When Bancor held its initial coin offering (ICO), it raised a lot of money and a lot of questions. Now, eight months on, the project seems to have found a role in the market.
Announced last week, the Tel Aviv-based project, aimed to make it easier for people to launch their own crypto tokens, revealed it has grown its network substantially since June, when it raised $150 million selling tokens branded BNT. Including BNT, 35 tokens can now be traded on the platform, with more - enough to push the number of tokens offered over 100 - stating they'll integrate with Bancor soon.
As far as token exchange volume on the platform, that has also spiked - going from $3 million per week in November to $37 million per week in January - according to the company.
"We're one of the few token launches that I can think of, definitely in our [summer of 2017] class that have launched live products and have live users," Bancor co-founder Galia Benartzi told CoinDesk.
With that growth, it seems Bancor's value proposition as a liquidity provider for tokens, especially those with too little demand to get accepted by exchanges, is becoming sought-after after all.
Crystal Rose, CEO of Sensay, a messaging and payments project that staked $1 million of its crypto token on Bancor recently, told CoinDesk:
"I think Bancor is going to play a very important role as the token economy shifts and we see the emergence of tokenization of everything."
And all this has put a some of the project's critics to rest.
Prof. Emin Gun Sirer and Phil Daian came out strongly against Bancor's large raise, which was backed by Tim Draper and Blockchain Capital, saying at the time that the BNT token wasn't useful. Among other things, the argument was, and remains, that ethereum's native cryptocurrency ether could seemingly fill the role of a medium of exchange between tokens.
While Sirer told CoinDesk his views on the project remain largely unchanged, he did give Bancor credit for its traction, saying, "Bancor remains a valuable first step in a challenging direction."
Liquidity for little guys
And the early nature of that step is perhaps best visible in volumes.
Most of the tokens listed on CoinMarketCap's Bancor page have fairly thin markets, although several of the better-known options - EOS, Sirin and Kik's kin, as of this writing - have hit daily volumes of more than $500,000 on the platform.
"Here you're actually networking the tokens together into a network because every one is automatically convertible to every other one," Benartzi said.
To expand upon what Benartzi said, on the Bancor platform, any token on the network can be traded for BNT and BNT can be traded for any of the other tokens of the network. Bancor asks token projects to stake a certain amount of their token and buy and stake a certain amount of BNT, both of which need to be done before the token is ready to trade.
The more that's staked then, the more liquid a token will be, since it can then handle bigger trades.
"You can think of this like a bandwidth to the network," Benartzi said.
In this way, Bancor fills the role of automated market maker, an entity that's always available to trade for a certain instrument. And that's the key, since investors are unlikely to buy a token that they can't exit their position quickly.
As such, Bancor seems to be enticing smaller, less widely-anticipated token projects first.
CoinDesk reached out to most of the projects that currently have a stake on the Bancor platform, but only a few responded before press time.
A decentralized marketplace for services based in Australia, CanYa, announced its integration with Bancor earlier this month, and the firm's founder Chris McLoughlin said it had staked 1.5 percent of its token's circulating supply.
CanYa is currently working on the next generation of its services marketplace, focused on user-friendliness. At that point, the company expects demand for its token to increase, so the Bancor integration is in anticipation.
Storm, a marketplace for micro-tasks, and the previously mentioned Sense project - which both have advisers from Bancor - mentioned the benefits of Bancor's liquidity in a growing ICO market, saying that competition making it difficult for tokens to get included on exchange platforms.
According to Arry Yu, Storm's COO:
"With Bancor's global community network and their focus on user experience, it was a natural fit for our company."
But while token projects themselves are using Bancor, other, more mysterious, entities are also using the platform.
For example, CoinDesk found a few tokens whose stakes hadn't actually been set up by their issuers. MakerDAO, DragonChain and Kik confirmed that stakes for their tokens had not been set up by anyone on their respective teams.
"It's important to understand that the Bancor protocol itself is open source," Benartzi said.
For someone with a long position in a specific token, creating a stake on Bancor could be seen as a way to help that token grow. And since the platform allows users to take their stake back out and is designed to keep its supply of tokens roughly constant, there's not much risk to putting tokens on the platform.
MakerDAO founder Rune Christensen only realized DAI was on Bancor when it went live, but said, "I think it's natural for Bancor since, as a stablecoin, it gives Bancor users the ability to escape the volatility of cryptocurrency whenever they want, without having to leave the Bancor decentralized exchange."
Two other well-known ICO projects have a stake on Bancor: Gnosis, which did not respond to CoinDesk's request for comment, and Status, which declined to comment.
Yet, as mentioned, individual investors or groups of investors could stake tokens to Bancor. And with each new token, the user experience for the participants improves, since they are able to trade between more tokens.
And not only that, with each new token that integrates, it becomes easier for Bancor to convince others to join, Benartzi said, acknowledging that getting these early stakes has been a challenge.
But the platform is continuing its push, announcing a new partnership on Feb. 14, whereby Block.One will implement Bancor on top of its EOS blockchain whenever it goes live.
"We see the Bancor Protocol as an elegant solution for liquidity that benefits all token holders by offering a completely new paradigm for value exchange," Dan Larimer, CTO of Block.One, said in a press release.
And with all this, Benartzi believes Bancor has reached a tipping point, telling CoinDesk:
"There are enough tokens in the network to see real liquidity."
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