Cryptocurrency investments in Russian startups have increased 10 times in 2017 when entrepreneurs set in motion more than 100 crypto-funded projects, according to a new estimate. Ordinary working people, however, remain wary. Only 8% of them would like to see their salaries paid partially in crypto. Nevertheless, Russians are optimistic about bitcoin and most of them predict it will be priced higher a month from now.
Growth Dynamics: $20 Million to $200 Million
Nеw companies in Russia find it much harder to attract capital through traditional channels, as banks are reluctant to finance high-risk projects. Often they require substantial collateral for their loans. Venture capitalists, for their part, impose unfavorable conditions on new businesses. These facts of life, along with the growing popularity of cryptos, have been pushing Russian startups towards Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
More than 100 crypto-funded projects have started last year, compared to only 20 in 2016, CryptoBazar founder Oleg Ivanov told Izvestia. Experts think that the absence of strict regulations lies behind the dynamic growth. This catalyzes fundraising through ICOs but also leaves investors less protected. Cryptocurrency investments in Russian startups have increased 10-fold in 2017, reaching about $200 million, the capital-raising platform estimates. Only $20 million had been raised during the previous year.
It has been estimated that Russians conduct one in every five ICOs. A recent study placed Russia just behind the US and China, with a total $310 million raised through token sales so far. Russian teams have collected 11% of the total capital provided through coin offerings in the past four years ($260 million). Notable projects financed with cryptos include the mobile gaming platform MobileGo ($53 million), the Russian Mining Company ($45 million) and the supercomputer SONM ($42 million).
What cryptocurrency funding really shines with is the average rate of return. According to data published by CryptoBazar, it is reaching 30,000% in some successful ICO projects. The profitability is due to both the rising popularity of cryptocurrencies and their skyrocketing prices during the past year. If in the previous four years, companies had been able to raise an average of $2 million in a large-scale ICO project, in 2017 that indicator jumped to $22.6 million USD.
Regulation to Change Profits and Risks
High rates of return are anything but guaranteed. Early stage investments through coin offerings can also lead to incredibly negative numbers. That is why ICOs will not replace entirely “troublesome and expensive” IPOs (initial public offerings of stock), founder of Wirex cryptobank Dmitriy Lazarichev told Izvestia. The crypto market capitalization remains much smaller, but thanks to bitcoin and other coin investment opportunities, many new players have entered the market.
The absence of a legal framework to regulate ICOs puts entrepreneurs in a more favorable position than investors, experts warn. The question of taxation also awaits answers from authorities. Regulation proposals have been unveiled already and if implemented Russia will limit the capital collected through a single ICO and cap individual investments. Authorities in Moscow think of token sales as crowdfunding for small businesses and micro-investors. The legislation that the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank have been preparing will also address settling legal disputes between the involved parties.
Workers Wary But Optimistic
Ordinary Russian employees do not equally share the enthusiasm of Russian crypto entrepreneurs. A recent study showed that more than half of Russians are aware of bitcoin. A new survey found, however, that only 8% of the respondents were willing to accept part of their salaries in cryptocurrency. Moreover, just 2% are ready to take only cryptos.
Sixteen hundred people took part in the survey conducted on January 18-20. Three quarters of them stated that they preferred to be paid in fiat, according to data released by the job-posting site Superjob. There are strong grounds for optimism, though. Russians predicted an average price of 12,507 USD, when asked what bitcoin would be selling for on March 1.