The advent of Bitcoin and its stellar rise over the last few years has investors pouring their money into cryptocurrencies by the millions. In what can only be described as the biggest investment opportunity since the dot com boom, cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects are achieving sky-high valuations in droves. The market capitalization of Bitcoin and some other popular VCs is quickly approaching $100 billion. While this trend is largely speculative, it shows no signs of stopping and has made many people extremely wealthy.
Now, others who seek to emulate the returns of their peers are looking for the next big thing in the market. Bitcoin is still a great investment, but there are currently hundreds of alternate cryptocurrencies, referred to as “altcoins,” that achieve greater percentage gains. Often the newest ICO, or initial coin offering, represents an opportunity to multiply one’s investment by a factor of ten or more. However, it’s hard to predict which coins will receive the most attention and why. With the right recipe, a cryptocurrency can achieve sustainable growth and keep it once the bubble pops. (See also: Is 'Buy and Hold' the Best Bitcoin Investment Strategy?)
Find the ICOs
The first step is to figure out which initial coin offerings are coming up. With sites like ICOalert, developers have a place to list their upcoming pre-sale and public sale. They can also list other information like the soft cap, buy-in price and team profile. Savvy investors can use sites like these to plan their entry, do research, and have their money ready to invest in the best events.
The popularity of ICOs is shooting through the roof with data supporting the hype.
“ICO Alert has seen our amount of unique daily users double every 2 to 4 weeks. The growth is incredible, and validates our view that the community wants an unfiltered list of ICOs. ICO Alert remains the only free-to-list ICO website and the only comprehensive list of active and upcoming ICOs, so we expect the growth to continue,” said Robert Finch, the founder of ICOAlert.
Evaluate the Opportunity
While the rare ICO captures the attention of investors and raises the cryptocurrency it requires, many will inevitably fail,. Studying the market is not complicated and gives one a good idea of how the coin will fare.
How unique is the idea?
There are millions of ways to use blockchain, and new ideas are cropping up every day. Currently, the market is not impressed with coins that simply recreate the “decentralized currency” model, nor should they be. Bitcoin was a revolutionary idea when it was first invented, but now all cryptocurrencies share its functionality. Look for something that puts a new spin on an old concept or seeks to accomplish something ambitious. If you see obscure or regurgitated language on the project’s website, stay away because it might be a scam.
Distribution of the currency
The smart contract that manages the coin’s distribution has specific rules, like how much will be made available, to whom, when, and whether unsold coins will be “burned” (destroyed) or not. Typically, the scarcer a coin is in relation to its supply, the more it will fetch on the open market. Look for information on how many coins will be sold in the closed pre-sale (and what the bonus is for buying at that time), the ICO time window, and more.
The most bullish thing for any cryptocurrency is to be listed on an exchange. If a place like Coinbase, Bittrex or Kraken announces plans to list a coin that is still in its ICO phase, this is an excellent sign.
Which blockchain is it built on?
New ICOs must be launched from an existing blockchain, unless they plan on building their own. The chain that the coin is built on determines which existing cryptocurrency one will use to participate in the ICO. A project using Ethereum’s blockchain will require Ether to purchase the new coin. Thus, at first it will be exchangeable only with Ethereum and no other cryptocurrencies. If it uses an obscure chain such as NEO, this could put a cap on price.
Who is on the team?
Look at the team’s composition for expertise and experience in the industry. Every real project will publish a short profile of each member, their history and individual role. A big team full of veterans is favorable.
All about the assets
The white paper is by far the most important determinant of a project’s seriousness. It should be comprehensive, thorough, and explain the technology and purpose of the coin well. Other assets can include videos, blog posts and other contributions from the team.
Check the community
Lastly, the community is a crucial indicator of a cryptocurrency’s potential. Cryptocoins have followings that gather online on websites like Reddit and Bitcoin.org. Github is a great resource as well, and those who can read code can see get a glimpse of how well the project is programmed. Social media is less important, but can also be useful. The hype that a coin receives has a close relationship with its eventual price, because those talking about it are usually investors themselves. Beware of bounties however, a practice that crypto startups use to reward those who spread the good word. Form your own opinion and always take another’s with a grain of salt. (See also: Here's What's Next for the Bitcoin Bubble)