A world where digital assets abound in an open, online marketplace is just a short step from reality as one Canadian blockchain technology company is set on building the most intelligible and intuitive industry-relevant products.
Etherparty Smart Contracts Inc. occupies the eighth floor of a non-descript office tower at the corner of Howe and Dunsmuir. Nestled inside Vancouver's downtown core in the heart of the Financial District, the juxtaposition is not lost.
Etherparty is surrounded by the top banking institutions in Canada, all headquartered in buildings just a short walk away. These are institutions with long-standing roots in all things financial. They are the system. They are the status quo.
What Etherparty is doing is simplifying, says Etherparty chief executive, Kevin Hobbs.
The Vancouver company is removing the complexities that surround cryptocurrency crowdsales, which are the world's most democratic, globalized and innovative new way to raise funds for anything — a business, a socially-concious movement, a project, an idea.
According to Coindesk's ICO Tracker, to date, approximately USD $8.74 billion has been fed into crowdsales since 2014 with the vast majority of that total having been raised since early 2017.
Crypto-crowdfunding is an entry-point for Etherparty.
"This is a whole new digital world and Etherparty is aiming its sights at something entirely avant-garde for the cryptocurrency market," said Hobbs.
Following the initial launch of a utility token-focused crypto-crowdfunding platform, Etherparty will be expanding its product services to include the issuance of regulated, securitized tokens.
"This is all about inclusion and accessibility to an emerging technology that can be empowering," said Hobbs. "We're building the blocks needed, user-friendly products and tools to shape the future of finance, technology and any other industries looking for efficiencies, cost-savings and digital security that only blockchain can provide."
Etherparty closed its $30 million-plus FUEL token crowdsale at the end of October. Soon after, in late 2017, the small development core grew to its current 20-person team and set out on the company's first product to be released in the spring: A user-friendly smart contract-based token and crowdfunding creation tool that could be completed by a user in minutes.
"Instead of a process that under the current landscape can take months to complete, companies can now focus on building and marketing their blockchain project more effectively and efficiently," said Hobbs. "It's a natural evolution from the current state of the things and is what's needed to increase mainstream adoption of this new and exciting technology."
Etherparty is innovation built with the everyday user in mind, and underneath this vision falls two key objectives: inclusion and accessibility.
The platform is taking the Ethereum blockchain's most utilized application, the smart contract to generate ERC-20 tokens and thereby coin offerings, and removing the significantly prohibiting barrier-to-entry: programming knowledge and experience coding in Solidity, a relatively new programming language tailor-made for writing smart contracts.
Etherparty will also be fully compatible with the Bitcoin blockchain via Rootstock, which is the first open source smart contract platform for Bitcoin.
Etherparty's token and crowdfund smart contract solution — the first among a roster of products, according to Hobbs — is a polished, user-friendly re-modelling designed for individuals and businesses, most notably technology entrepreneurs.
Erynn Tomlinson, vice president of product development at Etherparty who joined the company in late 2017, is uncompromising in her notion that nothing is rivaling or even paralleling what's going on today, technologically, in the blockchain space.
"People in gaming think the next 'big thing' is virtual reality, it's not. It's blockchain," said Tomlinson, who brings to Etherparty over two decades of experience in various aspects of communications design and user behaviour, and who has worked for large brands as part of the team at Electronic Arts Canada.
In the industry's current whirlwind pace, it can be hard to see the big picture.
"The technology is in its early adoption phase still, and so [the industry's] being driven by developers. [But] they are not going to be the ones to translate this to the mass market," said Tomlinson.
In 2013, under the guidance of Vanbex Group founder and head of research and development, Lisa Cheng, Etherparty was launched under a singular mission, to create something anyone could use in order to help further the nascent state of the blockchain ecosystem.
Today, Etherparty nears the launch of an intuitive, easily navigable product that enables the creation of an ERC-20 or RSK-compatible digital token in just a matter of minutes. Furthermore, a tier of crowdsale creation options will enable a do-it-yourself step-by-step process effectively permitting anyone with an idea the ability to launch a token generation event in less than day, if they wished.
This can be the beginning to the proliferation of digital economies that are people-powered, trustless and automated, says Cheng, adding, the most alluring prospect for entrepreneurs and businesses has to be the burgeoning access to a global network of early-stage venture capital.
