The Crowdstart Capital Vision – An Incentive Scheme For The Blockchain Ecosystem

We at Crowdstart Capital are strong believers in blockchain technology. We have been working on blockchain projects at Datarella GmbH since 2015 – with leading índustry players and organisations. Since we are platform-agnostic, we have worked with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Hyperledger, IOTA, and other blockchains.

One key takeaway of two years of blockchain experience is, that – in the fall of 2017 – most blockchains are still quite immature and a lot of work has to be done in order to make them industry-ready. We see a huge demand for development and investment in not only blockchain-related projects but also in the core blockchain protocols. The key development challenges in 2018 will be to significantly improve the scalability, the stability and the security of blockchain platforms.

As digital organisms fed by communities of developers, blockchain protocols evolve through changes in their code, i.e. either by changes to the original code or through adding a new microorganism – a side chain – by forking the original chain. Both, changes to the original code and forks, could be combined by creating a forkless blockchain with specific rules in the protocol that are created by other rules (see: the Nomic game ). This way, forks would not be needed anymore since rules could be changeable by other rules.

Most industry blockchain projects are developed using side chains. First, that’s to eschew the disadvantages of public blockchains, s.a. PoW, and then, it’s because of the lack of industry-grade conditions in public blockchains. Most, if not all, industry-led blockchain project teams would love to use public chains if they could be used in a reliable way.

Tragedy Of The Commons

That said, strong evolutionary processes in blockchains are needed. But, where’s the incentive for developers to invest resources into the core protocols? The only way to benefit from working on core blockchain protocols is mining tokens and profit from a potential increase in value or joining on elf the blockchain’s foundations and getting paid by them. This imbalance of having no incentive to work on a core technology which everybody would like to see well developed is called the tragedy of the commons: the economic reward for a developer improving blockchain technology is low.

Funding work on core blockchain protocols and thereby the creation of incentives for developers could be provided by private institutions, s.a. Venture Capital (VC) firms, and by public funding, e.g. through a public crowdfunding initiative: the Ethereum foundation could sell Ether through a crowdsale to the developer community working on a specific update in Ethereum’s evolutionary process. For the blockchain’s foundations that would be straightforward thinking.

VCs, however, would have to make sure that their assets, i.e. portfolio companies, profit from an investment in the core blockchain protocol. This could be done indirectly, if blockchain projects don’t need to develop certain functionalities which are already woven in the core protocol, and therefore minimize their efforts and streamline their roadmaps to exit. It can be questioned if that’s an adequate benefit from the VC‘s perspective.

CSC dedicates tokens to the blockchain developer community

CSC’s goal is to foster blockchain core technologies and applications. CSC wants to contribute to helping blockchain evolve into an enterprise-ready technology. In order to lay a basis for a cryptoeconomic incentive scheme to support the development of blockchain-related projects and to provide incentives to developers to dedicate their work to blockchain‘s core protocols, XSC tokens will be dedicated to the active blockchain community.

Developers committing code to key blockchain projects can opt in to receive XSC tokens for every line of code that is accepted for the respective projects. CSC will set up a smart-contract-based system that will pay out the tokens according to the commits. This incentive is meant as CSC’s contribution to the blockcahin developer community – there will be no further obligations, i.e. CSC does not demand any return for this.

Technologies to be supported by these incentives include the core protocols of leading blockchains, s.a. Ethereum. Also, all projects that participate in the CSC acceleration program are supported. In a second phase it is planned, that members of the community will be able to suggest projects to be included in the incentive scheme. Which project should be included will be voted for by the community in token-based ballots.

We know that we won‘t achieve our goal over night. And we know that we might adapt our plan when necessary.  Finally, the most important factor is the blockchain community itself. If we can successfully motivate blockchain developers to join the scheme, to use the XSC tokens and to spread the word to their respective communities – then we can potentially crowdstart something new: an efficient incentive scheme for the evolution of blockchain technology.

Crowdstart Capital acceleration program and innovation

Innovators and people talking about innovation.

How can companies go from talking about innovation to innovating?

There is a strong trend, especially in larger organisations, to try to further innovation by appointing Innovation Directors (mind the capital letters), Heads of Innovation, Innovation Evangelists etc. While the intention is good, it is simply very difficult to pinpoint how successful innovation can be introduced and integrated into a very long tradition of doing things by the manual. Does that mean that more innovation is happening? Do the people responsible for spurring employees to “think outside the box” actually change culture or do they one day find themselves playing cajón in a giant drum circle of executives wearing black turtlenecks? (Note: from a real life situation, without the turtlenecks).

