As the Cryptoworld continues to spread its wings, with cryptocurrencies now facing the prospect of some form of regulatory oversight and even a possible consolidation, one nation has made quite significant strides in the blockchain industry, namely Israel.
Startup Bancor raised plenty of eyebrows from within the blockchain fraternity this year, as it managed to raise close to $150m through an initial coin (“ICO”) offering in June.
The ICO is reported to be one of the largest to have ever occurred in the Cryptoworld and in a nation that had barely been on the map, with China having dominated the ICO world until the latest ban by the Chinese government.
One things is for certain, the Bancor ICO will test the venture capital markets in Israel and may even bring the VC business to its knees. Furthermore, once the talk of bubbles and over-inflated ICOs abate, which is more than likely when considering the level of interest in ICOs, VC funds will strive for a piece of the pie.
It’s not just ICOs that are raising Israel’s profile within the world of blockchains however, with the use of blockchains now on the rise amongst companies looking to take advantage of blockchain’s functionality. Those include secure tagging, tracking and the tracing of any digitalized item, with blockchain even being considered for tracking intellectual property and digital rights.
Israel’s high-tech industry looks set to take advantage of certain elements of blockchain’s offerings, with the financial sector set to take on blockchain, the fintech sector looking for advancements in the way business is carried out, funds are mobilized and of course in the way funds are currently raised, with crowdfunding having been a popular approach to raise capital within the country.
Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank by assets, is one institution looking to embrace blockchain in a bid to secure documents digitally that could see the end of customers needing to go into bank branches. The Bank has asked for the help of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service and a market leader in blockchain development.
Bank Hapoalim would become the first of the banks in Israel to incorporate blockchain technology into financial contracts as the bank looking to digitalize bank guarantees. While many in the sector watch closely to see how Bank Hapoalim progresses, success will undoubtedly lead to other banks to follow in Hapoalim’s footsteps and not just banks within Israel, but beyond.
Bank Hapoalim is not alone in its vision of using blockchain technology to move into a paperless, yet virtual world. Blockchain is also expected to make its mark in the world of trade, digitalizing shipping documents securely. A paperless world of trade is one of the concepts of Wave, an Israeli blockchain startup.
Israel’s position as a global leader looks almost assured when considering the nation’s strengths within the defense industry, technological military units and advanced academic institutes as the country considered a hub for hi-tech innovation and startups.
If there are any doubts over Israel’s position in the world of innovation, Tel-Aviv is reported to have one of the largest number of tech-startups in the world. Over the last 4 decades, 250 Israeli companies have gone public on the NASDAQ, mostly based in Tel Aviv, with only the U.S and China having more companies listed.
It is also estimated that there are a whopping 300 multinational R&D centers currently in operation in Israel, certainly a strong statement in itself of the country’s stance on innovation, though what stands Tel Aviv above other tech ecosystems is the nation’s elite military intelligence forces and strong government support that helped raising just shy of $600m in funding for cyber security last year.
In this year’s rankings, Tel Aviv was ranked number 6 in the 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem rankings and when considering the fact that only an estimated 1% of Tel Aviv’s startups originated from outside of the country, well below other top ecosystems, it’s quite an accolade.
There are some question marks over whether Tel Aviv can retain its status in the years ahead as other nations play catch up, particularly when considering the lack of enthusiasm from neighboring nations to adopt Israeli technologies but, considering the fact that Israel’s geographical isolation has contributed to where the nation sits today and may well continue to do so into the future, innovation is in the blood.
To put it into perspective, Israel is ranked 2 nd in the world in percentage of engineers and scientist in the workforce and it’s not likely to change anytime soon, when considering the high tech training the young receive during military service, not to mention the instilled drive for success.
With government support for the tech sector and strong demand for technical innovations for defense and military purposes, it’s no surprise that Israel is ranked number 1 in the world in R&D expenditure per capita, known globally as a world leader in startups per capita. A lack of natural resources coupled with the country’s small size and geographical isolation from its neighbors is and will remain a factor in the years ahead, with Fintech now considered to be one of Israel’s fastest growth hi-tech sectors. Entrepreneurs are not only embracing blockchain but developing an array of blockchain applications Today, we may consider the cryptoworld as obscure and unsettling, but this is no different to the evolution of the internet back in the 90s and Israel looks to be well placed to take on blockchain and be one of the global leaders in the cryptoworld as it develops into what will undoubtedly be a part of everyday life in the future.
Israel Securities Authority to Regulate ICO’s
As always, there’s a double edged sword with all new things. The rapid evolution of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings has drawn the attention of many a regulators and, whilst few have taken steps to begin the process of regulation, some are looking to stay ahead of the curve.
Amongst those looking to begin building the necessary regulatory environment for the cryptoworld is Israel’s Securities Authority.
In July, the U.S SEC made its first moves, which saw the blockchain world in a state of panic, and at the beginning of the month, the ISA announced that a committee has been put together to look into the regulation of ICOs, with the Committee’s initial objectives being to look into the applicability of securities regulations on ICOs being offered to the public.
The announcement by the ISA has left the ICO market with some degree of uncertainty, with the Israeli Bitcoin Association (“IBA”) having made an official public statement in July on the subject of ICOs.
The IBA warned that there had yet to be any clarification on regulatory attitudes towards ICOs. The IBA added that the lack of regulatory oversight continues to make it difficult for investors to demand their rights, while there is a possibility of regulatory intervention in a specific project or whole domain in the future, which could affect its continued operation. That futures appears to be now as the ISA begins to explore the world of ICOs.
Israel’s Venture Capital industry is reportedly ranked fifth in the world, with around 70 active venture capital funds and there’s a lot to lose for the industry, particularly when considering the fact that Israeli managers are ranked second in the world for business entrepreneurism.
We may expect some degree of protectionism for the VC industry, but when considering the amount of capital raised through ICOs and the rising number, it was only going to be a matter of time before the ISA took out the magnifying glass. Hopes are that it will be hands off approach for now and that the ISA doesn’t follow in the steps of the Chinese government, banning ICOs altogether, temporarily or not.