Top 10 Biggest ICOs (by Return on Investment)

Bitcoin investment

Initial coin offerings are on fire. By issuing their own digital tokens to investors who want to back their idea, product, or service, blockchain projects have raised more than $13 billion.

Many of these new digital tokens then start to increase in value when they trade on digital currency exchanges. While not all ICO tokens have performed well, there have been ten digital tokens that were launched through initial coin offerings that have managed to become tremendous outperformers in the digital currency space.

According to ICOStats, these ten are:

TokenROI
NXT598054%
IOTA226013%
Ethereum147877%
Neo103133%
Spectrecoin51328%
Stratis38642%
Ark11969%
Storj6889%
Lisk6414%
Augur4917%

In this guide, you will learn more about these ten ICO tokens. Examining their performance may help you decide whether or not an investment in ICOs is a good strategy for you. (Do not forget to bookmark our list of Upcoming ICOs and Completed ICOs.)

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NXT logo

NXT (598,000 Percent ROI)

The NXT project is one of the longest standing blockchain projects in the market today. NXT was launched in November 2013 by an anonymous developer called BCNext, at a time when the blockchain space was still at a very early stage and was largely unknown to the general public.

The NXT project held an initial coin offering on the BitcoinTalk Forum in September 2013, where it managed to raise around $16,800 worth of bitcoin to develop its new open source blockchain platform that utilizes the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism for its native digital currency – also called NXT.

NXT was built as a blockchain platform for applications and financial services. It has its own asset exchange, a messaging system, and a marketplace, and it enables anyone such as small businesses, corporations, and banks to develop their own blockchain applications.

At the time of writing, the value of NXT stood at $0.10 per coin. During the initial coin offering back in September 2013, one NXT coin was sold for $0.0000168. That means NXT has generated a return on investment for its early investors of over 598,000 percent, making it the most profitable ICO coin of all time at today’s market prices.

Why This Worked

NXT was one of the first blockchain-as-a-service platforms, has managed to build a strong community of dedicated developers, and has withstood the test of time as it is still one of the most active blockchain projects today. In light of the growing interest in blockchain applications, NXT is well-positioned to deliver, which is reflected in the price of its digital currency.

Lessons Learned

  • Successful early-stage blockchain projects have high returns potential.
  • Blockchain-as-a-Service platforms have the potential to become major players in global blockchain adoption. Hence, its tokens have high returns potential.
  • A dedicated developer community is always a good sign for potentially high returns.

IOTA logo

IOTA (226,000 Percent ROI)

The IOTA project is developing a transactional IoT settlement layer by combining elements of blockchain technology with the Internet of Things.

The IOTA token is the only major digital currency that does not use a full blockchain to conduct transactions. Instead, IOTA uses what is called a Tangle, which solves the scalability and transaction fee issues faced by digital currencies such as bitcoin by requiring the person who sends funds to conduct a verification at the same time he or she sends the funds. This fully decentralizes the entire ledger used to record IOTA transactions and creates a zero-fee transaction system, as no fees need to be paid to the participants in the network to verify transactions.

IOTA held its initial coin offering in November and December 2015 and managed to raise over $400,000. During the crowdsale, IOTA tokens were sold for less than $0.001 and all one billion IOTA tokens were sold during the ICO.

The IOTA (MIOTA) token started trading publicly on exchanges over one a half years later on June 13, 2017, at a price of $0.63. At the time of writing this article, the value of one IOTA token stood at $0.98, which marks an over 226,000 percent return on investment since the initial coin offering in 2015.

Why This Worked

IOTA is developing its own cryptography and is taking cryptocurrencies to the next level by allowing zero-fee digital currency transactions without the need for an actual blockchain. This alleviates many of the scaling issues that blockchain-based digital currencies face and thereby allows the use of its digital currency on a much larger scale. Hence, it could be used for IoT networks, which is the project’s aim.

