Bancor has had quite the year, to say the least. We sat down with their head of business development, Galia Benartzi, at Ethereal SF a few weeks ago to discuss Bancor’s success and steadfast approach towards maintaining an ICO that will survive the tempestuous waters of crypto’s mainstream rise.
Let’s get you up to speed: Bancor is a dual-sided project that supports Bancor Protocol and the Bancor Network (BNT). Bancor Protocol supports the creation of networks of smart-contract based “Smart Tokens”, which is the currency that facilitates an exchange between any two tokens. Essentially, the Smart Token acts as a third party mediator in which any currency can be converted into another. This is important because some currencies act as networks of value, which often have trouble connecting to other similar tokens. The Bancor Network is a wallet that holds and converts these tokens. Needless to say, the entire platform is built on some incredible models and to put simply, is extremely smart. We originally met Benartzi at CoinAgenda’s Puerto Rico conference in March 2017. Bancor had just won the startup competition, and the Initial Coin Offering madness had not yet taken effect. Then, June rolled around. The hype machine began churning and before we knew it, Bancor had raised an earth-shattering $153 million in Ethereum during their ICO. At the time, it was the largest ICO in history. Like any project, they faced some issues; their formula and transaction visibility has been called into question. But this isn’t another Tezos. There’s an end product and goal for the project, which is on track as promised in the white paper.
In the cryptocurrency world, Benartzi argues that the single largest upside is that this is a new space for people to be creative and innovative; the crypto space is largely untouched by the mainstream. This newness has expanded our understanding and implications of practically every existing industry in the world. “Here, there are no rules yet,” she stated. And that’s what makes it so utterly terrifying and exciting, Benartzi argued. In the crypto community, you’ll often hear the phrase, “this is bigger than the internet.” And it’s challenging to wrap our minds around that; how can we possibly conceive something that does not fully exist in its final form?
So, what has Bancor learned from conducting an incredibly successful ICO? “No good deed goes unpunished,” Benartzi explained. Those who participate in token sales or ICOs, as of late, have cultivated a culture of impatience; if the token that was invested in does not produce an incredulously high return on investment in an unreasonable amount of time, (though it can be done, it is challenging, and often unsustainable), there is usually panic and anger directed at the startup founders.
The democratic and decentralized nature of blockchain and cryptocurrency have provided a communication channel for managers and developers to speak with their supporters or investors who throw advice their way. Bancor boasts a whopping eleven communication outlets, and they try to keep a positive and open dialogue going amongst those who have questions and suggestions for the project. “It’s an interesting environment where sometimes you can try very hard to be open, to be very authentic, to be transparent, to do things in a new way, to solve old problems that you perceive – but because it’s new, there are a lot of unknowns. It doesn’t execute as you might have envisioned,” Benartzi said. And that’s okay. While the cryptocurrency industry is unfathomably exciting, investors at every level are beginning to understand that there is one variable that is required for sustainable, long-term growth: time.
“We know we’re going to make mistakes, but we know our intentions are pure, and to stay really focused on the task at hand,”
Something that many outsiders don’t understand and crypto enthusiasts forget is that the Ethereum project took several years to gain its footing, and has proven itself to be a groundbreaking success. So why not approach Bancor with the same long-term growth mindset of any startup? This is not to say Bancor hasn’t had a few missteps along the way. They’ve struggled to communicate the translation between their technology and the end product, something that Cornell professor Emin Gun Sirer brought up in a recent Bloomberg article. “We know we’re going to make mistakes, but we know our intentions are pure, and to stay really focused on the task at hand,” Benartzi says, in response to the criticism. And this sentiment is strongly shared by one of Bancor’s largest backers, Tim Draper, who has been behind some of the largest projects in the past decade. His advice for those watching Bancor closely? Wait a few years, and then pass judgment.
A foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is that it is inherently collaborative and built with a community in mind. Benartzi left us with a few thoughts on the tech world as a whole: “Everything we see has been built by people just like us, and thus, everything we see can be rebuilt by people like us. And we can, and should, and must rebuild it better.” It’s important to approach blockchain and cryptocurrency with fresh eyes and remove it from the previous discourse that finance has been built upon. This isn’t about simply digitizing or moving onto blockchain models that we’ve become accustomed to, but actually reinventing models that work better. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in blockchain. “I hope people come in to roll up their sleeves and make a change, and not just to make money.” Benartzi says. “I’d love to see us remake the money.”
Quotes may have been edited for length or clarity.