The era of security tokens has begun

Venture Beat | Nabyl Charania and Carlos Naupari | Aug 4, 2019

digital coin - The era of security tokens has begunThe excitement that initial coin offerings (ICOs) have created in the past few years has been marred by an onslaught of scams, hacks, and critical mistakes committed by careless investors. As it turns out, one of crypto’s biggest appeals — limited oversight and regulation — has proven to be its greatest vulnerability.

But cryptoassets are already coming of age. With the arrival of the security token offering (STO), the crypto space is beginning to reach an uncharted level of legitimacy in the financial community. We are about to witness perhaps even more disruption in markets and society than we’ve been promised.

What exactly is an STO?

The STO is the safe, secure, and sensible answer to the ICO. The word “security” in the name says a lot: Security tokens have to be backed by a tangible asset, like a company’s profits or shares. On the other hand, ICOs involve “utility coins,” which have the potential to amount to little more than a promise or a souvenir.

STOs also require licensing approved by the SEC and other regulatory bodies. In other words, security coins have the features and protections of traditional assets, such as a share of company stock, while also leveraging the benefits of being a digital asset. And virtually any kind of physical asset — real estate, equity, etc. — can be “tokenized,” or used to back a security coin.

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Here’s why STOs will matter for crypto investment:

Security tokens accelerate the democratization of venture capital

For decades, the world of private equity was reserved exclusively for venture capital firms and accredited investors — individuals with a net worth of at least a million dollars or with an annual salary of at least $100,000. But when Title III of the JOBS Act went into effect in May 2016, suddenly anyone could invest in private companies. It was a major win for everyday investors, and several equity crowdfunding portals opened up, showcasing many compelling opportunities in private equity.

Then 2017 happened. The advent of cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and smart contracts opened up an even more efficient way for entrepreneurs to raise capital without the use of a middleman, as well as the promise of a more equitable and democratized private equity landscape. While its ICO was accessible to the public, not just accredited investors, messenger app Telegram raised $850 million, marking one of the largest fundraising events in the history of tech.

Companies like Securitize, Polymath, and Harbor have become leaders in the movement to tokenize all kinds of traditional assets into security tokens. As a fundraising vehicle, security tokens allow companies to raise capital without having to lean on investment banks and stock exchanges as intermediaries. Spice VC, for example, is a tokenized fund, as is Blockchain Capital.

Given the oversight from the SEC and other regulatory bodies that security tokens are subject to, investors are able to invest in an opportunity without worrying about being scammed. Their only concern is the financial success of the company, as is the case with stock ownership. The financial regulatory framework in the U.S. creates a favorable landscape for STOs to thrive. The already corporation-friendly state of Delaware stands out in particular, as it now allows companies to write shares on a blockchain.

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Above all, security tokens give companies an efficient way to raise capital from a broader investment pool than has ever been possible. This means innovation is accelerated and more people stand to benefit from a company’s success. Of course, easier access to capital creates a more competitive landscape, so companies that are doomed to fail will realize this inevitability sooner.

Traditionally illiquid investments are made liquid

As the old adage goes, it takes money to make money. But the advent of blockchain may do away with that notion. Before, several investment classes — including those with the highest and most bankable returns — had a prohibitively high barrier to entry.

Thanks to the technological breakthroughs of security tokens, this is no longer the case. Distributed ledgers enable the tokenization of otherwise illiquid assets, such as real estate and fine art. Security tokens allow fractional ownership, and the issuer determines how fractional that ownership is. This means virtually anyone who wants to own real estate in a place like Manhattan, for example, is able to. Even the most expensive piece of real estate, once it’s tokenized into a security token, can be divided into portions that anyone can afford. The same goes for fine art and other asset classes previously reserved for the super wealthy.

One might think this is comparable this to owning shares of a real estate investment trust (REIT), but becoming an owner of tokenized real estate offers far more flexibility, as you have more autonomy over the properties you own.

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But everyday investors are not the only ones who win in this case. If you’re the owner of a multimillion dollar piece of property or a rare Cézanne and you want to turn it into cash, it can be difficult to find an individual with both the net worth and the interest to take it off your hands. By tokenizing whatever expensive piece of property it may be, the ownership can be divested to dozens or even hundreds of investors who may want to lay claim to it. That way, a valuable and expensive piece of property is no longer destined to sit around and collect dust.

The first known prominent example of this is the iconic Andy Warhol painting “14 Small Electric Chair” (1980), which was tokenized and offered for fractional ownership by the decentralized art gallery Maecenas. It certainly won’t be the last.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - The era of security tokens has begun The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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