The universe of decentralized tokens is currently enjoying its Big Bang; you could say it's in a state of chaos. Some order is required, and new platform Messari aims to build a free open-source data library, which aggregates disparate information on crypto-assets.
The project, which is headed up by cryptocurrency statesman Ryan Selkis, has just closed a seed round led by top crypto investors. The list includes: Anthemis Group, Blockchain Capital, CoinFund, Digital Asset Investment Company (DAICO), Danhua Capital, Kindred Ventures, Rising Tide, Semantic Ventures, SparkLabs Global, and Underscore VC. Individual angels in the round include Garry Tan, Pamir Gelenbe, and Matthew Roszak.
Ryan Selkis, Messari's Co-Founder and CEO, said: "There are dozens of projects right now that want to build the Bloomberg of crypto. You can't build Bloomberg without the EDGAR database the SEC has, or the international equivalent of that.
"In the absence of any data standards, you really can't compare apples to apples for these projects. You need an understanding of how these projects are speaking of their treasuries, how their investing schedules work, the network fees and how the token economic systems work."
The crypto space – especially the brave new world of ICO token distributions – is definitely long on hype, but lacking fundamentals. Selkis says that there's a lot of innovation happening with maybe some valuations getting ahead of themselves. A data standard is needed to make it easier to separate the legitimate projects from the folks that are just trying to make a cash grab and not actually deliver on products.
Such a resource would help other data services companies, investors, media and a host of other stakeholders make sense of everything. It could also serve some regulatory function, though not in the sense that it would necessarily be sanctioned by any international regulator, but rather in solving an important education problem.
So what would it look like? "First of all, we want this always to be free and open data," said Selkis. "So there's the library itself, the repository of information, and then there's an associated API library with tools that actually help different stake-holders access that information plainly. The Holy Grail for this would be Bloomberg type of front end, EDGAR type of consistency and data standards, and then maybe even enforceability, where the market demands such disclosures.
"Then there's a Wikipedia-type of back end, where it's not necessarily maintained by a central entity like us; ultimately the maintenance of this is decentralised over time according to certain data standards."
On the subject of tribal disputes, technological castigations, cat-fights and so on that are common in this growing space, Selkis said Messari would take a largely neutral stance. "We thought a lot about this. I know that there are other teams right now that are thinking about how do you research these different tokens and help people make sense of it. I think in many cases, it's just way too early to tell which projects will succeed and which will not.
"So we are actually trying to stay neutral in terms of recommending or kind of highlighting which projects will do well or will fail. Instead, what we are trying to do is start with the most non-controversial, easy to quantify, easy to verify and kind of relatively static and material bits of information we can find."
Selkis said this would start with some 101 information about the project; who are the principals, do they have legal counsel, what is the corporate structure, where are they domiciled, and so forth.
Then a bit of information about how they manage their token treasury. So do they have their own tokens in reserve; how do they sell that, and release that into the money supply over time. Do they have Bitcoin and ether on the balance sheet; where is it held and how is that managed.
"You want to get a better sense of what the supply curve looks like for these projects. One of the most important bits of information that people don't really appreciate right now, is what the hidden annual inflation rate is for some of these projects," said Selkis.
"And I say hidden because you might have ICOs where 100% of the money supply or token supply is spoken for, but it's only unlocked over multi-year increments. Understanding when liquid supply actually hits the market versus encumbered supply, if you will, is a pretty meaningful metric that I think most people don't really fully appreciate."
Messari expects to launch its beta later this spring.