Bancor, the blockchain startup that raised $147 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) last month, announced today that it has added the first member to its currency-liquidity network. That new member is Invest.com, an online financial advisory, which will be launching a prediction market called Stox, with its own cryptocurrency, STX, using Bancor’s “smart token protocol.”
Bancor eventually hopes to have thousands, even millions, of cryptocurrencies using its protocol, which runs on the Ethereum blockchain. Just as YouTube has allowed anyone in the world to create their own broadcasting channel and embed their video anywhere, Bancor allows anyone to create their own cryptocurrency token and operate it independently of a third-party exchange, Bancor cofounder Eyal Hertzog told VentureBeat.
The announcement of this first member, while perhaps small news, signals that Bancor is operational and ready for business — not something many newly funded blockchain startups can claim.
The real promise of Bancor is that it hopes to inject a high level of liquidity into the cryptocurrency market. Users of currencies running the Bancor protocol can liquidate those currencies into Ethereum’s native Ether tokens or any other Bancor-based currency instantly. As anyone who has been watching cryptocurrency prices crest and fall over the past month knows, the value of these tokens is highly volatile. Bancor’s promise is that it will add a good deal of stability to any currency on its network by ensuring tokens are bought and sold at a specific price (a price that’s not set by investor bidding). “This eases the rise and fall [of a currency] because the price is only affected by the volume someone is buying and selling” as opposed to external forces, Hetzog said.
And while cryptocurrency exchanges currently take a cut off any trade and can take a long time to finalize that trade, Bancor’s protocol ensures the trade occurs immediately and doesn’t take a cut. In fact, Bancor, the company, doesn’t handle trades at all — all transactions are handled automatically via smart contracts running on the Ethereum blockchain.
In attempting to create “one global network” for currency exchange that is stable and frictionless and open to any player, the company hopes to fulfill the vision of economist John Maynard Keynes, who proposed a supernational currency during World War II for international trade. Keynes called his proposed currency “bancor.”
When we asked Hertzog about his longer-term vision for what the Bancor network could accomplish, he said much of how it evolves will be determined by users. “Like YouTube or blogs — no one knew when they started what they would become. We are looking forward to learning from our users and don’t want to tell them how to use the platform.”
Blockchain technology has been making a lot of headlines over the past year. With the sector still young and tumultuous, we’re bound to see a lot of promising companies and technologies fall by the wayside. Bancor’s vision for currencies is certainly intriguing, but today’s announcement doesn’t give much idea of how popular the platform could become, and a mammoth fundraise doesn’t guarantee success. It will be interesting to see how far this startup goes.
[If you’re just tuning in to the blockchain world, here’s a quick catch-up.]