ICOs Meet IPOs: Blockchain Author Alex Tapscott to Take Token Startup Public

A prominent author is seeking to take his newly launched ICO investment firm public on a major stock exchange.

AccessTimeIconAug 8, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 6:48 a.m. UTC

If blockchain author Alex Tapscott gets his way, his newly launched investment firm will be the first publicly traded company to focus on initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Fresh off the news that Tapscott's NextBlock Global has raised $20 million to invest in projects selling cryptographic tokens, he has revealed exclusively to CoinDesk that he plans to list the company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

Whereas ICOs have been popularized as an alternative to traditional funding, Tapscott's rationale in appealing to accredited investors is that he believes they could unlock even more capital for the sector. To bridge that gap, Tapscott said he's already held "numerous" meetings with Canadian regulators, and that he will likely file paperwork for an initial public offering (IPO) in the coming weeks.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Tapscott went on to describe the importance of what may be the first ICO investment firm to IPO.

He explained:

"Anybody with a discount brokerage account, whether it's small retail investors, all the way up to a mutual fund or a pension fund, will have what we view as a safe, regulated and relatively straightforward way of owning a diverse collection of the best opportunities in this asset class."

After the application is filed with the TSX this fall, it will be reviewed by the Ontario Securities Submission (OSC), and if approved, Tapscott expects to go public in six months, "concurrent with a much larger raise."

Structure and strategy

Also revealed to CoinDesk were new details about NextBlock Global's investment strategy, including its plans to focus on protocols with the potential to enable entire ecosystems of decentralized applications.

The majority of those investments, Tapscott said, will be made in projects planning to offer an ICO, but which haven't yet done so. According to CoinDesk data, blockchain projects have in total raised over $1.5 billion in ICOs through July, including $500 million over the last 30 days alone.

In this way, Tapscott is positioning himself among a growing pool of investors who believe that while token sales funded by the public make venture capital dollars less necessary, the skills provided by his team will incentivize experienced investors to join the market.

For example, Tapscott only opted to pursue a publicly traded digital asset investment firm after considering several potentially competing models.

This research included exploring whether the company should hold its own ICO that would issue fund units to accredited limited partners, or whether it should seek a more traditional fund structure by selling to general partners and limited partners.

Still, he believes an IPO remains the preferred option.

"The market is still relatively small, and the number of investors that are actually deploying capital is still relatively small," said Tapscott, adding:

"And it's always been my goal to accelerate mainstream investment in this asset class."

Global asset migration

Elsewhere, Tapscott discussed the importance of jurisdiction in informing his choice.

Since co-authoring his book, "Blockchain Revolution," last year with his father, Don Tapscott, he has taken on an advisory position at the World Economic Forum and appeared regularly at blockchain conferences. But while he's become a fixture around the world, he said he chose to come home to his native Canada to list the company for both personal and professional reasons.

Tapscott cited TMX's early work with blockchain prototypes and the fact that Canada is among several countries that have shown willingness to let blockchain startups safely experiment in so-called regulatory "sandboxes" as reasons for the move.

"My priority is not only to accelerate adoption," said Tapscott. "But to make sure my home country, my hometown, leads in a positive way."

Still, Tapscott acknowledged his goal in listing his company on the Toronto Stock Exchange has implications beyond Canada.

He concluded:

"If we're going to be successful in migrating all traditional assets – bonds, interest royalties, deeds, titles, etc – into digital assets that are built on top of blockchain technology, then we’re going to have to interact closely with the people who lead in that field today, lead in the traditional world today."

Alex Tapscott image via Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk


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