Let's just recap this for a moment. Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has made up the bulk of the headlines in 2017 (and has since its invention in 2009). In 2014, there was a feature length documentary called The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, which was a 2014 official selection by the Tribeca Film Festival.

If you had invested just $1 in bitcoin as late as 2015, your investment would be worth $7,420 (as of the writing of this article). In an era where most people are thrilled to see a consistent 8 percent return on their investments, a 7,420 percent return feels crazy. But bitcoin is not alone in this incredible digital currency growth. The gains in digital currencies appear to be experiencing their own bubble. In 2017 alone, currency traders and speculative investors such are quick to point out the following returns:

  • 8,294% in Quark
  • 13,595% in FastCoin
  • 5,683% in Asch
  • 8,313% in MediterraneanCoin
  • 5,248% in NoLimitCoin
  • 6,045% in MaxCoin
  • 7,477% in Golem coins
  • 11,328% in Decred coins
  • 6,792% in WorldCoin
  • 75,063% in Cryptonite
  • 59,577% in Influxcoin
  • And 823,750% in DubaiCoin

"Regulations Cannot Keep Pace With the Pace of Innovation"

In the trailer for The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, one of the industry experts says it best when he claims that "regulations cannot keep pace with the pace of innovation." Many see cryptocurrencies as the next gold rush, and for different reasons. Some like the idea that these cryptocurrencies allow you to "put a bank in your pocket". Others support the global "democratization of technology." And still others have lost faith in the ludicrous and growing debt crisis in the U.S. that doesn't appear to have any possibility of recovery. If you fear hyperinflation, cryptocurrency seems like one possible solution.

What to Watch in 2018

Founders and venture capitalists have identified the startups and top initial coin offerings (ICOs) that they think will have the biggest impact heading into 2018. With increased challenges when it comes to funding for startups, the start of 2017 saw the birth of companies tackling things like paying rent with coins to creating a DIY patent research tool.

I've been speaking to founders and venture capitalists to identify some of the startups and ICOs that had the biggest launches in 2017 and that look to have a strong chance of success heading into 2018. Here are 10 top companies to watch that have either had an ICO or are likely to have an ICO heading into 2018. 

1. Cypherium

Cypherium, a team constructed of developers with backgrounds at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, is developing a new blockchain, that will be highly scalable and permissionless. Their multi-level governance design, an absolutely unique feature, has been designed and implemented from the ground up. The Cypherium blockchain separates governance at both the protocol and application layers.

CEO Sky Guo notes, "There are very few teams who can build what we are attempting to build. We believe that Cypherium will not only resolve scalability issues, but also help blockchain technology break into the mainstream."

2. Rentberry

Rentberry is a decentralized long-term rental platform that has been disrupting the rental industry since 2015. Rentberry's platform has the power to automate steps within the renting process, from signing contracts to paying rent. This saves the tenant and landlord time and money, while expediting the legal agreements between parties. Moreover, Rentberry's blockchain and smart contracts technology offers tenants the ability to save thousands of dollars in rental security deposits.

Rentberry CEO Alex Lubinsky says, "$500 billion dollars are frozen in rental security deposits. Rentberry is the first international solution to help quality renters unlock billions of dollars, while streamlining the process of finding apartments, paying rent, and everything in between."

3. Loci

Loci, a venture-backed technology startup known for its DIY patent research tool, InnVenn, has expanded its platform to include the ability to buy and sell intellectual property via its native utilitarian tokens, LOCIcoin. InnVenn also has the capability of posting creation and disclosure of new claims for IP onto the Ethereum blockchain in Loci's quest to simplify and update the patent process.

"Getting an idea protected with a patent is a convoluted, expensive, and risky process--but blockchain technology can fix that. We have created a platform that empowers the inspired inventor with a much quicker and safer alternative in making money from their great ideas," says Loci CEO John Wise.

4. Trippki

Trippki is a decentralized travel rewards protocol that aims to re-establish the relationship between hotels and their guests. By leveraging blockchain technology, Trippki is able to increase the flexibility and versatility of travel reward programs. Trippki offers various methods of both earning and spending reward points.

CEO Ed Cunningham says, "People want more from their travel reward points. Trippki offers a new-wave travel reward protocol that creates a mutually beneficial relationship between the guest and the hotel."

5. RightMesh

RightMesh is a platform and protocol that is poised to change the way the world connects. Blockchain technology enables RightMesh networks to identify nodes with secure Ethereum accounts, and tokenization will grow the network by incentivizing users to share their device resources, such as internet, data, and storage.

"RightMesh is the first truly decentralized network and platform that is actually peer-to-peer. We put the power of connectivity directly into the hands of the people by mesh-enabling smartphones and devices they already own," says CEO John Lyotier.

6. Experty

Experty is a decentralized consulting platform that allows knowledge experts to be paid securely and instantly for the time they spend on a call, without third party intermediaries. The consultant sets their rate per minute, and shares their Experty profile wherever they market themselves. The person looking for advice contacts them through that profile, and payment is made automatically through blockchain smart contracts.

"Decentralization is the key to what we are doing," explains Experty founder and CEO Kamil Prezeorski. "There is already a massive and active knowledge marketplace out there. Instead of building our own, where users could search for experts, we have created a way for the experts to share their profile information anywhere they currently market their services."

7. NAU

NAU takes advantage of the growing use of mobile phones and geolocation data to connect retailers directly with their customers, through digital coupons. They are aiming to disrupt traditional, expensive advertising models by giving local businesses access to social referrals through a user affiliate program.

"This is the perfect implementation of the social/local/mobile approach to connecting businesses with their customers," explains founder and CEO Yaroslav Shakula. "To make a long story short, it's digital coupons...totally reimagined.

8. Coinlancer

Coinlancer is an Ethereum-based freelancing platform based on a smart contract escrow system. Existing freelance marketplaces have several drawbacks, including transaction fees as high as 15-20 percent, and risks associated with payments and delivery. The Coinlancer system eliminates these problems, with a peer-review system for dispute mediation and a much smaller (3 percent) fee on each transaction.

"The freelance economy is booming," says Coinlancer CEO Ian Viner. "With the rising gig economy, freelancing could grow to $10 billion annually in the next six years. We have to curb some of the challenges that freelancers are facing. We see blockchain technology as the smart way to do this."

9. FansUnite

FansUnite is the first blockchain-based sports betting solution that is designed to solve real problems faced by bettors in the market today. Bettors concern themselves with price, market selection, liquidity, not facing restrictions or limits, and security. These are the central tenets behind FansUnite and are all areas where bettors stand to gain significant utility by converting to this platform.

"As Vitalik Buterin pointed out at ETHWaterloo, 90 percent of startups fail--ICOs will be no different. Many are trying to solve novel and worthwhile problems. However, a significant number are going to struggle with transitioning unproven conceptual token models into sustainable profitable businesses," explains FansUnite CEO Darius Eghdami.

10. Giftz 

Giftz gives its users the ability to provide a way for ANY business to tokenize their goods and services to sell as incentives on an exchange, just like airlines sell their miles.

"The airlines make more money selling their miles to other businesses, to use as incentives, than they do with their core business model. That's why we can earn miles buying groceries," explains John Paukulis.