Lessons Learned

  • Truly innovative new projects have the highest returns potential.
  • Providing an important service to a new growing market (such as financial transactions for IoT networks) can generate high returns.

Ethereum logo

Ethereum (147,000 Percent ROI)

Ethereum is a public, open-source distributed ledger platform that allows for the creation of smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps). The project was launched in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin and has since grown into one of the largest blockchain projects in the market.

Ethereum’s smart contracts platform has gathered a lot of attention from a wide range of industries because it could potentially be used to digitize and streamline inefficient business processes in the future. This is why Ethereum’s digital currency Ether has witnessed such a tremendous increase in value since its launch.

The Ethereum project had its initial coin offering in the summer of 2014, where it sold 11.9 million Ether tokens to raise $16 million. Ether’s issue price at the time of the crowdsale amounted to $0.311.

Ethereum’s token Ether carries the ticker ETH and has become the second largest digital currency in terms of market capitalization. Ether’s all-time high price was $1,431.77, which it reached on January 13, 2018. At the time of writing this article, Ether was trading at $460.00, which marks an over 147,000 percent increase in value since its ICO.

Why This Worked

Ethereum was built to allow for the development of decentralized applications and smart contracts, which both have the potential to become revolutionary technologies in the future of both the private and public sector. Due to the Ethereum network’s high potential for mass adoption, its digital currency has gained much value since its launch.

Lessons Learned

  • Truly innovative new projects have the highest returns potential.
  • A dedicated developer community is always a good sign for potentially high returns.

NEO logo

NEO (formerly AntShares) (103,00 Percent ROI)

NEO, which has rebranded from AntShares in 2017, is a Chinese blockchain startup that is developing a blockchain for digital asset ownership. NEO’s aim is to create a blockchain that represents legal proof-of-ownership that is accepted by the broader society. The project has managed to gather a lot of attention from the bitcoin community for combining smart contracts and digital assets to create a “smart assets platform”.

NEO held its first ICO in October 2015, where it sold 17.5 million tokens and managed to raise around $550,000 at a time when ICOs were quite a new phenomenon in the digital assets market. The NEO token, which carries the ticker NEO, launched at $0.032 in late 2015 when it was still trading under the ticker ANS.

A year later, in September 2016, NEO held a second crowdsale to further finance the development of its platform. During its second coin offering, NEO sold 22.5 million tokens and managed to raise $4.5 million.

At the time of writing this article, the NEO token was trading at $32.82. This marks an impressive 103,133 percent rally since its first crowdsale in 2015. NEO’s all-time high was $196.85 on January 15, 2018.

Why This Worked

NEO is China’s first public blockchain project. It has thus managed to gain a lot of attention from investors since China is a market with huge potential for blockchain applications but, at the same time, is a market difficult to enter for foreign businesses. NEO is, therefore, being perceived as a promising blockchain project that can capitalize on its local first-mover advantage. This is priced into its token.

Lessons Learned

  • Tackling specific real-world use cases combined with an advanced technology can be a recipe for success.
  • Being the first-mover in a promising market bodes well for the price of an ICO token.

Spectrecoin logo

Spectrecoin (51,300 Percent ROI)

Spectrecoin is a privacy-focused proof-of-stake (POS) digital currency network that possesses anonymous transaction features.

More specifically, Spectrecoin uses cryptography to “achieve un-linkable, untraceable and anonymous transactions on its underlying blockchain and also protects the user’s identity by running all the network nodes as Tor hidden services,” according to the project’s website.

Spectrecoin (XSPEC) launched in late 2016 and has managed to generate an incredible return on investment for its early-stage investors. The currency launched at a value of $0.001 per XSPEC and is now trading at $0.418. XSPEC’s all-time high price was $6.56 on January 2, 2018.

Why This Worked

Spectrecoin launched its ICO at a time when anonymous digital currencies were gaining in popularity among crypto investors.