We at Crowdstart Capital don’t pretend to know the answer to these burning questions, but we can say that the need for innovation is not receding. It’s more likely rising exponentially with the emergence of new technologies and concepts such as convergence or game theoretic advances, which require a new understanding of the future of society. By changing perspective, applying concepts from other fields to problems previously unsolved (like game theory in Bitcoin or physics to evolutionary biology) or simply taking a moment to recognise already existing ideas, groundbreaking innovation can be achieved.

The hard selling point for many investors in our digital token sale is how we develop companies and promote innovation better than corporate incubators or accelerators. There are two reasons why I believe in our investment hypothesis: 1. Our well-developed and customisable acceleration process, and 2. Our direct connection to and understanding of corporate needs. Below we will outline the five steps of our acceleration process:

Phase 1. Selection
Based on industry criteria, CSC sources and selects startups in the following industries: 

  • Industry 4.0 (IoT, Automation, Supply Chain)
  • Energy (Solar, Wind)
  • Legal Tech (AI, Compliance)
  • Healthcare (Data Accessibility, Security)
  • Space (Earth Observation, Satellites)

Our selection is based on three parameters:

  1. Product – feasibility, innovative-ness, market-need, location, etc.
  2. Team – vision, expertise/competence, “coachability”, i.e. communication and cooperation skills, diversity, etc.
  3. External factors – current CSC portfolio, industry needs, legal aspects, etc.

Phase 2. Onboarding
Aligned with industry requirements, we onboard the new startup into our acceleration process. We make an in-depth assessment of the technology, vision, financials, etc. in order to accurately adapt the following steps of the process.

Phase 3. Product Development
As a response to Phase 2, in close collaboration with the startup team we develop the product using agile methods. Collectively, we have decades of experience of developing scalable products from scratch. This experience will be put to work for and taught to each startup. The product development is constantly being correlated with strategy and vision of the future exit partner.

Phase 4. Matching
As a final reality check, we match the needs of our corporate partners with the product developed during Phase 3. If needed, we go back to the drawing board and adapt, if not we proceed to Phase 5.

Phase 5. Exit 
In the guided sales process, we leverage our experience in private equity, venture-funded firms and as investors to create the maximal value for all parties. 

Using this process, we attempt to leave innovation in its natural environment, the entrepreneurial and curiosity-driven world of startups. Without altering the habitat or motivation for startups to realise their vision, our goal is to aid them in their hard work.

Identifying Diamonds in the Rough as Blockchain Enters the Trough of Disillusionment

Gartner Hype Cycle

According to Gartner research, 2017 is the year that Blockchain tech entered the so called Trough of Disillusionment. This is the time that comes after irrational exuberance has faded and technologies enter a long night during which the winners are separated from the losers.

Right now we’re still somewhere in the uncanny valley between the bubble and the moment it pops.  There’s hundreds of new ICO’s every month. Some have a viable raison d’être but there is a huge need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Compared in both number and scale with traditional VC funded projects the Blockchain area has a long way to go. According to Venture Scanner Blockchain related acquisitions this year aren’t off to a great start. In total there aren’t a lot of firms making exits. In 2016 there were just 16 such events.

Blockchain Exits 2017
Photo Credit: venturescanner.com

Compare this to the number of exits and deals backed by VC firms and the immaturity of the market comes into focus.  According to tech.eu, among just EU Tech startups there were 783 VC exit deals in Q2 2017.

This underlines the Crowdstart Capital position. We don’t believe in huge exits with many competing industry buyers fighting for the next unicorn. We aim to be the adults in the room, the ones who know what industry actually needs and can push that dealflow number up by catering to those needs specifically. In order to do this we leverage both our experience building blockchain-based applications for a wide range of industry players and the industry specific knowledge gained from those collaborations.

We’re focused on the fundamentals as opposed to the hype.  We identify a need in a big market, learn how to serve it as well as customising the solution and finally sell that product to major industry partners to reshape existing processes. That’s how to make money in the Trough of Disillusionment. As hot as the ICO model of financing ventures is, the industry needs to have a clear eyed look at what real problems we’re solving and how sustainable our efforts will be over the next five years.

In Search of the 1% of Startups that Work on Products People Actually Want

Three out of four startups fail and 90% of those in the tech industry don’t survive. To become highly successful, good timing, a portion of luck, exceptional leadership and a high dose of resilience are needed.

