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What are Security Token Offerings (STO)?

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What are Security Token Offerings (STO)?

Security token offerings (STO) share similarities with both initial coin offerings and traditional securities. This unique crowdfunding strategy combines the efficiency of blockchain technology, with the legal protections found in standard securities offerings. This form of crowdfunding creates a safer investment climate for potential investors.

In most places in the world, there are no legal requirements for hosting an initial coin offering (ICO). Anyone can purchase these tokens without having to reveal their true identity and companies don’t need to provide any information. These tokens do not have any transference requirements, and there is little recourse for investors who lose funds due to fraudulent activity.

Unfortunately, this lack of regulations led to increased fraud in the crypto sector. According to one report, as much as eighty percent of ICOs launched in 2017 turned out to be frauds. This fraudulent activity created an outcry from burned investors and a real demand for more secure options.

The Birth of the Security Token Offerings Concept

Recognizing the Wild West nature of the cryptomarket, developers started developing tokens that fall in line with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) current requirements. People that investing in an STO gain added customer protections. These companies must comply with ATS registration and meet proper broker-dealer requirements. These protections include the company’s legal name, address, members, and financial information.

SEC Headquarters via Homepage

SEC Headquarters via Homepage

Additionally, information provided by the potential investment undergoes an approval process. This process confirms that the information provided is true and accurate. When compared to the complete lack of checks found in the ICO sector, it’s easy to see why some investors look towards security token offerings for a better investment opportunity.

First STO

In March 2018, US-based Praetorian Group became the first firm to offer an STO. The platform lists as a cryptocurrency real estate investment platform. On March 6, the platform registered its seventy million dollar ICO with the SEC. The move was deemed as necessary by the platform’s developers because they were working within the real estate sector.

The platform utilizes PAX tokens to represent real estate. This strategy facilitates more accessible and more secure transactions. This strategy is known as tokenization, and it is becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in the cryptomarket.

Security Coins

Security tokens comply with both Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) laws. This compliance means that both individuals and businesses must reveal they’re true identity before investing. KYC and AML laws are standard practice when dealing with financial institutions. Many analysts predict the same scenario for crypto services in the future.

 

STO Benefits

STO investors receive direct benefits for holding a platform’s tokens. Depending on the platform, users gain voting rights, dividends, and even revenue shares. If you are investing in an ICO that offers these features, there is an excellent chance that you are investing in a security token. If this is the case, you should ensure that the token is registered with the SEC to avoid future consequences.

Security Token Offerings – A Bright Future

STOs continue gaining traction in the cryptospace. This flood of new tokenization platforms creates the perfect environment for strategies such as security token offerings to flourish. You can expect to see this trend continue as traditional financial institutions look towards the cryptomarket for future revenue.

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David Hamilton is a full-time journalist and a long-time bitcoinist. He specializes in writing articles on the blockchain. His articles have been published in multiple bitcoin publications including bitcoinlightning.com

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Equity Tokens vs Security Tokens

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Equity Tokens vs Security Tokens

Learning the differences between equity tokens vs security tokens is a smart way to better your overall crypto investment strategy. While most crypto investors are familiar with traditional utility tokens such as Ethereum, both security, and equity tokens are fairly new to the space. These tokens vary from utility tokens in many different ways.

Protect Your Investment

Different tokens have different legal regulations. Currently, equity, debt, and security tokens fall under standard securities transaction laws, whereas, utility, currency, and asset tokens do not require SEC approval. Let’s take a moment to examine some key differences between equity tokens vs security tokens.

Know the Difference – Security Tokens

According to the SEC, one can perform the “Howey Test” to determine if a token falls under securities regulations. The Howie test is a series of questions that include:

  • Did You Invest Money?
  • Do You Expect Profit?
  • Did You Invest in a Common Enterprise?
  • Are Profits dependent on a Third-parties Effort?

If you answer yes to these questions, you are investing in a security token. Security token holders do not have any ownership rights to the entity they invested in. Instead, they are guaranteed a percentage of the profits generated from the entity. Security tokens come in many forms:

  • Securities
  • Digital Mutual Funds
  • Digital ETFs
  • Non-equity Investments Against Capital

Additionally, security tokens cannot be transferred without meeting certain regulations. These regulations include AML and KYC requirements. This makes security tokens less liquidable than their utility token counterparts that can be traded anonymously.

