In May 2017 – with a white paper and a small team of developers mostly located in Belgrade Serbia – MobileGo raised $53 million in an initial coin offering (ICO).
At the time ICOs were new to the world of finance.
Unlike initial public offerings or IPOs they required no lawyers – bankers or regulatory approval and were more akin to Kickstarter-style crowdfunding – except funds were raised in cryptocurrency – typically bitcoin or ethereum.
MobileGo’s goal was to build a cryptocurrency platform for making purchases inside video games and betting on esports which had become a sizzling-hot trend.
The ICO was one of the biggest such deals of the year.
But today few people know where that $53 million is.
The startup claims 150 people are working on MobileGo products – but Sergey and Maxim Sholom – the brothers who lead the project – keep company financials private.
According to former employees the Sholoms have moved away from cryptocurrency as a central aspect of their business plan.
A spokesperson for MobileGo insists they are still trying to deliver on their original goals.
Or take the case of Polybius – an Estonian project named after the classical Greek father of cryptography.
It raised $32 million through an ICO in the summer of 2017.
Its lofty goal was to create a crypto version of the popular personal finance service Mint.
‘Financial Peace of Mind for the Digital Generation’ was its promise.
More than a year later Polybius doesn’t expect to launch the first version of its product until November.
Its tokens – trading under the symbol PBLT – have sunk by 84%.
That has dragged down its market capitalization (circulating supply of tokens multiplied by market price) to about $6 million – despite the fact that its ICO proceeds – sitting in a series of secure wallets mostly in the form of bitcoin – have since risen to a value of $40 million.
Since the ICO explosion began in 2017 some 800 ICOs have been offered – raising a total of about $20 billion.
MobileGo and Polybius were eagerly oversubscribed when they launched and were among the top ICO offerings of 2017.
Not all ICO issuers have treated their token holders as shoddily but because of the lack of controls or disclosure rules in the world of cryptocurrencies – the status of projects and the uses of ICO funding are often anyone’s guess.
In an effort to peek inside the operations of newly hatched tokens Forbes investigated the ten projects that as of the beginning of September 2018 raised the most money and were at least a year old.