We at Crowdstart Capital are convinced that these traits and contexts are necessary but not sufficient factors for success. Even within a positive context, the venture capital world remains a gambling game with so many startups working on products nobody wants. Missing market needs are the most common reason for startup failure, way before a lack of liquidity and other factors.

Is there a way for founding teams to better meet market expectations? How could they avoid choosing wrong development paths? First, they must make sure to work on a product the market needs or will need in the future. Second, they should stick very closely with the principles of the lean startup, and work in an extremely focused and agile way to detect any deviation from the optimal path. Third, they should closely watch the players in the market they aim for: do they still wait for the original product idea or have their needs changed?

Easy as it sounds, these requirements are tough to match. Here, Crowdstart Capital comes into play. During a period of 6-12 months, we support startups by guiding them through the above mentioned challenges. Based on our close relationships and working experiences with corporate clients, we make sure that all developed products meet the expectations of either a client’s business unit or broader market needs. In other words, we bridge the gap between the startup and the market.

Our colleagues in venture capital firms rightly point to a startup’s lower potential exit value if it closely aligns its fate with some corporate enterprise. That is true. The more open approach of traditional VCs maximises the exit value since several players in the target market could bid for the startup. However, a traditional venture capital investment phase takes 3-4 years, compared with 6-12 months at Crowdstart Capital. In theory, the Crowdstart Capital model should be as least as efficient as the traditional one, if not more. In practice, we will see first results in mid 2018. If theory and practice coalesce, CSC supported teams will belong to the 1% of startups making sense.

Crowdstart Capital vs Traditional Venture Capital

At first sight, there might be no big difference between an investment by Crowdstart Capital CSC or a traditional venture capital firm – both select promising startups, invest, create value and, finally, help them being acquired  by a target company.  However, If you look at the details, two major differentiators can be unveiled.

First, Crowdstart Capital does not manage a fund financed by so-called Limited Partners, or LPs, typically comprised of financial institutions such as banks, insurance companies or hedge funds. CSC invests money originated with a digital token sale, or ICO. By offering its digital token XSC, CSC collects money that is invested in startups. The XSC token holders do not own any shares in CSC, nor in the portfolio companies, and they are not entitled to receive any financial return in the form of a dividend or another payout.

Instead, the token holder can trade their XSC tokens on cryptocurrency exchanges and profit from a potential increase of value. The fundamental, underlying reason for an increasing value of each XSC token over time is embedded in the CSC investment scheme: 75% of the profits made in the case of a financial transaction, such as an acquisition, will be reinvested. That means, every positive financial transaction may add to the total value of XSC tokens. Since the total amount of issued tokens will not change, each token should profit from the CSC investment scheme.

The next major differentiator between CSC and traditional VC investments is the specific investment process. A traditional VC typically acts quite opportunistically by trying to stir interest for their portfolio companies with a big number of different potential target companies in order to maximise the takeover price. We at CSC, as our colleagues over at traditional VC firms,  also like to profit from investments. But, our goal is not to maximise the takeover price. Instead, we focus on a streamlined, efficient investment and startup development process that is closely aligned with our industry partner’s strategic roadmaps: by guiding our portfolio companies right from the start, working together with them to build their products in a way they can smoothly be integrated into our industry partner’s business units, we optimise the startup’s way to exit.

Within a 6-12 month’s period, a startup should be ready to be acquired and to add value to our partner’s balance sheets immediately. This guided tour to exit can be regarded as a leaner, quicker and more solid version of the traditional VC approach.

We at CSC are fully aware that our approach is a new one. In the fall of 2017, we can not yet prove that the CSC way works. However, we can prove that we have been quite successful in our field of investment, the Blockchain technology. With our company Datarella, we have been working on Blockchain projects with industry leaders since 2015. Our most visible project is the Building Blocks project, United Nation’s first Blockchain project ever, that we developed for the UN branch World Food Programme in a Jordanian refugee camp in the first half of 2017.

Based on our extensive working experiences in the field of Blockchain as well as our team’s personal experiences in building companies, investment funds and working in C-level positions in major global companies, we strongly believe that CSC will become a success in the startup landscape. We actively seek conversations with venture capitalists and would like to learn from them, and to discuss various investment approaches.

