ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering, which is a fundraising mechanism for new projects. It’s somewhat similar to an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in which investors purchase shares of a company. Through the process of selling their underlying crypto tokens, via a “presale” in exchange for bitcoin and ether, a company can raise funds for the development of a new application.
Legally, ICOs have existed in a gray area, however the Security Exchange Commission has declared: “federal securities laws apply to those who offer and sell securities in the United States, regardless whether the issuing entity is a traditional company or a decentralized autonomous organization, regardless whether those securities are purchased using U.S. dollars or virtual currencies, and regardless whether they are distributed in certificated form or through distributed ledger technology.”
The most important criteria to consider is whether or not the token passes the Howey test. If it does, it must be treated as a security and is subject to certain restrictions imposed by the SEC. In some cases, the token is simply a utility token, meaning it gives the owner access to a specific protocol or network; thus it may not be classified as a financial security. On the other hand, if the token is an equity token, meaning that it’s only purpose is to appreciate in value, then it looks a lot more like a security.
So what do I do with this information?
There are many companies that have created ICOs and more are being created everyday. If you were to find a company and a project that resonates with you and your vision for the future, you could invest in them by participating in their token presale. This would not only help fund their project, but it would also get you a large amount of their tokens at a very low price.
When a project launches their tokens on the exchange, and it is a success, the price of the tokens rise exponentially. For example, say you participated in a presale for an ICO that gave you 10,000 tokens for $.10, then the token becomes popular and other people start to invest, making the price of each token rise to $1… You would profit from you investment.
The key is in the ICO you choose. There are many people out there promoting their ICO picks based off of knowledge gained through experience in the market, I suggest doing your own research made up of different ICO “pickers” and companies offering ICO presales. There are some ICOs that United States citizens can not purchase, make sure you read the white papers and any information the company has posted.