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How ICOs Could Boost the Kenyan Startup Scene

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Kenyan startup scene

On March 17, 2017, BitSoko held the first ICO Summit in Kenya. The three-hour event attracted over 50 attendees and was well-received by the Kenyan startup scene as the main theme of the event was focused on how ICOs can help Kenyan startups to meet their funding needs.

In Africa, Nairobi – the capital of Kenya – has turned into a hotspot for startups, especially in the technology sector. The fact that blockchain technology is applicable in various sectors has made it possible for upcoming startups to find ways of utilising the technology for the solutions they seek to provide. This was evident on Saturday when six local startups pitched their solutions to attract investors and raise funds for their businesses through tokenisation.

Key speakers during the event included Michael Kimani from ChamaPesa, George Maina from Oseko & Ouma Advocates LLP, and Mr. Apollo who spoke at length on the advantages and risks that ICOs have in the cryptocurrency crowdfunding space in the country.

What is an ICO?

An initial coin offering, also known as an ICO, a token sale, a crowdsale or a token generation event, is a new form of funding that (predominantly) blockchain startups are using to raise capital for their venture. In an initial coin offering, a startup runs a crowdfunding campaign where it selling a newly-issued digital token in exchange for bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH). The future value of the digital token is then linked to the performance of the project. In that sense, an ICO or very similar to a stock IPO, except for the fact that the new digital token does normally not constitute a share in the company and its value is only indirectly linked to the success of the company.

While speaking on ICOs in Kenya, Chris from Coinweez compared an initial coin offering to table banking in Kenya that has been used over the years to fundraise for various projects including settling of school fees, weddings, and medical bills. While acknowledging that ICOs are a new concept that is quickly becoming mainstream he said,

“The ICO model can be modified to suit our needs in Kenya and Kenyan companies can have a smart way of raising money for their businesses.”

His sentiments were backed by Mic Kimani who felt that chamas in Kenya are “missing a technology to power what they are doing”. Kimani, who is part of the blockchain based app, ChamaPesa, said that the app is meant to give chamas a superior way for not only storing and earning but investing their money through the use of the blockchain.

He added, “ChamaPesa will connect different chamas to allow for borrowing of money as well as raising of money using ChamaCoin. The app will go beyond the Kenyan market and can be accessible by any agent network, which allows for borrowing of money hence having the ICO aspect. All chamas will be on the blockchain and anyone can be able to check the amount of money their chama has.”

Regulatory Framework and Risks in ICOs

For some people, the summit was a way for them to learn about what the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and ICOs looks like in Kenya. To answer this, George Maina from Oseko & Ouma Advocates LLP helped define what the regulatory landscape in Kenya is when it comes to digital currencies and ICOs.

Maina said: “As much as ICOs are not regulated in Kenya, it is not illegal to invest in bitcoin or any other digital currency and one can’t get arrested for it.” In the same breath, he added that bitcoin is not legal tender in Kenya. He also advised those seeking to invest in ICOs to do so at their own risk as there are currently “no laws on how disputes on the blockchain are solved.”

Apollo spoke about the risks that those investing in ICOs should be aware of. As there is no legal framework for ICOs currently in Kenya, one can raise money from anyone for their blockchain startup, terrorists included. At the same time, some startups do not divulge the amount of money they raise form the ICOs while others are just ideas that have no clear roadmap on the length of the project.

According to Apollo, more than 50 percent of companies that raised capital using the ICOs in the past one year were scams. Apollo also touched on the security issue relating to ICOs saying, “around 10 percent of startups seeking to raise funds through ICOs have been hacked and keys to where people can send them money changed simply because the companies seeking to crowdfund focused on getting money and forget about security.”

He advised those considering investing in ICOs to have “a high risk of tolerance as there is a chance that one could lose all their investment.” He went on to say that there is no insurance when it comes to investing in ICOs and it is important for people to do due diligence and ensure the startups they are investing in are legitimate.

“I hope that we get to a place where everyone can be able to raise money using ICOs,” he concluded.

Upcoming Startups Using ICOs to Crowdfund

The event also several Kenyan startups pitch their solutions in order to raise money for their startups through tokenisation, which refers to the digitising of business assets. Some of the startups that pitched include HAIL-A-HUSTLE, an e-commerce platform that seeks to develop business potential through its diverse products, and Usafi Sanitation, a startup that wants to improve sanitation and improve human dignity by providing schools and communities with proper sanitation by installing eco-friendly toilets and eliminating pit latrines. Other startups included Nairobi Cloakroom, Farm Books, and Mazingira Safi.

ICOs present an interesting and exciting way for startups and other established companies in Kenya and Africa at large to raise money to either start or expand their businesses. As the ICO market continues to grow, it is only a matter of time until more African startups will jump on this new opportunity to receive funding, which is often hard to come for local startups on the continent.

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Funds Raised Through Token Sales Hit $13.7 Billion in First Five Months of 2018

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Cryptocurrency Token Sales

According to a report released by PWC’s strategy and consulting division Startegy& in collaboration with Switzerland-based Crypto Valley Association, the first five months of 2018 have seen funds raised through token sales jump to $13.7 billion, which is around double the amount that was raised in the whole of 2017.

The ICO report which will be published every quarter showed that blockchain startups have been able to raise capital by selling digital tokens through initial coin offerings (ICOs) directly to investors globally thus avoiding venture capital firms and banks as intermediaries.

The report further stated there this year alone, there have been token sales from 537 coin offerings which surpassed the $7.0 billion from 2017 and includes huge offerings from Telegram – a messaging service – and Block.one’s EOS. Telegram was able to raise $1.7 billion without selling any token to the public while EOS, an infrastructure for decentralised applications was able to raise $4.1 billion after one year of offering their tokens with both being called the “first true ICO unicorns”.

