The ICO craze continues unabated as blockchain-based startups rake in millions of dollars in investments every day. Even so, there is some fatigue setting in, as well as cracks showing in the model, that have made investors wary of the torrent of new ICOs that pop up daily. In a market where investors are increasingly cautious, some companies have resorted to some extreme measures. On paper, the concept of an initial coin offering mimics that of an initial public offering of stock. However, IPOs and ICOs are more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, respectively.
Regardless, the ICO market’s Wild-West-like ecosystem, though it juxtaposes with the financial status quo, has successfully redefined the idea of value. ICOs have already raised over $7 billion in 2018 because many people recognize that there is an immense untapped wealth in blockchain and investing in the right project is a rare opportunity for tremendous returns. The growing popularity of ICOs with retail investors combined with the limited liability of crypto founders has led some companies to do some crazy things to drive publicity. From feats of daring and danger to cringe-worthy PR blunders, projects have gone to great lengths to get investors to contribute their coin.
ASKfm’s ASQ Protocol Reaches for the Moon
After a dramatic and now infamous Mt. Everest promotion earlier in the year, ASKfm needed a promotion to match the pomp of the previous event, and to demonstrate the resounding success that its blockchain platform had achieved thus far. What better than a literal “air drop”—to launch a rocket carrying a thumb drive full of ASQ tokens and allow people to hunt it down via geolocation.
The $100,000 worth of ASQ was launched in a Skyrora rocket—a Scottish aerospace company that is rapidly working towards establishing a commercial space platform. The ASQ tokens reached the stratosphere and can be found somewhere in Scotland’s highlands, arguably a much safer locale than the top of the highest peak in the world.
Savedroid Sacrifices Its Image for a Lesson Taught
Savedroid is a little-known German company that launched an ICO to promote and fund their AI-based cryptocurrency savings platform, which lets users incorporate savings and investment goals automatically into their portfolio experience. Perhaps it would be more popular if its leadership hadn’t decided to run a poorly worded marketing campaign at the worst possible moment.
After a successful pre-sale and ICO, Savedroid founder Yassin Hankir decided that it was an appropriate time to replace the project’s website with a landing page that said only, “And It’s Gone.” The stunt was supposed to promote wallet safety and investing only in responsible ICO projects, according to Hankir, but its “shock and awe” style scared the living daylights out of investors, who suddenly believed it had all been an elaborate scam. Even though their funds were untouched, many refused to trust the company even after the fiasco had been explained.
McAfeeCoin… and McAfee Bucks?
Count on John McAfee to make an appearance on this list, with what is likely one of the craziest ICO attempts witnessed in recent times. The former antivirus magnate is now the tech industry’s crazy uncle, and the McAfee ICO was only his latest antic in what will be a long series more. The first red flag for McAfee Coin was that the founder wanted to capture China’s market but used provocative language in the whitepaper that was a direct challenge to the country’s financial authority. In a place where ICOs are kept under strict watch, McAfee was off to a poor start.
According to the whitepaper, there were three ICOs planned between 2016 and 2019, the total of which would raise $1 billion. There would also be two different tokens for sale and even a social network. The ridiculousness of the funding goal was matched only by the project’s haphazard components, but to cap it off CEO Yale ReiSoleil publicly tweeted that the ICO was unnecessary and could be accomplished privately to the same result. After investors fled, McAfee then tried to salvage the idea by printing and releasing paper McAfee Redemption Units, and the rest is history.
ASKfm on Top of The Cryptoverse - But Not Quite
As illustrated by the Skyrora rocket launch, ASKfm has a penchant for thrilling and stupendous promotions, and its first is also its most well-known example. To first promote the platform, ASK had a thumb drive buried at the top of Mt. Everest by a team of alpinists, because, well, they could. The metaphor here is obvious—but the lofty position of ASK’s $50,000 worth of ASKT tokens (the company has since changed their token ticker) wasn’t to last. Tragically a Sherpa hired by one treasure-seeker lost his life and ASK.fm quickly found itself under fire for promoting their ICO in such a manner. So much for good press.
Crypto stunts to continue
Cryptocurrencies and ICOs handle billions in value simply because there are enough people who think the same way. This collective belief means doing things such as turning up to a forest in Scotland or the peak of a mountain, willing to search through debris for a device the size of a thumb.
Because of the hubris and fight for attention, it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of foolhardy PR stunts.