Notable Security Token Platforms

There are a number of notable security token platforms operating in the cryptospace today. Polymath, Securitize, and Harbor are three of the most established platforms available today. Each offers enterprise users an easy option to issue and maintain security tokens.

Security Token Protocols

Security tokens contain their regulatory compliance directly within their protocol. By including these regulations in the tokens smart contract, token issuers can guarantee their product remains compliant throughout all stages of its lifecycle. Below are the most popular security token protocols currently in use.

ERC-1400 / ERC-1404

The ERC-1400 entered the market in December 2018. This protocol is the brainchild of Polymath’s development team and Stephane Gosselin. Develops knew that if they could utilize a varied ERC-20 protocol that this would allow for the greatest amount of interoperability within the market. The ERC-20 protocol is by far the most widely used utility token issuance standard available.

Stephane Gosselin via SlidesLive

Stephane Gosselin via SlidesLive

The team sought to create a security token standard that could function on the Ethereum blockchain. Additionally, the team wanted a protocol that contained no partitions. Today, the ERC-1400 standard is used by many firms globally.

ST-20 – Polymath

Polymath took their concept a step further when they created the ST-20 protocol. The ST-20 token standard functions similar to the ERC-1400 but with one main advantage, ST-20 tokens are able to remain compliant when traded on decentralized exchanges (DEX). Polymath proved this theory earlier in the month via a test with the DEX Loopring.

DS-Token – Securitize

The DS-token standard is the brainchild of the popular token issuance platform Securitize. Securitize utilizes a Compliance Service to ensure that their tokens are handled in a legal manner. The tokens must get approval from this on-chain registry to verify investor status before executing any trades. This means all DS-token holders have an identifying hash.

Secondary Compliance

Secondary market compliance continues to be a hot button topic in the industry. Just this month, the DTCC released a paper outlining how these secondary market concerns need to be addressed to ensure fair market practices. Currently, the DTCC is the third-party custodial exchange for traditional securities markets. The firm replaced the old paper transfer methods used in the 1970s.  Last year, the DTCC handled over four-quadrillion in securities transactions in the US alone.

Equity Tokens

Equity tokens function more like a traditional stock asset. In other words, equity token holders possess some form of ownership in their investments. Their tokens represent how much ownership percentage they actually have. In most instances, equity tokens represent a third-party asset, property, or venture. Equity tokens come in many forms:

  • Stocks
  • Futures
  • Options Contracts
  • Tokenized Real Estate
  • Tokenized Ventures

Equity tokens continue to see the most use in real estate crowdfunding platforms such as Atlant. These platforms allow investors to spread their funds more freely across the market. Real estate equity tokens represent a share of ownership in a particular property. This strategy enables investors to join multiple investments with less capital. Additionally, these platforms lower the entry bar for real estate investments and facilitate more market activity.

Equity Tokens vs Security Tokens Standards

Currently, equity tokens share the same protocols as security tokens, but in the near future, you can expect to see equity token specific standards emerge. For the time being, security token protocols can perform all the necessary functions required by equity tokens. Additionally, ERC-based equity tokens gain a bit more interoperability when compared to what a future equity token standard might include.

Notable Equity Token Projects

One of the most publicized equity token projects entered the market in October 2018 under the name Media Shower. The Media Shower platform enables companies to create and issue equity tokens. Speaking on the venture, Media Shower’s CEO, John Hargrave explained how the concept opens the doors for new investment opportunities on all levels.

SEC vs ICO

The SEC started cracking down on the ICO market in 2017 after it revealed that it believed that most offerings were really tokenized securities. Failure to seek SEC approval when dealing with security tokens can result in hefty fines and even jail time. Since that time, there have been multiple highly publicized cases, with many currently underway.

In most instances, the SEC went after these firms for selling securities illegally. Company officials paid fines and were forced to return investors funds. In one instance, a company by the name of Gladius was able to avoid major fines by self-reporting their ICO. Consequently, the firm returned all investor funds as part of the deal.

