A Chinese Bitcoin Tycoon and His Record-Breaking ICO

An initial coin offering led by noted bitcoin investor Li Xiaolai has set a record in China, but has also received criticisms.

Jul 18, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:32 p.m. UTC
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One of China's biggest bitcoin investors has raised approximately $82m in an initial coin offering (ICO), setting a new record for the novel fundraising method in China.

Led by entrepreneur Li Xiaolai, Press.One bills itself as a decentralized content distribution platform based on the recently launched EOS blockchain. In total, the ICO collected 5,853 bitcoin, 106,757 ether and 30,430,519 EOS from 14,104 participants.

But while the figures may be impressive, the final numbers represented less than half the project's initial target of $200m – in part due to a decline in prices across the global cryptocurrency markets.

Since the the ICO began, the prices of bitcoin, ether and EOS have fallen 18 percent, 26 percent, and 46 percent, respectively, shrinking the total market value of the project by an estimated $52m.

ICO concerns

However, it may not be the decline in prices that was the only factor in the missed target. Skeptics of the ICO have publicly argued that the project is too ambiguous and ambitious, with some also claiming that the project lacks a white paper to explain its technical details and offers limited information on the development team.

Users of social platforms including 8BTC, Weibo, WeChat and Steemit further expressed concerns over the way the ICO was managed and its legality.

Based on the Press.One website, the purpose of the ICO is to build a public blockchain based on EOS. Other than traditional media, potential competitors to Press.One include content distribution site Steemit, which helps content creators receive rewards for their work and is based on similar technology to EOS.

Besides Li, who serves as CEO, the project lists Li Lu as chief technology officer. The two previously partnered to launch a website named Knewone, which became Less, a lifestyle community sharing application.

Another unusual characteristic of the Press.one project is the distribution of 10 billion tokens, dubbed PRS, which will only be dispersed to contributors six months after the ICO. Temporarily, though, the tokens are scheduled to be tradable on July 12, 2018.

Teacher turned tycoon

The other side of the story is Li's growing popularity as a successful and what some portray as inspiring investor.

Born in the 1970s, Li started a career as a salesman and became a well-known English teacher in China. Prior to the emergence of bitcoin, Li had already made a name for himself by publishing two bestselling books about time management and methods in mastering vocabularies for English tests.

Then, in 2011, he started mining and investing in bitcoin, and by 2014, he reportedly owned over 100,000 bitcoins, making him one of the largest investors in the cryptocurrency.

After founding the Bitfund venture capital firm in 2013, Li also established Yunbi, a cryptocurrency exchange based in China. According to Coinmarketcap, that exchange is now the 7th largest in the world by trading volume.

Currently, Yunbi trades ICO tokens and cryptocurrencies, including several backed by Li, such as EOS, Qtum, Siacoin, the latter of which has just received $400,000 from INBlockchain, another capital fund launched by Li.

Li Xiaolai image via CoinDesk archives 

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