Cheng states, crypto-crowdfunding is doing nothing less than paving the way for a new form of business creation and sustainability in the 21st century.
Last year, Bitcoin became the most compelling story in the world of finance and economics, showcasing astounding quadruple-digit gains in percentage terms (1,278% gains). Nevertheless, initial coin offerings were the true beacon of potential for the blockchain ecosystem at large.
As detailed in Coindesk's 2018 Blockchain Industry Report, "In January 2017, bitcoin's value represented over 90 percent of the cryptocurrency market."
Ethereum, currently the second-most valued cryptocurrency by market capitalization at USD $85.3 billion at the time of this writing, started the year with relatively low trade volumes. This was up until the ERC-20 token, and its related coin offerings, hit the market.
"Demand for ether (generally needed to participate in many ICOs) grew, and so did the ability to finance and create new blockchains," the Coindesk report stated.
While recent news claimed that half of all coin offerings that occurred in 2017 are now defunct projects, the digitized world beyond still retains significant glisten and glimmer.
Etherparty set out on a blockchain-agnostic path, said Cheng, albeit initial support will be provided for the two most popular public blockchains, Ethereum and Bitcoin, other networks will be looked at as well.
"To help foster growth and innovation is at the heart of this venture. Etherparty is meant to be a platform in the purest sense," said Cheng.
While many have benefited from Bitcoin and the crypto-markets, the Vanbex founder explained, there is room yet for further opportunity and modernisation.
"The Etherparty token and crowdfund creator will be a gateway to greater invention," said Cheng.
"There is a strong belief that security tokens, especially equity-based digital tokens, will become the prevailing token generated in future crowdsales," said Hobbs.
Equity tokens would allow companies to represent debt or company stock as digital assets on a blockchain-based infrastructure.
"We are talking about an entirely new model for businesses seeking investment or financial support," said Hobbs.
Technology companies, for instance, that want to pursue something along the lines of an initial public offering but without the capital to do so, can leverage an initial coin offering — or token generation event — instead.
Etherparty's security token and crowdfund platform will further democratize business fundraising, providing access to a high liquidity environment and opens resource with global reach and magnitude.
The vision is to leap over the barrier that sits in the face of such growth and evolution of digital assets, said Hobbs, adding, the platform will provide a method for billions, if not trillions, of dollars of securities to move to the blockchain.
"This then becomes a world of automatic dividend payouts, online voting rights and built-in know-your-customer and anti-money laundering tools for the business world and individuals to access."
"The marketplace of the future is here and now," said Hobbs, whose vision for the future is on where physical assets are digitized, easily mobilized and fully regulated.
The future of cryptocurrency and crowdsales appears to be firmly in the hands of securities commissions around the world, with Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), weighing in with a positive tone.
Louis Morisset, CSA chair and president and CEO of the Autorité des marchés financiers, who said: "The technology behind cryptocurrency offerings has the potential to generate new capital raising opportunities for businesses and we welcome this type of innovation.
Morriset added that under the current activity in the area of coin offerings and token sale, the CSA is looking to publish "guidance to help fintech businesses understand what obligations may apply under securities laws."
South of the border, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has assumed a stiffer stance, going so far as to freeze the cryptocurrency assets in the realm of $600 million.
The order was filed in a Dallas federal court against AriseBank, alleging the defendant, Jared Rice, 29, illegally raised funds from individual investors last November, according to an article by Bloomberg reporter Matt Robinson.
The same report stated: "This is the first time the commission has sought the appointment of a receiver in connection with an ICO fraud," according to Steve Peikin, co-head of SEC enforcement, in a statement. "We will use all of our tools and remedies to protect investors from those who engage in fraudulent conduct in the emerging digital securities marketplace."
According to Hobbs, Etherparty is well-positioned to be at the frontlines of the evolving digital landscape.
Discussions with British Columbia's Securities Commission are still ongoing, said Hobbs, and working Etherparty's user-friendly blockchain products into the mainstream is top of mind.
As Hobbs stated, this is all about inclusion and accessibility to technology. Etherparty, said Hobbs, is an avenue to the empowerment of citizens and businesses around the world. Visit etherparty.com.