The first ICO unicorns are here

Jon Russell

It was always likely to happen, but the speed in which the first ICOs worth more than $1 billion have arrived is surprising.

Today both OmiseGO (OMG) and Qtum passed a $1 billion market cap today, according to coinmarketcap.com, a site that  tracks the value of crypto tokens. In doing so, they became the first ERC20 tokens -- subtokens that are built on the Ethereum network and sold to investors via an ICO -- to pass the unicorn mark based on the total value of coins that have been distributed.

Most incredibly, both have reached surpassed the landmark in mere months.

The OMG token sale, which raised $25 million, took place in July and initially one OMG token was worth around $0.27. Today, the value is at more than $11, giving a return of more than 40X to anyone who bought in at the ICO stage.

Qtum raised $15.6 million worth of crypto in March. Its QTUM token was worth $0.30 initially, but today that price is above $17 -- another massive respectable return for those who speculated.

Another startling fact to note is that neither company has an actual product in the market right now. Although that is common with ICOs because investors buy into a product roadmap that will developed with the funds raised via the token sale.

OMG and Qtum are the first ERC20 coins to pass $1 billion in market cap

Omise held its ICO to raise funding to develop a decentralized payment system that is based on blockchain technology. The Thailand-headquartered company plans to ship its first iteration before the end of this year, but it will most likely be an initially limited version of what is to come later.

Singapore-based Qtum, meanwhile, is building infrastructure that lets businesses easily build and deploy applications and services that use both the Ethereum and bitcoin blockchain. That could include, for example, smart contracts.

What does $1 billion in total coinage actually mean?

Unicorn status for venture capital-backed startups is mostly for show, but founders have said it can be an advantage that helps with hiring and general media visibility. The benefit is even murkier for a crypto coin company.

In basic terms it means that a lot of people are excited about these projects, and that they are investing now in the hope that the companies can produce break-through technology in the future. But pundits are cautious.

"The large market capitalization of many of the recent ICOs indicates that there is a belief in the underlying business models. However, with some ICOs delivering investors multiple times their initial investment, there's likely a massive amount of speculation behind many," Zennon Kapron, founder and director of Shanghai-based fintech research firm Kapronasia, told TechCrunch.

Jun Hasegawa, co-founder and CEO of Omise, told TechCrunch that the valuation jump has no short-term impact on his business. However, with plans to use coins as part of the OmiseGO payment network once it is a living product, he believes the value of the token can only increase.

"OmiseGO is planning to hold OMGs for the long-term. The incentive for holding OMGs, is to take part in the network validation process. We also see a long term value/appreciation in the OMG price as more and more transactions take place on the network," Hasegawa said.

"The increase in price of OMG does not affect our development budget," he added.

This is one topic of many that we're looking forward to discussing at the ICO panel session at our TechCrunch Disrupt SF event next month.

Note: Article updated to correct initial prices for OMG and QTUM 

What to Read Next