2017 Token Sales in Review, Part IV: The Geography of Token Sales
The final installment of the 2017 Year End Review considers the geography of token sales, both the number of completed sales and amounts raised on a national basis, as well as more obscure yet equally revealing metrics looking at regional patterns including a consideration of what regions are serving as global token sale hubs.
Another revealing manner of considering 2017’s token sales is through the lens of geography, particularly the national and spatial distribution of project launches and fundraisings. On the broadest level, a simple global map of token sales and amounts raised provides an intriguing portrait of the industry. One can also move considerably beyond a mere map of the token sales, and doing so yields a number of insights about the industry, key actors and trends, and even suggests observations about how public-sector policies, financial infrastructure and human networks are influencing fundraising and project development within the sector.
On the highest level the global map provides an overview of the distribution of both sales numbers and amounts raised. The data largely confirms what many in the industry might suspect, that places like the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, and the various Caribbean nations generally lead in both categories. Less expected insights also emerge, such as the range of countries which have now hosted ICOs–up to 68 at last count. But while the map provides a useful starting point, looking beyond the simplest metrics yields a number of insightful and in many cases even surprising observations.
As the graph below makes clear, the regional distribution of sales reinforces the appeal of the Caribbean region for companies considering token sales. Not only does the region host the largest sale average, at $31.25 million, it also hosts the largest total regional raise amount.
That the Caribbean boasts the largest average token sale amount on a regional basis illustrates the extent to which many significant projects look to the Caribbean as a particularly hospitable domicile for their fundraising efforts. Often (but not always), those projects target the largest raise amounts.
Token Sale Domiciles
A rarely considered yet particularly interesting manner of considering the geography of token sales is exploring the issue of token sale domicile–where funds are raised– relative to the location of a project’s headquarters–as measured by the location of a project’s main office or the primary working location of the core leadership team. While data can be imprecise as the industry includes a number of genuinely distributed teams and organizations in addition to several that appear fairly determined to maintain an air of secrecy relative to their actual locations, we have nevertheless been able to identify the locations of virtually all of the leading projects in the space, representing more than 95% of all funds raised through token sales in 2017 and into early 2018.
The chart below considers fundraising in relation to working domiciles on a regional basis, with Switzerland broken out from Western Europe on the basis of its own activity being larger than the entire surrounding region. Several observations emerge from such a perspective, including a clear appreciation of the Caribbean’s role as a fundraising center; despite nearly $4.0 billion having been raised in the Caribbean, virtually none of those funds support locally-based projects. The United States and Canada, conversely, have the largest concentration of raised funds working onshore, yet are rarely used as token sale locations by companies working elsewhere. From this perspective Switzerland appears to have a healthy community of projects working locally, yet also enjoys a role as a fundraising center for projects working elsewhere. Considered in this manner, the data suggest a number of insights about the influences of regulation, fundraising, and the informal networks that shape the industry.
The chart above also suggests different geographic patterns to the industry’s financial activity. While the United States appears to be the leading center of working activity by virtue of the amount of locally-focused funds raised, the Caribbean is striking in its clear role as a global fundraising center.
The chart below takes a different view, considering projects working in the United States but having raised funds elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, the Cayman Islands top the list. The scale of the contribution from offshore raises is clear as the more than $2.5 billion raised in the Caymans exceeds the entire amount raised domestically in the U.S. and Canada, as seen in the above chart. Beyond the Caymans, the few projects raising funds in Switzerland appear as a very distant second in the chart below, with the balance of the chart representing a relatively modest set of contributions from a range of countries.
Finally, the chart below looks at the working locations of “foreign” Swiss fundraising projects, suggesting that Switzerland’s global appeal as a financial center is primarily felt in a regional context concentrated across Europe and Middle East. While there are more distant locations such as San Francisco and Seoul that host projects having raised funds in Switzerland, Europe appears to have the largest representation amongst projects using Switzerland as a fundraising center.
Overall, thinking about the geography of token sales provides unique perspectives upon the industry that too easily escape notice when looking at activity through individual, national, or industry-specific lenses. While a range of insights emerge from such a perspective, we are also curious to observe the patterns and trends that are sure to emerge and continue to evolve as the dataset grows increasingly rich.