The ban on ICOs in China is sending blockchain startups that are looking to raise funds into the arms of rival Asian regions.
In particular, blockchain startups are increasingly flocking to Hong Kong, where there's more freedom than Mainland China, and Singapore to launch their token sales, according to market participants cited in a report in South China Morning Post.
In Q1 2018, the tally for funds raised via ICOs globally was $6.3 billion, surpassing all of 2017's total. More than $1.7 billion of the Q1 total was from Telegram, but the number of token sales is set to exceed 2017 levels as well. Despite the rocky performance in cryptocurrency prices in Q1 (before the Q2 turnaround), demand for new digital coins has not relented.
China issued its ICO ban in September 2017, and since that time, the number of deals unfolding in Hong Kong and Singapore is escalating. Hong Kong seemed to immediately take ICO deal flow and investors from Beijing, with issuers circumventing China's ban and registering their address in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Singapore's popularity isn't official just yet.
“We cannot say Singapore has become an ICO hub yet, as more work needs to be done, but yes, there has been a lot of activity since September last year,” according to Sinagpore's cryptocurrency and blockchain industry association's chairman, Anson Zeall, quoted in SCMP.
In fact, Singapore in 2017 ascended to the No. 3 market for ICO issuance based on the amount of funds raised, trailing the United States and Switzerland, as per FunderBeam data cited in SCMP. Hong Kong and Russia also gained deal flow.
The shifting ICO landscape is said to be a direct result of China's harsh regulation that was set in motion in September 2017, not to mention South Korea following in China's footsteps and similarly banning ICOs weeks later.
One of the reasons Singapore is on the rise for ICO issuance is because issuers face a lesser risk of drawing attention from lawmakers. Singapore has embraced blockchain startups, as evidenced by incubator programs and asset managers that are dedicated to the cryptocurrency market.
The process for domiciling a deal in Singapore requires registering the business in the country and hiring an attorney, the latter of which could rack up a bill as high as $200,000. But Daisy Wu, head of PR at Beijing-based blockchain startup Xender, told SCMP that the company is one of many that chose to list its ICO in Singapore. The reason, she said, is because "we all want to play it safe."
Soon after China placed its ban on ICOs, Macau-based casino startup Dragon Corp decided to list its ICO in Hong Kong. That deal has been on the radar of regulators given its alleged ties to a gangster as well as to the controversial Cambridge Analytica of Facebook fame.
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