“Crypto Nation”: Switzerland Embraces Cryptocurrencies as an ICO Haven

The Swiss are bucking an otherwise resistant trend among the world’s regulators toward cryptocurrencies. Instead, Switzerland is embracing the culture of cryptocurrencies, as evidenced by a leadership role for the domiciling of upcoming ICOs, as reported in the FT. As home to Crypto Valley, the Swiss version of Silicon Valley located in the canton of Zug and filled with blockchain companies, the country now wants its leadership position to encompass all things crypto.

Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann at a crypto finance conference for private and institutional investors, the first of its kind held in the Swiss Alps earlier this month, said that Switzerland wants to be the “crypto nation.” He said it with the condition that momentum that has gripped Crypto Valley continues.

Switzerland is already an attractive domicile for companies, given its business-friendly regulatory environment and transparency, creating ideal conditions for blockchain startups to come. A propensity for tax evasion among wealthy clients, however, precedes the Alpine country, having tarnished its reputation in the interim. Now policymakers must contend with that reputation when setting the parameters for the Digital Revolution they want to foster.

Bern has created an ICO working group, similar to the approach of the US SEC’s task force, to study the role regulation, as is Swiss’ FINMA. Swiss Finance Minister Jörg Gasser said the market isn’t as “disciplined” as they would like. They are striving for a “flourishing” ICO market but not at the expense of the standards and integrity of the financial markets.

Industry participants come down on both sides of the regulatory argument, with Richard Olsen, founder of blockchain exchange Lykee, suggesting if it’s not broke, there’s no need to fix it, suggesting that ICOs could “self-police,” similar to the sharing economy. But Switzerland is not likely to allow the pendulum to swing too far to that side, with regulatory protocols KYL and AML present.

According to the FT, Switzerland-based ICOs attracted $550 million to their coffers between January and October 2017, compared to $580 million in the United States — the two top countries for token sales. All told, ICOs last year raised about $4 billion.

Swiss ICO Appeal

The appeal of Switzerland is clear, as evidenced by wealthy local investors coupled with high-quality tech talent. Demand for upcoming ICOs is persisting into 2018, with the Crypto Valley trade group getting up to 10 inquiries daily about doing a Swiss ICO.

They are looking to piggyback on the success of some other blockbuster Swiss deals, including blockchain smartphone maker Sirin Labs, a Swiss-Israeli startup that raised more than $157 million in its ICO. Switzerland’s biggest competition may be Gibraltar, with the Gibraltar Stock Exchange doing an ICO.

Not that there haven’t been any losers, with the Tezos ICO debacle still unfolding after raising $232 million. The latest development being Johann Gevers, head of the Swiss Foundation who has been embroiled in a fight with the Tezos founders, reportedly pledging to resign once the project is moving forward.

Meanwhile, of the top 10 upcoming ICOs, 40% are domiciled in Switzerland, as per PwC data cited in the FT.

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