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You’re going to hear a lot about initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the coming months.

As investors have poured more and more money into newly created virtual currencies, they have created a gold-rush mentality. In recent months, some ICOs have raised tens of millions of dollars, and in early October the cryptocurrency market as a whole was worth about $140 billion.
Some ICOs have been for serious projects trying to solve hard technical problems. Others seemed like little more than cynical attempts to cash in on the speculative boom.

Celebrities like Paris Hilton, Floyd Mayweather, and Ghostface Killah have endorsed ICOs The launch video for the cryptocurrency Hilton endorsed, called LydianCoin, consisted entirely of cliches: “Purpose isn’t defined by what you want to achieve but what you want to live for to achieve happiness.” (Hilton has since deleted her tweet endorsing LydianCoin.)
But throughout 2016 and 2017, ICOs of all shapes and sizes have repeatedly set new fundraising records as existing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ether simultaneously soared in value.

Experts we talked to—like Peter Van Valkenburg, an expert at a blockchain advocacy group called Coin Center—didn’t think that was a coincidence.
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