However, Spectrecoin was looked upon with skepticism when it announced its token sale in late 2016, where it only managed to raise just over $15,000, and some cryptocurrency community member believe that it may be a scam. Moreover, it is important to note that while its 51,000+ percent return on investment looks impressive on paper, this figure needs to be taken with a grain of salt as XSPEC only has a tiny market capitalization of $7.5 million and a daily trading volume of only a few thousand dollars. A single large investor could easily move the price of this digital currency.

Lessons Learned

  • There is a strong demand for privacy-focused digital currencies that enable users to preserve their financial sovereignty.
  • Aside from historical returns, other factors also need to be taken into considerations when analyzing a digital currency project.

Stratis logo

Stratis (38,600 Percent ROI)

Stratis is a startup that offers a blockchain-as-a-service platform aimed at financial institutions that want to create industry solutions using blockchain technology.

The U.K.-based company has built a development platform called nStratis that allows enterprises to develop customized blockchain applications and build their own private blockchains using Stratis’ blockchain as the underlying network.

As the startup’s development tools are largely targeted at Microsoft products, Microsoft has added Stratis’ Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) to its Azure cloud service, which is targeted to companies that want to build in-house blockchain solutions.

When Stratis held its initial coin offering in June 2016, the company managed to raise around $600,000 worth of digital currency, which was deemed a big success for the project.

Stratis’ token carries the same name and comes with the ticker (STRAT). It was issued at a price of $0.007 per token.

The token’s all-time high price was $22.66 on January 9, 2018. At the time of writing this article, Stratis is trading at $2.81. That marks a 38,600 percent return on investment for early token holders within two years.

Why This Worked

The team behind Stratis has developed one of the world’s leading blockchain-as-a-service platforms, which has the potential to be adopted by a wide range of companies and public sector institutions. The price of its digital token reflects this potential.

Lessons Learned

  • Blockchain-as-a-Service platforms have the potential to become major players in global blockchain adoption. Hence, its tokens have high returns potential.
  • Building value-adding partnership with major blockchain players (such as Microsoft) usually bodes well for a project’s digital token.

Ark logo

Ark (12,000 Percent ROI)

Ark aims to be an “all-in-one blockchain solutions” that enables developers, users, and startups with blockchain technologies.

According to its whitepaper, the main objective of ARK is to increase consumer adoption of blockchain technology by focusing on two key areas: a fast and secure core technology and practical services for individuals.

During the Ark ICO, the project managed to raise $942,000 and one ARK token was sold for $0.01. Today, the price of one ARK is $1.20, which makes a 12,000 percent return of investment for ARK ICO token holders. ARK’s all-time high price was $10.92 on January 9, 2018.

Why This Worked

Ark launched its token sale in November 2016 when it was one of the few all-in-one blockchain solutions in the market, which led it to raise almost $950,000. This was a lot for late 2016 when the ICO market was substantially less developed than it is today and it showed that digital asset investors are keen to bet on the future of blockchain adoption by investing in all-in-one blockchain solutions as well as blockchain-as-a-service platforms.

Lessons Learned

  • All-in-one blockchain solutions are sought after investments as many crypto investors believe that blockchain technology will become an integral part of both the private and the public sector going forward. Hence, buying tokens of these types of projects gives investors exposure to the future success of the blockchain.
  • The amount raised does not equate to a high return on investment. Some projects raise less than one million dollars and their tokens greatly outperform the tokens of projects that raise tens of millions.

Storj logo

Storj (6,800 Percent ROI)

Storj is developing a next-generation decentralized cloud storage solution that pays users who rent out spare hard drive space to other users of the network. Storj was originally built as a DApp on Counterparty but has since migrated from the Bitcoin network onto the Ethereum network to revamp its solution, which is scheduled to go live at the end of the year.

The STORJ token has been around for a lot longer than many of the other tokens on this list. STORJ started to trade in autumn 2014, after its first ICO where one token was sold for $0.009. Today, one STORJ is worth $0.631 and its all-time high value was $2.96.

