With the advent of ICOs, the messaging company Telegram is headed towards raising a billion dollars in just four months. Never mind that the company that the money is being raised for is even yet to be built! Retrospectively, Facebook took seven years to raise $1 billion while Uber took five years.
In an ICO, the program developers and entrepreneurs sell their own virtual currencies in order to raise money for software they say they are building. The investors, on the other hand, receive digital tokens as they give out real money.
This ICO craze has attracted regulators who think that there are possibilities that investors are being scammed or exploited and therefore require protection. Financial authorities have been promising a major crackdown on the offerings that suddenly sprung up as a way of sourcing funds for startups. They rake in billions of dollars, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has been sending out subpoenas, asking for information about coin offerings that may have violated the law. However, the possibilities that the ICOs could have flouted existing laws remain unclear. Telegram is proceeding with the ICO, hoping that they will stay out of trouble.
The way Telegram has structured and supercharged its ICO is a classic example of how ICOs should be conducted. The company has taken in $850 million over the past two months from some of the biggest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, and it is now aiming to raise another $850 million over the next month or so. A third $850 million round is in the works after that, according to documents associated with the offering.
Telegram already has an established popular messaging service app. The money raised is being planned for creating both an online currency for ordinary people — outside the control of governments — and a new kind of global computing network, combining the attributes of existing virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
However, there are reasons to be skeptical about the project. The first one is the absence of a prototype. There is just a 132-page paper promising what the system will look like one day. The Telegram team is promising to release the software late this year or next year.
Secondly, Telegram is promising to do more than any other virtual currency and to fix the intractable problems that have plagued virtual currencies like Bitcoin, such as overcoming the network’s difficulty handling all the transactions that have poured onto the network as it has become more popular.
And finally, it is alleged that Telegram team has given no evidence that they will be able to solve the problems that have dogged everyone else. They have not given any proof that the hard problems it needs to solve will be solved.
Those that strongly believe in Telegram heavily rely on Telegram team’s credentials, having successfully developed built two incredibly popular tech products, VKontakte and Telegram. The Telegram app has been popular in authoritarian countries because it promises that all messages are encrypted and protected from government snooping. Its pro-privacy stance has made it popular with many in the virtual currency community.
Telegram is building a virtual currency network, Telegram Open Network, or TON that would allow users of the Telegram app to send each other payments when they are not in the same country. It would be a Bitcoin equivalent to the popular payment systems that messaging programs like WeChat have built.
As far as regulation is concerned, Telegram’s team has also been careful, only offering their token to accredited investors, and working with the established Wall Street law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.