Tezos raises $232 million for new cryptocurrency project

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Tezos, a new cryptocurrency network that could compete with Ethereum, raised a record-breaking $232 million in a nearly two-week-long token sale that closed on Thursday.

Although the first version of its network has yet to launch, Tezos has piqued the interest of major investors and cryptocurrency experts. It promises to support smart contracts and offer innovations in governance for decentralized systems that could prevent the sort of infighting that has consumed the bitcoin community for more than a year.

Among those who see value in it are venture capitalist Tim Draper and Olaf Carlson-Wee, formerly the first employee at Coinbase and now the founder and CEO of Polychain Capital, a San Francisco hedge fund that focuses exclusively on blockchain assets. Zooko Wilcox,one of the creators of the privacy-focused cryptocurrency Zcash, serves as a Tezos adviser.

Tezos' founders, the husband-and-wife team Arthur and Kathleen Breitman, have been developing the technology since mid-2014, when they published the white paper describing what they hoped to accomplish. Between them, they have backgrounds at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and R3, a blockchain consortium of which dozens of banks are members.

When Tezos' token sale — a special kind of crowdfunding campaign also known as an "initial coin offering," or ICO — finally launched on July 1, it inspired a mad dash among investors. The project ultimately took in 65,627 bitcoins and 361,122 ether, according to its website.

The value of both cryptocurrencies has fallen sharply in recent days, but, even at relatively low current prices, Tezos raked in enough digital money to smash the previous ICO record of about $150 million set by another blockchain project, Bancor, in June.

Thanks in large part to Bancor and Tezos, the amount of money raised by blockchain startups through ICOs has far surpassed the amount raised through traditional venture capital in 2017. Because of the extreme volatility of the cryptocurrencies used to fund ICOs, it is tough to pin down a round number for the total amount raised so far this year, but it appears to be more than $700 million at then-current prices.

Most of the projects that have raised funds through token sales are built on top of an existing blockchain, usually Ethereum's. But Tezos will be an entirely new protocol with its own rules.

Tezos is also one of the few token projects that has gained support from traditional investors. Tim Draper participated in the ICO and also invested an undisclosed sum in Dynamic Ledger Solutions, the Breitmans' startup that is behind Tezos.

Participants in the crowdsale will be given Tezos network tokens, known as "tezzies," in exchange for their investment, but not until the network launches. That is expected to happen in four months or so. Investors are betting that as the network grows and proves its worth, the exchange value of their tokens will rise—perhaps exponentially.

Ethereum's own crowdsale raised about $18 million in 2014. The total market capitalization of ether is now more than $19 billion, according to CoinMarketCap, which tracks the fluctuating value of blockchain assets.

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Distributed ledger technology Blockchain Venture capital Cryptocurrencies