Why This Worked

Storj was among the first blockchain startups to provide decentralized cloud storage. Due to the growing popularity of the cloud combined with an incentive mechanism that pays users in digital currency to rent out storage space, Storj managed to attract a substantial investment. During its first ICO in 2014, the company raised $461,000. Three years later, in 2017, Storj managed to raise 3 million in seed funding and a further $30 million during a second token sale.

Lessons Learned

  • New innovative solutions, such as decentralized cloud storage, tend to attract investors.
  • First-mover advantage tends to pay off in the technology space. If you are first with a new in-demand solution, you are likely to receive investor attention.

Lisk logo

Lisk (6,400 Percent ROI)

Lisk is a decentralized blockchain platform that was launched in 2016 to enable entrepreneurs and developers to develop a range of apps on the Lisk platform by building custom side chains. In other words, Lisk allows anyone – from small businesses to individuals – to create custom build blockchains for their specific needs in a user-friendly manner.

Lisk held its ICO in early 2016 where it managed to raise over $6.5 million, which made it the fourth biggest ICO in terms of amounts raised at the time. The Lisk (LSK) token’s ICO price was $0.076 and today, one LSK is worth $4.98. LSK’s all-time high price was $39.28 on January 7, 2018.

Why This Worked

Many investors believe that the blockchain will take the world by storm and become an integral technology of the economy of the future. Hence, a network that supports the development of blockchain solutions through an easy-to-use platform will generally be of interest to investors.

Lisk has managed to stand out among its peers as it has a highly reputable team and excellent technology. It is also one of the earliest platforms to work on decentralized applications (DApps).

Lessons Learned

  • Blockchain platforms for the creation of custom blockchain solutions are generally well-received by the crypto investor base as many believe in the decentralized economy.
  • The combination of an experienced team and advanced technology is usually a recipe for success for blockchain projects and the value of their tokens.

Augur logo

Augur (6,400 Percent ROI)

Augur is a decentralized prediction marketplace made possible by the blockchain. Augur enables users to bet on the outcome of an election, to short a digital currency, or to make predictions on the weather by buying or selling shares in a market specifically created for an event.

Augur’s settlement currency – used to bet on outcomes – is Ethereum’s Ether (ETH) but its own native digital token, REP, is used as the platform’s reputation system for the users who report the outcome of the events.

The REP token was launched during Augur’s ICO in 2015 at a price of $0.602 per token. Today, REP is trading at $30.21 and its all-time high was 118.80 on January 11, 2018.

Why This Worked

The betting market is huge and attracts a substantial amount of users and investment. Augur managed to tap into that when it launched its ICO to raise funds for its platform.

Lessons Learned

  • Offering an entirely new platform that has only been made possible with the creation of new technology has the potential to attract substantial investors interest.
  • There is demand for decentralized prediction markets that are being made fairer and more secure thanks to blockchain technology.

The Takeaway for Interested Investors

Buying new digital currencies at the initial coin offering stage is a very risky investment, much riskier than buying bitcoin or investing in established altcoins such as Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), or DASH. While the above-mentioned ICO tokens have outperformed their peers, they are largely exceptions to the rule. Many ICO tokens that have launched in the past six months have not seen returns anywhere near those of Stratis, Ether, or NXT.

Several recently launched ICO tokens are trading below their issue price, while others barely gained in value in the months following their launch. Hence, when investing in initial coin offerings, it is important to conduct thorough due diligence to ensure you are picking winners.

Even when you have found projects that you deem likely to become winners, it is wise to only invest a small amount in this new niche asset class as a portfolio diversifier since ICOs are still very risky investments. Invest only what you can afford to lose.

If you want digital currency exposure for your investment portfolio, you may be better off holding bitcoin and other more established altcoins than putting money into newly issued tokens that may or may not perform.

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