NEO, formerly known as AntShares, is generally known as the "Ethereum of China." But an even more accurate description of the project would be "China's public blockchain," according to the company. NEO made news this week when it went from being a top 15 cryptocurrency to a top 10 cryptocurrency as of the time of this writing, signaling stronger support for the project.

NEO's platform is similar to Ethereum's but has some clear advantages and a different overall mission. First of all, it provides various advanced languages for its compiler, such as Python and Go. Second, and more important, its NEO Contract (which is run through a NEO Virtual Machine) supports various commonly used programming languages, such as C# and Java, which is a major advantage. This makes its barrier to entry for new developers much smaller than other platforms', as they do not need to learn new languages to code.

The big move for NEO is creating an entire smart economy. It has incorporated digital assets, smart contracts, and a digital identity that can be used for real-world applications and become integrated into the real economy. China could (and may) be a candidate for that first real-world application and integration.

NEO is in a spot similar to Ethereum's in early 2017, both cryptocurrency value wise and launch phase wise. Its product is fully operational and does a few things differently from Ethereum, including execution of C# code, which allows NEO to do more things with the platform and attract more developers.

The platform is also primed for running initial coin offerings (ICOs). And I wouldn't be surprised if it continues to be the go-to platform for upcoming Chinese ICOs. As we saw this year with Ethereum, when ICOs launch demand for the token that is hosting them goes up drastically.

I personally am excited to see how NEO's smart economy will start incorporating into the real world. If it's able to integrate physical assets and even intentionally involve government in China, that could be a good thing for the growth of NEO's project, in this case.

The challenge for NEO will be getting mainstream use cases through ICOs. If ICOs don't use the platform that would spell trouble. But on the flip side, if they are able to get a lot of ICOs to use their platform they could actually be Ethereum 2.0.

You should do your own research before getting involved in any cryptocurrency. Nothing stated here should be considered investment advice.