if anyone, actually knows what they’re talking about and in position to provide real value. 

We’ve done the hardwork for you and filtered down all the noise and highlight in this list the top xx entities in the space that are absolutely worth following. Having these personalities and groups on your radar will give you access to entities who give you primary data from its source, share insights not available to others, provide research that will help in solidifying your own conclusions, and timely breaking news that could move markets and help you long/short ahead of the masses. This page is constantly updated and we remove those that have fallen out of favor or those who simply aren’t actively in terms of public communication.

Vitalik Buterin - Ethereum Co-Founder

As the brain behind the second largest project in the space, Vitalik commands as much clout and influence as anyone in the space. He has an Elon Musk type air of genius around him and is not afraid to drop truth bombs out of nowhere. Just having a picture taken with him use to greatly elevate the hype around ICO projects – he’s got that kind of admiration in the space. He’s not afraid to express his controversial thoughts and opinions and that has served at times as a double edged sword both capable of growing the belief around decentralized platforms but also at times diffusing some of the hype around it. 

Coinbase

Considered the top exchange in the crypto industry, Coinbase is in a unique position to not only witness directly the influx of new users but also are at the forefront of regulation and compliance. Their every communication (which usually comes from their official handle as oppose to the CEO/Co-Founder Brian Armstrong) can have market shaking implications whether that’s announcing a new custody solution, adding a new coin to their exchange, or hinting at the state of the market with their updates on legislation and consumer demand. They’re expanding their scope through acquisitions of different startups so their clout and influence is only likely to grow.

Changpeng Zhao - Binance CEO

Binance has quickly risen to become the altcoin exchange king and with it its billionaire CEO Changpeng, known simply as CZ, has become one of the most important names in the space. The down to earth attitude and open communication style of CZ is part of the allure that allowed this China born project to gain worldwide trust and respect seemingly overnight. CZ is quick to update users whenever a downtime or potential problem might be occurring (“funds are safu” as he would say), and provides many exclusive updates like the development of their decentralized exchange, fiat exchange, and other ground breaking innovations that Binance is bringing to the space.

Jihan Wu - Bitmain Co-Founder

As the co-founder of one of the most profitable companies in the crypto world and the face of Bitcoin mining as a result of Bitmain’s dominance in the space, Jihan Wu commands a certain level of attention. He hasn’t shied away from controversy either, being at the center of the Bitcoin vs Bitcoin Cash debate and pledging his support and influence over the latter and at times using profanity to do so. He continues to be a polarizing and influential figure as his company aims to conduct one of the biggest IPOs in history amid a sea of concerns. Following what this shrewd businessman elects to do with the technology, influence, and crypto holdings at his disposal is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Charlie Lee - Litecoin Founder

Charlie Lee has been heavily involved in the cryptocurrency space since its early days and being the creator of Litecoin, otherwise known as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold, is almost like we are dealing with a lite version of Satoshi himself (his Twitter handle happens to be @SatoshiLite). His passion for the ecosystem and work in the space continues to earn him fans but his persona took quite a hit at the end of 2017 when he sold his Litecoin at the peak of the bubble. He continues to be an outspoken but well informed figure about everything going on in the space so he’s always been considered a reasonable voice people are seeking to hear.

SEC - Securities & Exchange Commission

Fear of crushing regulation is something that crypto investors have always had in the back of their mind as a primary concern. Ten years into Bitcoin, there’s still a lot of doubt and uncertainty as to how governments, and in particular the United States will deal with cryptocurrencies. Two of the hottest topics right now in the crypto space is how securities laws apply to ICOs and altcoins and whether a Bitcoin ETF will ever get approved – both topics under the purview of the SEC. When one Tweet from them can cause double digit percentage moves in crypto price, you follow.

Arthur Hayes - Bitmex Co-Founder & CEO

Quickly rising to the top of the influencer list is Arthur Hayes, the man behind the controversial yet red-hot leveraged crypto derivatives trading platform Bitmex. If facilitating the shorting of Bitcoin and Ethereum at up to 100x and 50x respectively (with crazy volumes we might add) didn’t draw him enough heat, he’s not been shy to speak his mind both on CNBC (where he predicted BTC to reach $50k by end of 2018) or his blog (where he called Ethereum a double digit shitcoin) and rile up the crypto community. Whether you believe his words or not, he definitely compels you to listen.

Joseph Lubin - ConsenSys Founder

After co-founding Ethereum, Lubin started up ConsenSys which now boasts a global team of 1100 members that has tasked itself with building the infrastructure, applications, and practices that enable a decentralized world. A consulting arm of the project enables Lubin and his team to work with top companies and governments around the world and having frontrow seat to the development side of the tech, he’s in prime position to anticipate and comment on when and where the adoption will come from. He appears in front of mainstream media outlets frequently to reiterate his belief that we’re living in exponential times and that adoption is right around the corner.

Thomas Lee - Fundstrat Global Co-Founder

As one of the first Wall Street strategists to embrace Bitcoin, Tom Lee has the type of street cred that few of his background share. While he can often be found on CNBC making overly bullish predictions, his true gems lie on Twitter where he shares a lot of research he and his team have come up with. If you are in the search for data backed analysis of the crypto world, few in the space deliver like Lee does.

Winklevoss Twins - Gemini Founders

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, of Facebook/’Social Network’ fame, have been early investors in the crypto space going as far as their involvement with BitInstant and were among the first publicly recognized Bitcoin billionaires. Their Gemini exchange was the first licensed exchange to add Ether back in the day and they also recently launched the world’s first regulated stablecoin backed by US dollars. They’re always trying to actively push the space forward and perhaps their biggest battle has been to launch a Bitcoin ETF, which has thus far repeatedly been rejected. As well respected entrepreneurs in the startup world, they continue to remain hungry, relevant, and highly influential.

