事实上，这种情况已经开始出现。一个多月前，巴克莱（Barclays）、瑞士信贷（Credit Suisse）、加拿大帝国商业银行（Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce）、汇丰银行（HSBC）、三菱日联金融集团（MUFG）和道富银行（State Street），与瑞银集团（UBS）和纽约梅隆银行（BNY Mellon）共同参与了一个项目，计划在2018年之前推出一种加密货币“多用途结算币”，用于有限的后期结算业务。另外，这些银行也在与监管部门探讨新加密货币的应用问题。
首次代币发售不只限于公司； 今年，爱沙尼亚已经在探讨推出一种国家加密货币Estcoin，以吸引更多外国直接投资。未来几年，完全有可能会有更多公司和国家推出自己的加密货币，形成一个类市场的交易环境。虽然欧洲央行（European Central Bank）行长否决了爱沙尼亚的想法，但它进行的尝试表明，首次代币发售正在全球获得越来越多的关注。
In recent months a new hot topic has emerged in the blockchain and financial technology communities: initial coin offerings (ICOs). Regulators from the U.S. to China are taking notice. My general rule for technology is simple: When regulators care about it, so should you.
The regulatory interest is no surprise; billions of dollars in real moneyhave already been used to buy cryptocurrency in the form of ICOs and the total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies has surpassed $160 billion. An ICO occurs when firms create their own cryptocurrency and issue it for investors, rather than seeking investment directly from the markets or venture capital firms. While most of this money has to date come from within the blockchain community, the potential of this technology is so great that very soon major financial players will launch their own cryptocurrencies and enter the ICO market.
In fact, it’s already begun. Just over a month ago Barclays, Credit Suisse, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, HSBC, MUFG, and State Street joined UBS and BNY Mellon in a project to launch a cryptocurrency—the “utility settlement coin”—set for a limited back-end run by 2018. The banks are also in discussion with regulators regarding applications of new cryptocoins.
ICOs are more than just crowdfunding. As former UBS chief technology officer and leading blockchain expert Oliver Bussmann recently said, “ICO as a new business model leveraging blockchain technology will sustain as the digital way, combining crowdfunding and [a] new hybrid asset class of equity ownership and currency.”
Whereas traditional investment methods require a firm to list in one country and utilize (at least initially) one exchange, creating and selling its own cryptocurrency allows a firm access to finance from anyone, anywhere, outside the normal constraints imposed by state-issued currencies.
To date, mostly smaller companies and startups have issued ICOs, but major firms have begun to make moves in this area. This year Burger King launched the Whoppercoin in Russia and the $1 billion-valued messenger app Kik announced the launch of Kin cryptocurrency. These examples illustrate that, at least tentatively, major global companies are gearing up to use ICOs as another means of raising capital and engaging their stakeholders.
This system dramatically lowers the barriers to entry for firms looking to invest. And while the lack of regulation in this area may mean some people are going to lose a lot of money, the potential for major wins is great.
ICOs are not just limited to companies; already this year Estonia is exploring the creation of an Estcoin cryptocurrency to drive more foreign direct investment into its economy. It is no longer beyond the realm of possibility that in a few years time multiple companies and countries will have launched their own cryptocurrencies and created market-like environments in which they are traded. Though the European Central Bank head has rejected Estonia’s idea, the country’s attempt shows that ICOs are gaining traction worldwide.
While it is likely that companies will launch their own cryptocurrencies for their own goods, the real use case for creating cryptocurrencies will instead be in using them to raise finances. With this method, firms from startups to established industry leaders can bypass intermediaries and perhaps many regulations to access a truly global source of capital. Regulators have taken note of this technology; it is time everyone else does as well.
Denis Baranov is a principal consultant at DataArt.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Disney is involved with the creation of a cryptocurrency.