First and foremost, we focus on our digital token sale that will start on November, 1st. Before, we offer a portion of our digital tokens to selected professional investors in a pre-sale. We thank all participants in the token sale in advance and are looking forward to investing in promising Blockchain projects!

Guiding more startups to successful exits

Most of the new business ideas I have are nonsense. They come up; I instantly like them, I discuss them with whomever I can find – until I realize that they aren’t half as good as I thought they were in the beginning.

Having been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years, this insight is an easy one – in the late 90’s, that was much harder to accept. Maybe it’s a matter of wisdom of age, or just the fact that today most key performance indicators of the startup exosystem are common knowledge: VCs must agglomerate quite a bunch of portfolio companies until one of them proves to be the exit star that cross-subsidizes all others and pays for the complete fund. Then, there are well-known startup techniques, such as agile business development, that allow for a lean approach, minimizing costs and risks of wrong development paths.

In other words: the startup world has become more transparent, better known, more mature. And, yet. Despite these myriads of mentoring classes and acceleration programs and these libraries full of How-To-Found-A-Business-Books, it seems that the gap between a startup’s plans and expectations and the market’s needs has not diminished much. Each day, I read about startups with ideas I don’t grasp even after thinking several times about them. Sure, it could be my fault, lacking some fantasy like everybody before Steve Jobs presented us the iPod. But, I’m not alone: well-respected entrepreneurs and investors are telling the same story: the majority of startups produce useless products and services.

Since lamenting never makes any sense, there must be a way to change this imbalance. Some aspects of the typical startup process should be adapted to allow a more professional, streamlined way of leading a startup to a successful exit. This is exactly what my colleagues and I are trying to achieve: to bridge the gap between a startup’s precondition and the need of a real, existing consumer, or corporate business partner, respectively.

With Crowdstart Capital we combine our experiences as entrepreneurs, investors and top managers, as well as our existing business with leading industry companies and guide Blockchain startups in the fields of Industry 4.0, Energy, LegalTech, Helthcare and Space on their way to exit. We will ICO in November and start investing in Blockchain projects right afterwards. It will be a fascinating journey – if you feel addressed, come and speak to us.

 

The October 2017 CrowdStart Capital Ramp-Up

In the midst of mega-ICOs, the Bitcoin fork and high volatility on the crypto markets, we have prepared our blockchain technology accelerator program CrowdStart Capital for its launch in October. Starting on the 1st of October, we will offer 250 million CSC tokens at $0.01 in a token sale ending on October, 31, or after a minimum threshold number of tokens have been sold.

The purpose of CSC is

  1. To invest in a relatively unexplored niche-market (i.e. blockchain technology) based on decades of experience in business, blockchain technology and investment.
  2. To open up investment opportunities in what is commonly known as venture funding to a larger crowd.
  3. To take a leading role in the encouragement of innovation and adoption of blockchain technology (more here) through investment, mentoring and application promotion.

Each blockchain-related startup will pass through a tight mentoring process of 6-12 months in order to being prepared for a subsequent purchase by a strategic investor. The startups will be selected by CSC based on its extensive project experience with corporate clients.  Thus, the CSC model is a hybrid combining both, the positive aspects of a venture capital approach with those of a corporate venture approach: startups will experience a ‘guided tour to exit’. CSC’s corporate partners profit from an efficient business development process resulting in a perfect match with their strategic needs.

Since most of the CSC team members have been founders themselves and know about the challenges and potential paths of startups, we are quite confident that our model will work out successfully. If you are a founder of a blockchain-related company and you think that the ‘guided tour to exit’ is an option for you and your team, please join our Slack and present your company in the „Promote My Project“ channel.

We are very much looking forward to working with passionate blockchain founders!

JOIN THE CSC SLACK

„Traditional VCs Are Dead“: Full House at The State Of The ICO Ethereum Meetup

“I can honestly say my industry is being disrupted beyond belief right now. The funny thing is, I like it”, said Jamie Burke during yesterday’s Ethereum Munich meetup “The State of the ICO”. Jamie is betting his Outlier Venture’s fund on the idea to launch a handful, large ICOs to invest in communities and therefore in economies, rather than in startups.

Jamie’s fireside chat (no, there was no fire but it was hot as hell) with Datarella’s founders Michael Reuter and Joerg Blumtritt was a fascinating tour de force towards a potential next level of venture investing in general, and a new breed of investors focusing on communitarian, anti-fragile investments rather than amassing a portfolio of companies of which 90% will fail.

