Like an initial public offering, companies in the cryptocurrency space issue initial coin offerings (ICOs) to raise money to develop new services, apps, or coins. Those who invest in the company issuing the ICO receive crypto tokens that are either functional with the company’s product or service or represent a stake in the business.
There are hundreds of ICOs per year in the crowded cryptocurrency space, and some are more successful than others. For instance, there were more than 400 ICOs in 2017, and the 10 largest ICOs comprised nearly 25 percent of combined funds raised. The following is a look at some of the most successful ICOs to date.
One of the most notable altcoins, Ethereum (ETH) was also among the first crypto projects to issue an ICO. It debuted at an initial token price of $0.31 in 2014 and raised nearly $18 million in 42 days. As of August 16, one ETH token was worth $3,225, while the coin had a market cap of $377.68 billion. Even a $1,000 ETH investment in 2015 would now be worth around $4 million.
“Ethereum serves two purposes: One, it acts as money and can be a store of value,” notes Bill Noble, chief technical analyst at the cryptocurrency analysis platform Token Metrics. “But Ethereum is also like a highway for decentralized finance.”
Unlike Bitcoin, ETH isn’t just a decentralized currency—it’s also a software platform and blockchain network powered by smart contracts that allows innovators to develop crypto-adjacent applications. The ETH coin, known as ether, has largely increased in value over the years due to the developers paying what’s known as a gas fee to use the platform.
IOTA’s ICO was issued shortly after ETH at $0.63. More than a billion IOTA tokens were purchased during the ICO, which raised more than $400,000. It was valued at $1.16 on August 16 and had previously reached a peak of $5.69. While this isn’t high relative to some ICOs, those who cashed in at this price would have received a 332,500 percent return on investment.
Previously known as Antshares and sometimes referred to as China’s Ethereum, NEO was first issued in 2015 at a token price of around $0.03 and, as of August 16, was worth $58.42, or the equivalent of 0.01811 ETH. It was ranked as the 34th most valuable crypto token on CoinMarketCap and had a market cap of more than $4.1 billion. It achieved a peak price of $187.40 on January 14, 2018, but plummeted to a low point of $5.85 by December 10 of that year.