Equity vs Security Tokens – Brothers from Another Mother

Each token type provides you with a unique investment opportunity. Be sure to consider your options fully. Also, always keep in mind that both equity and security tokens require approval prior to any transactions. These requirements can affect your ability to trade these tokens in the secondary market.

More to Come

For now, the cryptospace continues to grow as the advantages of blockchain technology continue to be better understood by traditional investment firms. You can expect to see more standards and token types emerge as these trends continue.

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Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

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Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

As a responsible crypto investor, you must understand the differences between utility tokens vs security tokens. These tokens serve different purposes in the cryptospace. Their processes differ during trading and issuance. These contrasts make security tokens unique to their utility counterparts.

Why Do We Have Security Tokens?

The ICO market continues to expand. According to a report from Business Insider, companies raised over $5.6 billion in 2017. While this number seems impressive, the ICO activity of this year already eclipsed it. By May 2018, the ICO market expanded to $6.3 billion. This record growth and the growing appeal of ICOs makes this unique crowdfunding strategy a favorite among tech startups.

The record growth of the ICO sector led to increased scrutiny from regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The task of developing regulations for the growing ICO market falls on this organization depending on how the token’s use. The SEC decided that when a token represents ownership, voting rights, or entitles the holder to share of future profits, it’s a security token.

Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens – How can I Tell the Difference

It isn’t always that easy to determine if a coin is a security or utility token. In many instances, a token starts off as a security during an ICO but later evolves into a utility token. This scenario is the case for the hugely popular cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH). In a June ruling, the SEC determined that Ethereum operated as a security initially, but today it’s a utility token.

Ethereum-founder Vitalik Buterin via Cryptovibes

Ethereum-founder Vitalik Buterin via Cryptovibes

To make matters more complicated, a utility token such as ETH can have security tokens issued on its platform. Ethereum’s ERC-20 protocol is the most popular token launching protocol in the cryptospace. New tokens issued on the platform are security tokens if they fail the “Howey Test.”

Howey Test

The “Howey Test” is a brief questionnaire created by the Supreme Court for determining whether a transaction qualifies as an investment contract. The test became famous during the 1946 Supreme Court case SEC V. Howey. The case revolved around a Howey, Florida-based orange juice company that offered large parts of its land for sale to investors with the intent of having the new owners lease the property back to the citrus developer, who would continue developing the area with the newly acquired funds.

The SEC sued the defendants in this transaction for violating the Securities regulations. The SEC determined that because the investors put forth funds in the hopes of making a profit from the efforts of the citrus farm, the deal was an investment contract. Therefore, the agreement falls under securities regulations.

The Supreme Court developed a simple test to prove the theory. The Howey Test asks investors four critical questions. These questions can be applied to tokens to determine if they are security tokens:

  1. Are You are Investing Money?
  2. Do You Expect Profits from Your Investment?
  3. Are You Investing in A Common Enterprise?
  4. Will You Profit from the Efforts of a Promoter or Third Party?

Utility Tokens

Utility tokens serve a use within a platform. In most cases, companies host ICOs to issue utility tokens. These tokens are essential to the functionality of their platforms. Additionally, they do not give token holders rights to the company’s future development or profits. These tokens transfer without regulations, and any company can offer utility tokens without meeting SEC regulations. The open nature of these tokens made them a favorite amongst investors and startups.

Security Tokens

Security tokens operate in a much different manner, and under different requirements. A company cannot just host a security token offering (STO) without fulfilling specific conditions. Companies must provide investors with a plethora of information including the company’s actual address, the names of all board members, and open financial records. These requirements protect investors from fraudulent activity.

On top of the company regulations, investors meet stringent security regulations as well. Companies cannot sell security tokens to anonymous individuals. You will need to provide and prove your identity when investing in these tokens. Know Your Customer (KYC), and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws must be adhered to when moving security tokens between owners.

Added Security – Added Investment Funds

While some early crypto investors undoubtedly see security tokens as a burden on the cryptospace, many believe these tokens to provide an essential bridge between traditional investment funds and the cryptomarket. Analysts have predicted a rise in traditional investment firms entering the cryptospace.

