This post first appeared in The Next Web, written by our CEO, Zach.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are a fascinating new beast within the startup world. These novel fundraising vehicles are part tech, part finance, and while offering huge profits, also invite a great deal of potential fraud. In their nascent stage, some quick-fire fortunes will likely lead to significant legal problems when it comes to marketing, public relations and promotion.
Investor Relations (IR) professionals have been watching the landscape activity with bemusement as they have seen this all before. Anyone who worked in small or microcap investment marketing during the early days of the digital boom remembers the arrests of naive advertisers entering the space. They also know a worldwide criminal element is endemic to the capital markets. “Pump and Dumps” were not just conducted by some sketchy Florida-based brokerages. Instead, they were often orchestrated by organized criminal groups ranging from gun runners to drug cartels as an easy method to obtain quick cash and launder money. Unfortunately, those same folks are already involved in the ICO atmosphere. These are just some of the challenges that face those entering the brave new world of cryptocurrency.
1. Prepare for Red Tape and Regulations
The days of ICO public relations agencies easily entering and operating within the ICO space are over. Recent SEC statements about initial coin offerings signify there will be greater regulatory and legal issues for those looking to promote this sector. Of these, the biggest concern may be that marketers have little idea whether any given ICO can or will be considered a securities offering.
Precedent indicates ICO advertising will be subject to a set of rules similar to those which govern stock promotion. While this article in no way intends to offer legal advice, the suggestion can be made that marketers across the board should familiarize themselves with the legalities of securities marketing worldwide. Laws of this nature can be intense, ruling over everything from the language of marketing to the techniques utilized as well as the general setup of companies and their third-party help.
At the very least, ICO marketers should study the information that exists on IR legislation with specific attention paid to blue sky laws, securities promotion laws (SEC rule 17b) and broker/dealer laws. Because the reality is that an initial coin offering may be subject to them all. If you’re marketing it incorrectly, this can result in both civil and criminal charges…and no campaign is worth that……….
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