ICOs 2017 v 2018: Where Do We Stand?


The aim of this article is to briefly compare the data from 2017 and 2018 so far, and identify the trends related to ICOs. Trends and findings will help us to better prepare for 2019, especially bearing in mind the rapid decline seen in the cryptocurrency market in November 2018. Although the focus is placed in 2018, the trends from 2017 will help us to get a better grasp of the big picture.

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This article is based on the data from 2017, as well as the first three quarters of the current year. The data stems from the annual and quarterly reports published by the ICORating agency. As we take a deeper look at the 2017 numbers, the focus will be on understanding the trends based on annual quarters, industry and geographical location.

2017: The breakout year

The startups raised as much as $6,18 billion in 2017. On average, startups raised $1,72 million per project. Out of 800 performed token offerings, less than half have raised more than $100,000, while only 270 tokens are “live” on trading exchanges.

Chart 1. ICOs in 2017 (Source: ICORating)

Once the data is broken down to quarters, an overall upward trend in the accumulated funds has been identified, which is logical given the trajectory the cryptocurrency market took in the dying months of 2017. As much as half of the entire annual sum of collected funds ($3.09 million), was registered in the final quarter of the year (Chart 2). Those interested in token offerings picked up immensely in December, where as many as 70 successful ICO projects were completed.

Chart 2. ICOs by 2017 quarters (Source: ICORating)

As far as the industries are concerned, blockchain infrastructure, financial services, and gaming industries have registered more than 60 completed projects in 2017. Given the volume of projects in the final quarter of the year, it is interesting to notice that industries such as Banking and Payments, as well as Marketing and Advertising, have picked up interest significantly, in addition to above-mentioned projects that have been described as “trendy” across the entire year.

While the picture concerning the distribution of completed ICO projects across the year is still somehow balanced, the same cannot be said for the funds raised across the industries (Chart 3). This category is completely dominated by the blockchain infrastructure industry, which collected around $1.7 billion. For instance, the banking and payments industry is in the distant second place with a bit over $500 million, more than three times less compared to the blockchain infrastructure.

Chart 3. Funds raised per industry (Source: ICORating)

Geographically, the ICO market has been dominated by Europe. The startups registered in the old continent managed to secure the funds in the region of $878 million, compared to $626 million in the USA and $477.5 in Singapore. Once the United Kingdom (UK) is added as well, Europe had managed to collect more than $1.1 billion. In total,  71 completed projects have been registered in Europe.

As far as individual countries are concerned, USA, Singapore, Switzerland, Estonia, and the UK dominate this category. The inclusion of Estonia may surprise readers, however, this Baltic country with a population of 1.3 million has been recently recognized as one of the friendliest countries in the world for the fintech business and startup companies overall.

However, the picture changes quite a bit once you look at the “country of origin” project distribution across the globe. This list is completely dominated by the US with more than $2.02 billion collected. For instance, Europe, UK, Russia, and China have collected $2.09 billion combined.

In general, the most important takeaway should be connected to the fact that the significant growth in ICO campaigns in 2017 led to the creation of an infrastructure service providers, which paved the way for the continuation of the same trend in Q1 2018.

2018: The numbers so far


The 2017 trend continued in Q1 2018 as well. In total, $3.31 billion were collected in Q1 which is an increase of more than 7% compared to the last quarter of 2017. Similarly, around half of the completed projects managed to secure more than $100,000 in funding. More than 400 token offerings were staged in the first quarter of the year, out of which 89 found themselves listed on the exchange, which represents a decrease compared to the previous year.

Chart 4. Number and funding for projects 2017 – 2018 (Source: ICORating)

As can be seen on Chart 4, both the number and funding for projects sharply rose in December 2017, then continued in January and February of 2018 before slumping more than double, both in terms of the number of successful projects and funds collected.

Unlike in 2017, Financial services industry dominated the Q1 sector with almost 40 successfully completed projects. Exchanges and wallets come in a distant second place with 25 projects, while the 2017 leader fell to the third position with 18 completed projects. Thus, it is obvious that projects from the financial sphere increased dramatically at the start of 2018.

The same industry dominates the funds collected as financial services managed to collect more than $330 million. Together with the second-placed industry of banking payments, the financial sphere raised more than half a billion in funds in the first quarter alone. Blockchain infrastructure, the leading industry by funds raised, fell to third place with less than $230 million raised, compared to $1.7 billion in 2017.

Geographical distribution changed as well as the US leapfrogged Europe in collected funds from token sales. The US managed to collect almost $584 million compared to $541 million in continental Europe, while the UK raised almost $100 million. Singapore stayed in the second place with almost $470 raised. The US stayed in the first place of the collected funds by country of origin of the startup. Interestingly, Lithuania, another small Baltic-based country with a population of 2.8 million, secured funding in the region of $242 million.