These firms require added protection due to the substantial nature of their investments. Security tokens provide them with the protections they need to avoid future financial and legal problems.

Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

Now that you better understand the differences between these tokens, you are ready to comprehend STOs and what makes them different than their ICO counterparts. Security tokens play an important, and ever-growing, role in the cryptospace. You should expect more platforms entering the cryptomarket using this type of token over the coming months.

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How Do Smart Contracts Work?

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What are Smart Contracts

Smart contracts enable automation of certain aspects of a platform’s functionality. These digital agreements self-execute predetermined actions upon receiving a digital asset or cryptocurrency. Today, smart contracts are used everywhere in the blockchain space, but this wasn’t always the case. Let’s take a second to examine how these helpful protocols first came to be, and how they function without the need for any third-party intervention.

The original smart contract concept predates cryptocurrencies by fourteen years. Ironically, the man credited with developing smart contracts is no other than well-known Bitcoinist Nick Szabo. Many people believe Nick to actually be Satoshi Nakamoto because of his previous works.

Nick famously theorized about value-storing bits utilizing a proof-of-work system five years before Bitcoin existed. He has always been a pioneer in the cryptospace. In 1994, Nick released his smart contract code to the public. He also coined the phrase “smart contract”.

Nick Szabo via TMNews

Nick Szabo via TMNews

What Do I Need to Create a Smart Contract?

Every smart contract contains four core principals. First, you need the subject of the contract. The subject is what gives your contract access to the goods or services that the contract governs. Second, you need digital signatures (private keys) from everyone involved in the contract. These signatures are what initiates the contract. Next, comes specification of the contract terms. This part is where you lay out the exact sequence of operations that commence when the contract executes. Finally, you need a decentralized platform. A blockchain network keeps the smart contract stored in redundancy and safe from alterations.

Smart Contract Components

  1. Subject of Contract
  2. Digital Signatures
  3. Contract Terms
  4. Decentralized Platform

How Do People Use Smart Contracts?

There are endless smart contract uses. Smart contracts help you to exchange digital and real-world assets. Smart contracts live on the blockchain and cannot be altered. This added security makes these digital agreements ideal for many business scenarios.

Smart Contracts in ICOs

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) utilize smart contract protocols during their crowdfunding events. The smart contracts automatically track, calculate, award, and distribute the funds sent between the company and the investor. The smart contract programming enables the automation of the entire process.

This automation allows companies to accept funding from a wider audience. The workload of the company is not increased, but the company’s fundraising exposure expands. The all-inclusive nature of this strategy helped push ICOs to record numbers this year. One report shows that ICO volume already doubled lasts year’s numbers by May.

Traditional Firms Look Towards Smart Contracts

Traditional firms continue entering the smart contract arena as blockchain integration continues. Today, platforms exist that utilize smart contracts for nearly everything including real estate, investments, royalties, elections, logistics, and much more.

Ethereum – Smart Contracts

The cryptocurrency, Ethereum, is best known for introducing the smart contract concept to the cryptospace. Ethereum’s ERC-20 protocol utilizes smart contracts to help automate token creation and distribution. ERC-20 is by far, the most widely used token issuance protocol in the market.

Ethereum Smart Contract Coding via Ethereum.org

Ethereum Smart Contract Coding via Ethereum.org

Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s developer describes smart contracts as a program that “automatically validates a condition and determines whether the asset should go to one person or back to the person who sent it or some combination.” Ethereum utilizes a second-layer protocol to accomplish smart contract capabilities without creating additional blockchain congestion.

Smart Contract Development

Since Ethereum raised smart contract awareness, more complex and advanced smart contract models entered the cryptospace. Platforms such as EOS, Steller, and NEO utilize less wasteful consensus mechanisms when compared to the Proof-of-Work system in place with Ethereum.

Say Good Bye to Lawyers

Smart contracts are removing the middleman from many of the most used business systems today. The trustless nature of these protocols allows businesses and investors the ability to increase efficiency and security simultaneously. You should expect further integration of this technology into traditional business systems as more platforms enter the market.

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