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Report: More Than Three-Quarters of ICOs Were Scams

About half of the existing crypto-asset market today – numbering some 1,500 – functions on top of an existing blockchain like ethereum, according to a new report.

The study from Satis Group, which forms part of a five-entry series analyzing the state of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, explores the state of what it calls "platform networks," honing on ethereum as well as other blockchains like NEO, EOS and Cardano, among others.

In looking at the "market share" of those platforms, it's perhaps not surprising that ethereum constitutes the bulk of that figure – some 86 percent – followed by Waves at 2.9 percent and NEO at 2.3 percent.

Whether that state of affairs will change is an open question, and Satis Group outlines a number of advantages in ethereum's corner as it stands today.

"It remains to be seen whether any platform will be able to surpass Ethereum's adoption, which has a high degree of first mover advantage (nearly a three-year head start, plus the entire market share of the ICO discovery phase through 2017) in addition to high levels of community support, liquidity, and developer buy in," the report states, adding:

"Emerging platforms have been able to differentiate themselves with higher levels of transaction throughput (transactions per second), which generally comes at the cost of higher levels of centralization."

Scams prevalent

Yet for all of the growth around these crypto-assets, the report also came to a troubling conclusion: the vast majority of ICOs launched to date have proven to be fraudulent in nature.

The report calls them "Identified Scams" – that is, projects that "did not have/had no intention of fulfilling project development duties with the funds, and/or was deemed by the community (message boards, website or other online information) to be a scam."

"On the basis of the above classification, as a percentage of the total number of ICOs, we found that approximately 78 [percent] of ICO's were Identified Scams, ~4 [percent] Failed, ~3 [percent] had Gone Dead, and ~15 [percent] went on to trade on an exchange," the report states.

Other researchers have looked at projects that failed to maintain traction in the months following their respective sales.

A recent report from a team at Boston College similarly found that more than half of the token projects they examined fell into inactivity within four months of the sales.

Yet in terms of the actual dollars that have gone into ICOs, Satis found that just 11 percent of funding went to those it identified as scams, or about $1.7 billion. That figure actually drops to a minute 0.3 percent when you cut out the three biggest scams – Pincoi, Arisebank and Savedroid – that have been identified.

Regulatory shift

The report also details how many projects have been seeking sunnier shores, so to speak, in terms of finding more appealing regulatory environments.

The number of ICO fundraising projects based in the Cayman Islands rose from a reported 3% to 40% in the last year while the U.S. faced a sizeable drop from 32% to 10%.

Hinting to subsequent reports yet to be published by Satis Group, author Sherwin Dowlat wrote that a more comprehensive analysis into the "wide variety" of regulatory approaches taken by states within the U.S. specifically would be provided "in a subsequent note."

This being the second in the research series, Satis Group is set to publish three more reports all aimed at delivering "a comprehensive understanding of the pillars that comprise the crypto-asset universe."

Image via Shutterstock

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