One of the Biggest ICOs Yet Crashes Before It Even Launched

Updated on
  • Tezos was once world’s largest ICO after raising $232 million
  • December futures on Tezos tokens drop by 58% on Bitmex

Tezos, the startup which raised $232 million in a July initial coin offering, plunged on derivative exchanges after revealing a management spat and little progress in developing its product.

Derivatives on Tezos tokens fell as much as 31 percent, according to exchange HitBTC. On BitMEX, December futures on the tokens plunged 58 percent as traders unwound bets the project would be launched before the end of the year. The actual tokens have yet to be created.

Founders Arthur and Kathleen Breitman said in a blog post on Wednesday that recruitment had come to a standstill and little work has been done on their product: a better blockchain for digital currencies. They also criticized Johann Gevers, the head of a Swiss foundation which oversees their funds. Gevers said in an emailed response that the Breitmans’ accusations were groundless and that it was "terribly disappointing that things have taken this turn."

Experts have warned for months about the risks and lack of transparency in ICOs, which have raked in $3 billion this year despite offering little protection or guarantees to investors. Whether Tezos recovers to deliver value to investors could go a long way to shaping how authorities regulate ICOs.

"People had no idea what was going on in Tezos,” said Arthur Hayes, a former market maker at Citigroup Inc. who now runs BitMEX, a bitcoin derivatives venue in Hong Kong. "There’s a lot of public information on what’s going on with a project, but most people are too lazy to do any real homework."

The ICO was run by the Tezos Foundation, which is based in Zug, Switzerland and was founded by Gevers. It operates independently of the Breitmans’ Dynamic Ledger Solutions Inc. DLS owns the intellectual property of Tezos, including source code for its ledger, logos and trademark applications.

“From the outset, we worked nonstop to make the transition as smooth as possible, making suggestions to the foundation to help them continue the work we had been doing,” the Breitmans said in the blog post. “However, getting anything done proved difficult.”

Gevers said he expects the issues to be resolved “but this will require cool heads and rational behavior in the interest of the Tezos project.”

The token for ethereum, which is used as a platform to launch most ICOs, slipped about 2 percent following the news, according to data compiled by Coindesk. Other ICO tokens such a OmiseGo and Bancor also fell.

Zhou Shuoji, a Beijing-based founding partner at FBG Capital, said the firm invested 120 bitcoins into Tezos. Zhou is doubtful Tezos will be able to deliver by its promised deadline.

“For a fundraising of this scale, they probably can create a product in the end, but for investors, it’s not always a certain bet that will deliver returns,” he said. “The market is at a turning point now.”

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