Thanks to the historic EOS ICO that managed to raise more than $4 billion alone, the second quarter of 2018 represents the most successful quarter in the history of token sales. In total, startups managed to sell almost $8.36 billion of tokens, which even without the $4.2 billion raised by EOS represents a significant increase. As the Q2 report from the ICORating agency notes, “…the cumulative amount of funding received from ICOs of Q1-2 2018 is 6.4 times bigger than the one of Q1-2 2017”.

Again, the number of projects that failed to raise more than $100,000 is around half of all completed projects. Meanwhile, the percentage of “live” products listed on the exchange fell to 7%, a sharp decline compared to previous quarters. The fact that 55% of all ICOs failed to complete their crowdfunding in Q2 raised alarms in the world of cryptocurrency.

Chart 5. Number and funding for projects in the first half of 2018 (Source: ICORating)

Chart 5 shows the trend in 2018 connected to the number and funds raised for projects in the first half of 2018. Although the month of April recorded a sharp decline compared to March, the following month of May recorded almost 150 completed projects with $1.9 billion raised. As expected, EOS absolutely dominates the funding list with almost $4.2 billion collected, while the messaging app Telegram managed to raise $1.7 billion.

When it comes to the industry review, no significant changes were recorded as this category is still dominated by the financial services industry with 87 completed projects and $475 million collected. Although the blockchain infrastructure industry secured the same amount of funds, the number of projects in this industry was slightly above 30. Banking and payments industry is the only one remaining, having secured more than $300 million in Q2.

ICOs registered in Europe sold more than $900 million worth of tokens, compared to around $850 collected in Asia where Singapore alone registered sales of almost $575 million. The UK saw a sharp increase from almost $100 million to slightly less than $300 million, which still was not enough to overtake the US in the third place,? with almost $394 million raised.

The change has been registered in the geographical distribution of ICOs based on the product origin where the US startups raised a whopping $4.9 billion, again thanks to the EOS, while the Asian startups secured more than $1 billion in token sales compared to $655 million in Europe.


The third quarter of 2018 has seen the biggest decline of the ICO sector, both in the quality and quantity context. In total, ICOs managed to raise $1.8 billion which is almost five times less than the reported $8.3 billion raised in Q2. The fact that more than 76% of all token sales in Q3 had nothing else developed except the basic idea, which is an increase of more than 55% compared to Q2, speaks for itself. Chart 6 below shows a rapid decline in total funding for projects and the number of successfully completed projects in the Q3 2018.

Chart 6. Number and funding for projects in the Q3 2018 (Source: ICORating)

Moreover, around 57% of ICO projects in Q3 failed to raise more than $100,000, which is an increase of around 7% compared to the previous quarters. As little as 4% of offerings were ultimately listed on the exchange, which represents the lowest percentage since the comprehensive analysis of the ICO market has been initiated by credible rating agencies.

In terms of industries represented, exchange and wallets, as well as financial services were ranked as the most popular industries, together attracting around 100 projects. However, the picture changes when it came to the funds raised. Financial services and blockchain infrastructure collected around $250 million in funding, while the banking and payment industry comes in a distant third place with less than $100 million attracted.

Geographically, United Kingdom surprisingly tops the ranking in funds raised ($241 million), while Europe is still the most dominant continent as almost half of all funds raised were collected in the old continent. On the other hand, Russia leads the ranking of token sales based on country of origin with almost $183 million.

Trend Analysis

Although the year of 2018 still hasn’t ended, we can say with certainty that it won’t be as successful as 2017 in the context of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). Although the cryptocurrency market has dropped as much as 75% in 2018, the interest in token offerings is still solid, as studies have shown.

As seen on Chart 6, the second part of 2018 started with the rapid decline in total funding for projects and the number of successfully completed projects in the Q3 2018. The second quarter of this year secured a  record-breaking $8.36 billion of token sales, which single-handedly surpassed the amount raised in 2017. However, that amount fell almost five times in the Q3.

The number of projects that collected less than $100,000 was persistent until Q3, again when it went firmly above 50% for the first time. Again, the same quarter recorded the lowest percentage of the startups that were ultimately listed on the exchange. The financial services industry has dominated the popularity in 2018, compared to 2017 where the blockchain infrastructure topped the rankings. Banking and Payments have also been consistently popular in token sales.

Geographically, the old continent, led by Switzerland, is dominant in the number of projects and funds raised. Elsewhere, Singapore, UK and United States have also been consistent in the top end of the rankings based on geographical distribution. The US leads the rankings based on the country of startup origin, except in Q3, where they were narrowly beaten by Russia.

In general, the trend analysis has shown that the “ICO boom” started in the second quarter of 2017 and was persistent for a year until the Q3, when a sharp decline was recorded. The Q3 report can be seen in the context of an “early warning” before the entire cryptocurrency market went into the turmoil in the mid-November, which saw Bitcoin lose as much as a third of their value.