This $575 Million ICO With Royal Backing Is So Crazy, It Might Be Real

A video-on-demand service that shares ad revenues with viewers and creators has raised more than half a billion bucks in a private token sale.

AccessTimeIconJun 21, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 8:05 a.m. UTC

Crypto loves Lamborghinis.

So much so it seems that a startup looking to release movies – early offerings include a biopic about the founder of the car company and his feud with the founder of Ferrari – has raised a whopping $575 million off its private sale of TTU crypto tokens from investors including BlockTower Capital and even a prince.

With that, the startup, called TaTaTu, has raised the third largest round ever using the initial coin offering (ICO) model – surpassed only by EOS and Telegram, according to data from CoinDesk's ICO Tracker.

If you think that sounds crazy – such a huge raise by a company called TaTaTu with no history in the crypto space – you wouldn't be alone. Even one of the project's backers admits that the news, announced today, will catch many off guard.

"The large round seems surprising in the context of a crowded and bearish crypto industry, in which investors typically participate with crypto, and not fiat. We think it, in fact, isn't," Allan Cassis, the CEO of Lvna Capital, told CoinDesk. Cassis' family gave money to the project, but Lvna Capital did not participate in the round.

Pointing to a new category of interested crypto backers, he continued, saying, "This is new money coming into the markets at a time when we continue to see delays from the long-expected institutional investors' participation in bitcoin."

Sure enough, some of that new money is coming from European royalty and nobility – Prince Felix of Luxembourg, second in the line of succession, and Lady Monika Bacardi, of the family that owns the famous liquor company, Bacardi Limited. (CoinDesk was not able to confirm Prince Felix's investment by press time, but TaTaTu previously disclosed Lady Bacardi's pledge on its Medium blog, where it "estimated" her backing at $100 million.)

Plus with BlockTower Capital investing and Lvna Capital acting as a strategic advisor, there seems to be quite a bit of support for TaTaTu's endeavor – which isn't only about movie making.

On top of creating its own video content, TaTaTu plans on building a token-powered video-on-demand platform to compete with Netflix. According to the press release, the funds raised will be used to build the platform, build audience and promote an ad-supported service that will share revenue with viewers.

TaTaTu CEO Andrea Iervolino said in a press release:

"The response is further validation that our model of acquiring and producing our own content mixed with rewarding users with TTU tokens to watch that content on the platform will benefit everyone."

Still, there's a number of things about this round that may give observers in the space pause.

For starters, huge rounds tend to make people more skeptical than reassured, plus projects that flaunt celebrity-like backers have many times ended badly. Plus there's a number of small things – including spelling errors on websites, the white paper and in the press release – that will add doubts (spelling errors are generally seen as the mark of scammers).

But perhaps one of the most notable breaks from typical industry practice is that the white paper does not indicate how many tokens will be created for TaTaTu or whether more will be created over time.

Instead, the white paper only acknowledges that 57 percent of the project's ethereum-based tokens were set aside for the private sale. And provided that hasn't changed, that would value the token supply at a little over $1 billion.

While BlockTower Capital's Ari Paul did not respond to a request for comment, he did confirm that he gave this statement for the announcement:

"I'm excited for projects that will spread cryptocurrency beyond the current less than 0.5 percent of the world that holds it."

The TTU economy

The way TaTaTu plans on getting crypto into the hands of everyday users is by sharing its revenue with content viewers and creators.

The basic idea behind TaTaTu is simple on its face: viewers of the content distributed through the service will share in the ad-revenue earned by the service, as will creators who provide their work.

And according to the white paper, revenue from advertisers will be paid in the native crypto token and all rewards for the viewing of content will be paid out in TTU as well, which it calls advertising video-on-demand (AVOD). But later in the document is where the business starts to blur since it explains that AdMob, a Google-housed mobile advertising company, will be the "preferred monetization solution" and "pay TaTaTu in fiat."

The white paper goes on, though, stating that regardless, the funds that come in from third-party ad providers will be converted into the platform's tokens – and those will then be shared with viewers (whose identities will be verified) and content providers over the next few weeks.

Here again, TaTaTu breaks from the norms of most ICO-backed companies, as the white paper discloses, "TaTaTu takes a small percentage of profits in order to run the platform while the large majority goes to the user."

Many ICO issuers have decided to send all revenue to users, with the company making money off the growing value (as adoption increases) of crypto tokens held in reserve. That said, TaTaTu will also earn funds in that way. The white paper indicates that unsold tokens are held in a reserve (35.5 percent), which will be used for stabilizing the market, but another 5 percent is set aside for the team and advisors and 2.5 percent for the founder.

And if that in itself didn't add a significant amount of complexity, once the video-on-demand service goes live, it only becomes more complicated.

The white paper describes eventually adding features familiar to other major websites, such as celebrity profiles, blockchain-based digital rights management, peer-to-peer recommendations and user-generated video, among other ideas. It also describes other kinds of video content, such as sports streaming.

According to the white paper, these additional features will be completed between now and sometime around March 2019.

Users already?

It's an ambitious plan, but according to the press release, one that has garnered significant attention not only from investors but also future users.

The platform launched an alpha release on June 15 for 500 users, yet the press release states that 200,000 people have joined the waiting list to participate in the new platform.

Early users will earn tokens for testing and interacting with the platform, and much like other content platforms, such as Steemit, these early entrants are likely to receive some of the richest rewards if the new protocol works as planned.

That said, the project's priority appears to be content over technology. According to the white paper, only 15 percent of the funds raised will be used for overhead, which includes software development. Meanwhile, 35 percent will be devoted to user acquisition and another 35 percent to content acquisition. Lastly, another 15 percent will be put towards marketing.

Indeed, the Lamborghini film isn't the only one slated for the service; another film the company is promoting is a forthcoming documentary chronicling actor Jeremy Renner's efforts making music for the animated film, "Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad."

Speaking to her support of Iervolino's past work in film, Bacardi said in the press release:

"Andrea is a forward thinker who has always met, and in many instances exceeded, his own high business standards."

Still, with TaTaTu's charge into film distribution, the company will face an extensive array of competition on the blockchain, as many other projects have entered into different aspects of this space. The most direct competitor is Flixxo, but others include YouNow and VideoCoin.

That said, if money is what will make or break this use case, TaTaTu's reported fundraising round is larger than all those other efforts combined.

Stan Higgins contributed reporting.

Chandelier image via Shutterstock


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