ICOs that can raise over $1 billion are the unicorns of the crowdfunding space. To date, only EOS and Telegram have achieved that feat. Any project of that magnitude is bound to cause controversy, and while the headlines have focused on the $1.7 billion Telegram has raised, some investors have steered well clear of the mammoth crowdsale.
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A Billion Reasons Not to Buy In
Money talks, and thus it’s no surprise that most of the talk surrounding Telegram’s proposed blockchain concerns the obscene amount it’s raising. Not content with securing $850 million in its initial private sale, the Russian messaging app has doubled up, taking its total proceeds to $1.7 billion. It’s hard to envisage what couldn’t be built for that sort of money: a literal moonshot would not be out of the question.
On Thursday, Telegram filed a Form D with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, confirming its second round of “purchase agreements for cryptocurrency”, and Pavel Durov’s company might not be done. It’s been reported that Telegram might keep on fundraising until it’s hit $2.25 billion. Aside from the pleasing problem of dreaming up ways to spend this money, Telegram has its investors to placate, who are worried that all this capital may be diluting the token value. Some investors have expressed disquiet, while others have stayed away altogether.
Chris Burniske Bows Out
Chris Burniske, one of the best known figures in the cryptocurrency space, and head of venture capital (VC) firm Placeholder, has steered clear. He believes that Telegram has “raised an unnecessarily large amount of money, which may ultimately hurt more than it helps”. Placeholder gets first dibs on major crypto projects, and if Burniske had wanted to buy into Telegram’s ICO, he’d have had no trouble securing an allocation.
“Considering the Telegram ICO? Proceed with Caution” wrote Justine and Olivia Moore in a scathing critique published last week. As VC investors at CRV, the pair are accustomed to evaluating projects such as Telegram, and their decision to warn investors off is telling. After outlining the project’s pros (of which there are many), they explore the cons, which are just as numerous. The Moores touch upon the huge amount being raised, claiming that it could ultimately top $2.6 billion. Remarkably, this money may not even be enough to support Telegram for long, as the leaked whitepaper has $620 million budgeted for the next four years. The Moores write:
If Telegram isn’t able to start generating revenue and spend continues to increase, the company could eventually risk bankruptcy or be forced to raise additional capital at unfavorable terms.
They conclude: “We aren’t convinced that Telegram will deliver significant upside beyond the ICO valuation.” There are reasons to admire Telegram, not least its CEO’s refusal to hand over encrypted user data to the Russian authorities – though the courts may eventually force his hand. Pavel Durov is certainly pro crypto and pro privacy, but that has little bearing on how Telegram’s own cryptocurrency project will play out. Despite being on course to exceed $2 billion when the dust settles, Telegram’s problems may have only just begun.
Do you think VC investors are right to avoid the Telegram ICO? Let us know in the comments section below.
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