When it comes to initial coin offerings or ICOs — crowdfunding events in which participants buy digital tokens from a startup — the London-based Stratis is one of the original gangsters. The company launched a successful ICO in June 2016, way back before the ICO craze, selling its STRAT tokens for $0.007 each.
The price of STRAT has skyrocketed to $6 since, earning early investors who never sold it more than 80,000% in returns. The coin’s market cap currently sits at $592 million, making STRAT the 41st largest cryptocurrency out there. But Stratis, which describes itself as blockchain for the enterprise, has been fairly quiet since in those two years, which is a very long time in cryptocurrency world.
Not anymore. This month Stratis launched its ICO platform, which aims to make the process of both running and participating in an ICO simple and fool-proof. The company also has big plans for the future, as it aims to launch smart contracts on its blockchain later this month.
As numerous cryptocurrency startups can attest, an ICO can be a very lucrative funding route, but running it well is a tall order. It’s near impossible to find an ICO that hasn’t run into some sort of problem, be it technical glitches, interfering scammers, or poor communication with investors.
The Stratis ICO Platform aims to streamline this by offering a sort of a “white label” solution for startups wishing to run an ICO. The platform offers design customization, the ability to accept funds in more than 50 cryptocurrencies and U.S. dollars, as well as an integrated KYC (know-your-customer) service (from partnering startup Onfido) for checking participants’ identities. The use of the platform is free, and two startups, Gluon and BeyondGlobalTrade, are already slated to use it for their upcoming ICOs.
On Stratis, developers can build projects in familiar environments like C# or .NET.
Stratis also plans to expand its blockchain, whose main differentiator is that it allows to build native apps in commonly used C# and .NET programming environments, to allow for smart contracts. But the competition in the space is fierce: Well-funded startups such as Cardano and EOS are racing to create a next-generation smart contract platform.
To learn more about Stratis’ plans, I spoke, via Skype, to the company CEO, Christopher Trew.
“We’ve never done a serious marketing push until now,” Trew told me. “We’ve been extremely frugal with our funds”. These funds are considerable, as Stratis own a sizeable portion of its own tokens. Now, Trew and his team seem to be ready to tackle the largest projects in the space.
The first big push this year comes in the form of Stratis’ ICO Platform. “It’s a web app. Somebody can come along, deploy in Azure and do their own ICO. It’s free to use, and the fact that the person can deploy it themselves means they’re using their own infrastructure, which means there’s no trust placed upon us,” said Trew.
Stratis’ competitors in this space include Bitcoin Suisse and Lykke. But Stratis claims its platform is easiest to use. “Somebody can very easily deploy an ICO with one click, fill out a few options, and their ICO is up and running,” said Trew. The platform utilizes ASP.net and runs on Azure, which should make the ICO secure and robust.
This is important, since a typical popular ICO will have thousands of investors trying to fill out forms and send their funds roughly at the same time. “We hope we’ll see a lot less of these ICOs where people try to invest and can’t do so because the site has gone down,” said Trew.
The ICO platform is just one part of Stratis’ master plan. The company plans to launch an alpha version of its smart contract platform on May 16. That, along with upcoming solutions for scaling, which include sidechains and a promising technology called TumbleBit, should make Stratis a lot more like the leading decentralized app platform, Ethereum. And Stratis is already using a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, meaning it does not require energy-intensive coin “mining,” while Ethereum is planning to gradually switch to PoS in the future.
It’s awfully hard, even for experts, to judge which blockchain project is further along when it comes to securely implementing all this bleeding-edge tech. Stratis hasn’t been boasting its technological achievements as loudly as some other projects, but on paper it appears it’s up there with the best of them.
Stratis’ primary focus, however, is the enterprise. New Ethereum-based startups show up daily, but building on Ethereum means learning a new programming language called Solidity. On Stratis, which has a partnership with Microsoft, developers can build projects in familiar environments like C# or .NET.
“It’s been developed from the beginning, targeting the enterprise. Nearly all of our workforce comes from an enterprise background. Myself, I’ve worked in the enterprise space for 15 years as a technical architect before I started Stratis,” said Trew. “We believe we can make a compelling product in this space.”
Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH. The author of this text does not own, or has recently owned, STRAT.