What Is Tokenized Equity?

Tokenized equity refers to the creation and issuance of digital tokens or "coins" which represent equity shares in a corporation or organization.

With the growing adoption of blockchain, businesses are finding it convenient to adapt to the digitized crypto-version of equity shares. Tokenized equity is emerging as a convenient way to raise capital in which a business issues shares in the form of digital assets such as cryptocoins or tokens.

Key Takeaways

  • Tokenized equity is the creation of equity ownership units represented by digital tokens or "coins".
  • Tokenization of equity became popular with the advent of decentralized blockchain systems that allow for the easy and affordable creation, issuance, and transfer of digital tokens.
  • Tokenized equity has been used in the form of initial coin offerings (ICOs) for blockchain-based projects, although its legal and regulatory status as a traded security remains uncertain.

Understanding Tokenized Equity

Think about tokenized equity like any standard share purchased in a listed company, except that those shares are in the form of crypto tokens.

To draw a parallel with present day equity share ownership – say, you purchased shares of a listed company during its initial public offering (IPO), or bought them on the stock exchange. These shares are then credited to your demat account. Tokenized equity shares work the same way, except that those shares are in the digital form of cryptocoins or tokens, and instead of going into your demat account, they are credited to your blockchain-hosted account.

The traditional methods of raising capital face quite a few operational hurdles. For instance, regulatory requirements like regular maintenance of books and accounts and adherence stock exchanges' strict rules, reluctance on part of banks and other financial institutions to issue credit, and challenges faced by business owners in convincing private investors to buy parts of business are a few of these problems.

In contrast, tokenizing the business ownership in the form of equity shares on a blockchain offers a lot of flexibility in fund raising. The low-cost method allows for a more democratic way to realistically value the business depending on the direct participation of the interested investors. The valuation is mainly dependent on market forces, rather than on a select group of sponsors or angel investors.

Examples of Tokenized Equity

Many new startups and businesses are deciding to fund raise through initial coin offerings (ICO), and allotting token shares to investors. For instance, U.S.-based biotechnology company Quadrant Biosciences Inc. tokenized all of its equity in the form of Quadrant Token, and offered 17 percent of its diluted equity via token sale. It successfully raised over $13 million through the issuance of common shares in digitzed form at $1.25 per share. The Quadrant token that resides on its native blockchain represents traditional equity.

The underlying blockchain infrastructure also supports all necessary activities applicable on the tokenized equity shares. For example, all popular corporate actions like dividend, mergers and acquisitions, and other activities like shareholder voting and follow-on equity sale offers are also handled by the necessary blockchain system.

For instance, Templum and Stamps are two such blockchain-based platforms that are aiming to become the leading regulatory-compliant platforms for tokenized asset offerings and their secondary trading.

Other Considerations

However, concerns remain about the viability of the business model, and around issues of investor protection. ICOs and cryptocurrency dealings are still in a nascent stage, and tokenized equity issuance and trading adds another level of complexity. Lack of clarity around crypto regulations, regular instances of theft and hacking attempts of digital assets, and anonymous nature of their working has kept the viability and mass adoption of such innovative offerings in question.