According to the report, out of the 3,470 ICOs launched since the first ever token sale in 2013, only 30 percent have been able to close successfully while many have either lost momentum or gotten delayed through the process.

Daniel Diemers, Fintech Leader Switzerland, Head of Blockchain EMEA at PwC Strategy& said: “This report highlights the continued growth and popularity of ICOs globally in 2018, with over 537 ICOs conducted in the first five months of this year, raising a combined total of $13.7 billion USD – more than all ICOs which took place before 2018 combined. Going forward this quarterly report on global ICO activity will continue to track the changes and developments in the industry as it undergoes continuous expansion and substantive change.”

United States Remains Leading ICO Destination

cryptocurrency token salesThe report also notes that while Switzerland and Singapore continue to be in the lead for ICO activity centers, the United States “remains a leading ICO destination” as $1.1 billion was raised out of the 56 token sales registered in the country in the first five months of 2018, “reinforced by clear and firm regulatory requirements (e.g. KYC)”.

The report’s underlying message is that more and more ICOs are increasingly beginning to register with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). While Switzerland remains the ICO capital in Europe, the UK has gained ground in both numbers and volumes with $507 million raised so far out of the 48 ICOs registered there.

“This report shows that Switzerland is still a leading hub for ICO and blockchain activity. To my mind, Switzerland is the standard bearer in terms of establishing a regulatory environment for the digital economy. The Crypto Valley in Switzerland, offers a unique environment that embraces blockchain technologies and the potential of ICOs while always embodying Swiss values, such as privacy protection and confidentiality. I’m delighted to see that Switzerland continues to be very attractive to visionary entrepreneurs within the crypto space,” stated the President of the Crypto Valley Association, Oliver Bussmann.

Diemers concluded by saying: “After all the hype of 2017, this year has seen the ICO sector becoming more mature and established, with an improved focus on best business and legal practice, investor relations and fundraising. Hybrid models of combined Venture Capital and ICO financing are increasingly bringing together the best of what both have to offer, so that the soundness of a business is validated while it realises its market potential by receiving crowd support.”

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Johannesburg-Based Centbee Releases Alpha Version of its Bitcoin Cash Wallet

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Centbee Releases Alpha Version
Image by Centbee.com

Johannesburg-based bitcoin cash (BCH) wallet Centbee has announced that its wallet is now available in Google Play Store in open alpha. The open alpha version of the wallet utilises TESTNET coins so that users can try it out without using real BCH.

“We are making Centbee the easiest way to store, spend and send bitcoin cash safely on your mobile phone and we know our fans cannot wait to download it, play around with it and let us know what you think!” Centbee stated in its announcement.

How to Try Out the Demo App

Centbee Releases Alpha VersionTo get started with the Centbee demo, first download the app on the Google Play store,  then send an email with your BCH receive address to support@centbee.com under the subject ‘Buzz me!’ to get free TESTNET coins. Once you receive the BCH in your Centbee wallet, you can try it out and send your feedback by completing Centbee’s survey.

“This app is in alpha release. The Centbee Alpha app uses TESTNET coins instead of real Bitcoin cash. This is so that our fans can try it out and let us know what they think, without using their actual Bitcoin cash coins. Do not send real Bitcoin cash to your Centbee wallet, only use your TESTNET coins,” Centbee explained.

Centbee CEO Lorien Gamaroff earlier told CoinGeek:

“Centbee is trying to make it easy for people to use Bitcoin Cash. […]”

“What we are trying to do is to make the experience very much like using [BCH] in existing social media app like WhatsApp or Twitter because we think that people are used to those apps, and if the bitcoin experience is exactly the same is that then the adoption will grow a lot more,” Gamaroff added.

nChain purchased an equity stake in Centbee earlier this year to become one of the investors from the blockchain space that have taken an interest in the wallet provider.

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KryptoPal to Launch Cryptocurrency Channel for Help2kids NGO Operating in Africa

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KryptoPal

Blockchain startup KryptoPal will be launching a cryptocurrency channel for Swiss non-profit organisation help2kids, which helps children in Malawi and Tanzania to access education, healthcare, and food.

KryptoPal founder and CEO Venkat Nallapati said: “We’re very excited about this year-long pilot program that we will be conducting with help2kids because not only will it enable people across the world to donate and improve the lives of children in Africa, but by also using cryptocurrency the flow of the financial transactions is transparent until the actual usage of the funds on site in Africa.”

KrptoPal’s roles will involve setting up a public key, acquiring know your customer (KYC) details for every help2kids project, and carrying out complete background checks for each project. In addition, the blockchain firm will integrate its software development kit (SDK) into the NGO’s website to allow it to accept donations in cryptocurrency, which will be safe, secure, and traceable.

“We hope to offer help2kids a framework to accept cryptocurrencies that will pave the way for other large international charities to follow,” stated Nallapati.

The help2kids Charity

Help2kids has been making an impact on children’s lives in Tanzania through the 750 children in Dar es Salaam that benefit from its network.

One remarkable project has seen the charity offer support to 440 pupils in Bajeviro Primary School in Mbezi Beach, Dar es Salaam.

Despite primary education being free, children from poor families fail to receive an education because of the cost of compulsory school uniforms and provisions.

“I think this new cryptocurrency donation channel will be a great additional help for us to raise funds in our priority areas, especially when it comes to providing healthcare services and nutritious food to children in need. Every child should have a fair opportunity to education and we want them to focus on learning without facing obstacles like hunger and illness,” said Harriet Smith, help2kids’ on-the-ground field manager in Dar es Salaam.

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