Recently, you may have heard of something called "blockchain." Over the past year, this nascent technology has left the fringes of early-adopters and taken the world by storm. Mainly, this has been through crypto-currencies built upon it, such as Bitcoin, Etherium, and even Dogecoin. These crypto-currencies have in turn spawned their own field called or "Initial Coin Offerings" or ICOs.
These ICOs can either be designed to be currency, tied to the value of the crypto-currency they're built upon, and then trade at a dollar value, or they can be a "token." If they're a token, they aren't worth money -- but rather future credits toward product for the company who is selling them.
In other words, many of the ICOs out there essentially act as a new type of Kickstarter to get a product off the ground. And, like Kickstarter, some of these products have a long lead time before they will come to fruition.
Chris Plance, CEO of Veris Foundation, is issuing one such ICO. Veris is set up as a nonprofit, which forces them to have a higher level of transparency in their bookkeeping and reporting than a regular company, which he feels is important. "There are too many scams out there -- people need to be able to see where their money is being used."
What Veris aims to do is change the way healthcare claims are processed, utilizing the blockchain to both simplify and secure it end-to-end. Plance admits that this is a complex problem and "a lot of things still need to be figured out." He was adamant that "we will make this process easy for everyone involved." As current blockchain solutions in the space are not user-friendly, he mentioned: "that's exactly what we want to avoid."
While the Veris ICO begins in March 2018, they likely won't have a pilot version of their product until 2019. In the meantime, people who decide to purchase it will have no guarantees of a release date or even validity. These are issues Plance has hoped to mitigate with their nonprofit filing, but what of the many other ICOs out there?
Recently, Facebook and Google have attempted to address this by disallowing all ICOs from advertising on their platform, regardless of their purported legitimacy. As there are governing bodies overseeing ICOs, crypto-currencies or the blockchain as of yet, they're banning ad purchases for the time being.
In the meantime, how can you protect yourself from purchasing vaporware?
1. Use Caution
Have you ever heard the phrase "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is?" In the case of ICOs, there are people who appear to be creating tokens with the sole intent to take other people's money. What's worse, others (including some pretty famous and credible people) are latching on to these junk coins, buying them in bulk and artificially inflating their prices, advertising them then dumping them for a profit.
2. Do Your Research
Rather than blindly "Buy Buy Buy!" whenever someone else urges you to, instead you should look into the company behind that coin. If they seem legitimate, then it may be something to consider. Otherwise, steer clear.
3. Be Patient
If you're purchasing into a company like Veris, remember that it is a company with a real product that takes time to create. Like those Kickstarters that (sometimes laughably) could take 2-3 years to produce a product, these blockchain startups need time to get their ambitious projects off the ground. If you believe in what they're trying to do, offer them support and encouragement instead of complaints for the delays.
Like any investment, buying into an ICO should not be chosen without a proper understanding of what you're getting. If you need help figuring any of this out, go ahead and contact me or drop a line in the comments.