Andreas Antonopoulos - Author/Educator

It wouldn’t be a stretch calling Andreas the most respected person in the crypto space. He’s dedicated his career to educating, evangelizing and most notably writing about blockchain and Bitcoin in his books “The Internet of Money” and “Mastering Bitcoin”. You won’t find him make outrageous price predictions or promoting any specific project, but he’s the go to guy as far as a deep understanding, teaching, and spreading of the crypto movement and how it has come about. As a prolific speaker and leading expert with unique background, his insights are definitely worth following.

Michael Novogratz - Galaxy Digital CEO

It’s rare for someone as experienced in the traditional financial space as former Goldman Scahs partner Novogratz to be so actively involved in the crypto space, and that makes him an absolute must-follow person on the list. As head of a cryptocurrency investment firm, the billionaire investor has been hard at work trying to apply his success and experience on Wall Street onto this new frontier. It’s definitely a plus to have someone as connected as him involved in this new industry and he often shares his thoughts on the industry and the market publically.

Max Keiser - Keiser Report Host

Max is probably the most recognizable face for someone just stepping into the cryptocurrency world, as the host of the highly entertaining financial news show Keiser Report on RT. Besides his eccentric character and open disdain for the traditional banking system, Max has real cred in the space for his public calls to buy Bitcoin going as far back as when it was in the single digits. Lesser known fact is that he founded a virtual securities exchange platform called Hollywood Stock Exchange way before it was cool to trade digital assets. Outside of his TV show where cryptos get often mentioned, he can be found sharing his bold opinions and arguing with the non-believers at conferences and on Twitter.

Peter Schiff - Euro Pacific Capital CEO

While banker Jamie Dimon is seen as Bitcoin’s biggest public enemy, it is in fact Peter Schiff who is its most vocal and persistent adversary. As a gold bug, major critic of the current financial system and someone who predicted the 2008 housing crisis, Schiff would at first glance seem like the prototypical crypto enthusiast. However Peter relentlessly believes Bitcoin and cryptos are headed to 0 and he’ll talk about it any chance he gets whether that’s on his frequent television appearances, on his Facebook, podcast, and recently even debating notable crypto personalities. It’s always healthy to keep a contrarian viewpoint in sight and for that reason Peter Schiff is worth a follow.

Roger Ver - Bitcoin.com CEO

Many of the Bitcoin OGs that paved the way in the early days have fallen off the face of the map, but Roger Ver (once known as Bitcoin Jesus for being the first to really invest in Bitcoin startups and spread the cause) keeps finding ways to stay relevant. His personal stock took a big hit when he became one of the faces of the Bitcoin Cash movement, but the passionate entrepreneur still has a tight following among people who share his view that Bitcoin became unusable in commerce due to Blockstream’s mishandling of the scaling debate. It’ll never be a boring day following Roger Ver as he can often be found fighting rigorously for his beliefs on Twitter and debating whomever agrees to spar with him. 

Bakkt

Bakkt, a venture formed out of a partnership between Microsoft, Starbucks, and NYSE parent company ICE, represents probably the biggest adoption case in Bitcoin’s decade long history. When this venture was announced back in August of 2018, it was instantly labeled a game-changer by all pundits involved in the industry. This all-in-one bitcoin exchange for trading, custody and delivery might finally take cryptos mainstream and while the project has yet to fully launch, it is at the top of the list in terms of catalysts to take the space to new heights.

Teeka Tiwari - Palm Beach Research Group Editor

Teeka Tiwari has somewhat of a mixed reputation in the space, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be gained from following him as his track record of investing in Ethereum and Neo in their early days has shown. The exiled Wall Street executive now heads a paid for newsletter membership called Palm Beach Confidential where he tries to pick out the hottest new projects in the space as well as distill insider information he’s accrued over the past few years he’s spent forming relationships and traveling to talk with builders and investors in the space. You won’t find him on the usual channels like Twitter but his reports and insights are quickly circulated on platforms like Telegram and often tend to move the markets.

The Tapscotts- Blockchain Revolution Authors

Besides being authors of the best-selling book “Blockchain Revolution”, the father/son combo of Don and Alex Tapscott also spearhead the Blockchain Research Institute that studies the impact of blockchain technology on business, government & society. They sit on the advisory boards of many prominent projects in the space (like ICON and AION) and Don especially is known for conversing with government leaders on a frequent basis to advise them towards the right path. His keynote speeches at conferences are always must-watch material.

Barry Silbert - Founder of Digital Currency Group

Barry Silbert is one of the old timers who bought Bitcoin back when it was in single digits, but he’s put that to good use when he founded Digital Currency Group that’s had a hand in being early investors to startups in the space like Bitpay, Coinbase, and Ripple. Overseeing different parts of the industry through his ownership of different entities like CoinDesk (news), Grayscale (asset management), and Bitcoin Investment Trust – Barry remains a person with insight worth following, even if he has a tendency to shill his own projects.

John McAfee - McAfee Antivirus Founder

Even if it’s for the pure entertainment value alone, John McAfee is an absolute must follow in the cryptocurrency space. As the creator of the first commercial antivirus software, McAfee made world headlines when he announced in 2017 that he would eat his d!ck on national television if one Bitcoin wasn’t worth $500,000 by end of 2020 (he later doubled down and predicted $1 million). He’s constantly involved in some new project whether that’s ICOs, a news site, a hardware wallet, or anyway really he can make money and keep living his outlandish lifestyle. Do remember that you should take all the influencers on this list with a grain of salt, and that especially applies to McAfee.

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