Initial coin offerings have gotten a bad rap—in many cases, deservedly so. Sure, there were blockchain projects with sound dreams and solid business plans. But as the bitcoin bubble swelled in late 2017, ICOs became synonymous with predation: get-rich-quick schemes that involved taking money from anyone who was willing, in return for worthless crypto tokens.
Since then, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been trying to clean up the mess. The rules are vague, but this much has become clear: Most ICOs are securities offerings, and require all the protections and disclosures of selling stocks. That basically takes them off the table for ordinary investors. Blockchain startups now typically fund themselves with sales of shares (or tokens) to so-called accredited investors, institutions, and wealthy individuals.