While there is a great deal of corporate and venture capital investment in blockchain technology, there is also still plenty of room for tinkerers to have big impacts.
According to Coinschedule, so far this year, more than $3 billion has been raised via ICOs or Initial Coin Offerings, yet the ICO was created by J. R. Willett, a guy you probably never heard of.
Blockchain is the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. But it is also being developed for use in a variety of industries from finance to insurance, promising cheaper and faster processes.
In 2009, bitcoin was quietly launch by Satoshi Nakamoto, maybe as an experiment to show the world it was possible to create a secure and private means to send money between people without the need of a trusted third party (e.g. Visa or PayPal). No one knows the true identity of Nakamoto, but people do know that a single bitcoin is valued at over $5,600, with a total market cap of over $90B. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and companies who help people purchase bitcoins with real dollars are wallets. Wallets are regulated as money transmitters; bitcoin is money. People who profit from selling their Bitcoins pay taxes to the IRS. Bitcoin is real and it’s growing at unprecedented rates.
Through 2009 and early 2010, bitcoins had no value at all, and for the first six months after they started trading in April 2010, the value of one bitcoin stayed below 14 cents. Then, as the currency gained viral traction in summer 2010, rising demand for a limited supply caused the price on online exchanges to start moving. By early November, it surged to 36 cents before settling down to around 29 cents. In February 2011, it rose again and was mentioned on Slashdot for achieving “dollar parity”; it hit $1.06 before settling in at roughly 87 cents.
A few years ago, a new concept emerged called the Initial Coin Offering or ICO. ICOs are a way for new cryptocurrencies or coins to raise capital in an online offering. The logic behind ICOs is that companies who create new cryptocurrencies do not want to give it away for free, hoping people use it and put a value on it. If these are currencies, then a value must be put on it. This is what an ICO does. It allows a person or a company to sell a set number of coins or tokens to others in exchange for bitcoin or some other well-recognized cryptocurrency (ie: ether). An ICO is similar in many ways to an IPO. In an IPO, a company goes public and issues shares. In an ICO, a company issues a limited number of their own coins.