Although initial coin offerings (ICOs) are seen as a legitimate means of raising capital, there are no clear legal and technical controls. Initial Loan Procurements (ILP), are, however, an alternative to the risky ICO model. ILPs enable decentralized crowdfunding opportunities by creating a contractually bound agreement which minimizes the risk of ICOs.
According to Carey Olsen’s senior associate Luke Sayer, instead of coin acquisitions, borrowers and creditors “enter into a loan agreement through legally binding smart contract. With an ILP, a creditor’s investment is contractually tied to the performance of the company.” Therefore, if the company is profitable, the creditor receives annual returns.
Estonia-based startups Blockhive and Agrello have partnered to launch the first ILP called ‘Blockhive.’ Instead of issuance tokens, borrowers have a “contractual entitlement to 20 percent of their annual operating profits.” The goal is to continue decentralized crowdfunding with greater protection for borrowers, improved functionality without the interferences of government regulations.
Problems with ICOs
According to a report by Fabric Ventures and Token Data, startup companies raised $5.6 billion in 2017 through ICOs. While the ICO model of raising capital has great potential for high returns, it has become significantly scrutinized.
Unfortunately, many ICOs were scams that extorted money from unsophisticated investors. While they pretended to have a genuine and viable product, once the ICO finished, the website and product information disappeared. Investors, therefore, receive a token that has little to no value.
While many ICOs back “high-quality projects… there have been a lot of copycat projects where people copy all the same materials (and) don’t intend to deliver any value to the people buying the tokens,” said Joseph Lubin, co-founder of Ethereum, as he told CNBC.
In response to the high level of ICO scams, the Government of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on Spain’s South Coast, and Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) on February 12, 2018, confirmed that they were developing legislation in regards to tokenized assets. “Token regulation is the natural progression following the regulation of DLT Providers, being vital to the protection of consumers,” said Sian Jones, Senior Advisor on distributed ledger technology (DLT) at the GFSC. “One of the key aspects of the token regulations is that we will be introducing the concept of regulation authorized sponsors who will be responsible for assuring compliance with disclosure and financial crime rules.”
ILPs: an alternative to ICOs
Agrello, a legal startup that builds legally-binding contracts on the blockchain, and Blockhive are currently working together to launch the first ILP called ‘Blockhive.’ Blockhive will use the Agrello ID that provides support for all legal requirements which include Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering solutions.
Agrello’s agreement also ensures that creditors’ data is encrypted and stored on the blockchain network. Users must register to receive the protocol’s Future Loan Access Tokens (FLAT – transferable loans assigned to third parties) as soon as they lend their funds to Blockhive. Once registered with the tokens, users can access and transact on the Blockhive platform.
Unlike ICOs, ILPs can reduce instances of fraud and money-laundering. With new functionalities that prevent scams, ILPs may enable decentralized crowdfunding opportunities without restrictions from regulatory bodies in the future, if it becomes widely adopted.