Before, lawyers Dr. Nina-Luisa Siedler of DWF and Dr. Markus Kaulartz of CMS inspired the audience with their highly informative and at the same time very sympathetic presentation on the legal aspects of ICOs. Both being long-time experts in the field of blockchain, managed to entertain everybody although their messages were far from being easy-going. Especially their slide “Consequences in case of incompliance” filled the room with enthusiasm. Their complete slidedeck “Legal Aspects of ICOs” can be downloaded here.

Again, the Ethereum meetup was a great success: everybody learned a lot, and from what we overheard on the floor, some of the individual conversations until late at night resulted in new ideas for …. future ICOs.

A Guided Tour To Exit – Bridging The Gap Between Startups And Corporations

During the last 20 years, I have co-founded (and sold) several companies, among them the online travel portal travelgate , the social news community YiGG,  the app development agency AppAdvisors and the blockchain solutions provider Datarella. Most of these businesses have been positioned in the digital sphere which means that although they have been active in different markets they faced similar challenges regarding their transformational processes from 0 to 1.

If, as an entrepreneur, you have been working in different industries, you always start as a complete newbie in the next new industry. Your initial lack of expertise, network and experience in that respective market, makes you essentially start from 0. This is tough one the one hand, since you are used to work in a market with well-known processes and entities, but on the other hand, this fresh start provides you with a very steep learning curve that always is one of the sexiest aspects of an entrepreneur’s life.

Why Startups Fail
From a startup’s position, a steep learning curve is essential for bridging the gap between the creative, often naïve startup world and the dry, down-to-earth, hard reality of a corporation, the asset sale, the exit. The ostensibly most prominent reason for startup failures is illiquidity. You can apply this very reason for any kind of company. But, what are the underlying reasons for illiquidity? Simply put, it’s the startup’s inability to match the needs of either their potential customers or their potential corporate exit channels. They don’t offer what their targets need.

When, being in my twenties, I pitched my first startup to investors, I was struck by their seemingly strange, old-fashioned and outdated requirements. Then, I was absolutely convinced of my and my team’s superior creativity and our ability to supersede old legacy systems with our outstandingly innovative and paradigm-changing approach. Nowadays, often working closely together with market leading big corporations, I see a clear gap between the offerings and expectations on the startup side and the needs and expectations on the corporate side. And I can understand both sides pretty well.

Mentoring startups with SUPERDRIVE
Having engaged in mentoring in the startup scene for some years I have developed mixed feelings in regard to the typical approaches of matching startups with corporations, such as incubators, accelerators, etc. I don’t know of one that could boast about success stories. I order to come up with a better approach, together with my partners at Datarella and Prof. Oliver Szasz from Macromedia University, we launched SUPERDRIVE, a light version of our idea of bridging the gap between startups and corporations: on a universitary level, we worked ourselves through the process of actively supporting amd forming a (student) startup project in order to get acquired by a corporation. The SUPERDRIVE project was designed a s proof-of-concept: together with student startup teams we developed projects that would have been acquired by companies if it hadn’.t been carried out by students whose plans were to finish their studies.

CrowdStart Capital
In early 2017, faced with huge opportunities arisen from the cryptocurrency boom, I decided to bring the PoC to the next level and launched CrowdStart Capital, a blockchain technology accelerator. CrowdStart Capital will invest in blockchain-related startups that are selected on the basis of their matching with and adaptability to the needs of corporations Datarella has been working with. CrowdStart Capital’s investment hypothesis is based on its ability to close the gap between blockchain startups and potential corporate targets with a short timeframe of about 12 months.

A Guided Tour To Exit
This guided tour to exit is what we see as the potentially most successful approach of startup incubation. If you are working in the venture capital industry or in a family office, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me – I’d be more than happy discussing the CrowdStart Capital approach with you.

The Top 10 Cryptocurrency Trading Platforms and Exchanges

Since the inception of blockchain technology, digital tokens have been issued alongside the respective blockchains. Many of them have evolved into veritable cryptocurrencies that are traded on specific exchanges.

A brief look at the cryptocurrency market reveals a huge money influx especially in the last 6 months. Only six months ago, the total market value was about $15B. Today, about 830 different tokens represent a total market capitalization of just under $90B with the Top 10 currencies representing around 90%, or more than $80B, as of this writing.

The list below shows the Top 10 Crypto Exchanges as of this writing and their key characteristics. The daily trading volume of each platform can be found here.

Top 10 Crypto Trading Platforms