By comparison, however, altcoins are exponentially more volatile. Because they have such low market caps (the total value of all coins combined), altcoin markets are highly prone to price manipulation. Wealthy traders–colloquially called “whales”–often inject large amounts of capital into low-priced coins to build hype and cause the price to skyrocket. Once the price has risen considerably, the whales sell their coins on exchanges at a massive profit, hurting many gullible investors in the process. This method is known as a “pump and dump.” Not only does this hurt greedy traders who did not take the time to do their homework, but it often proves to be the breath of an altcoin’s brief lifespan.
An initial coin offering (ICO) is a controversial means of raising funds for a new cryptocurrency venture. An ICO may be used by startups with the intention of avoiding regulation. However, securities regulators in many jurisdictions, including in the U.S., and Canada have indicated that if a coin or token is an "investment contract" (e.g., under the Howey test, i.e., an investment of money with a reasonable expectation of profit based significantly on the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others), it is a security and is subject to securities regulation. In an ICO campaign, a percentage of the cryptocurrency (usually in the form of "tokens") is sold to early backers of the project in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies, often bitcoin or ether.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, four of the 10 biggest proposed initial coin offerings have used Switzerland as a base, where they are frequently registered as non-profit foundations. The Swiss regulatory agency FINMA stated that it would take a “balanced approach“ to ICO projects and would allow “legitimate innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape and so launch their projects in a way consistent with national laws protecting investors and the integrity of the financial system.” In response to numerous requests by industry representatives, a legislative ICO working group began to issue legal guidelines in 2018, which are intended to remove uncertainty from cryptocurrency offerings and to establish sustainable business practices.
Bitcoins are mined with powerful computer hardware and software. A maximum of 21 million Bitcoin will be available, after which no further bitcoins will be produced. The algorithm which governs the production of Bitcoin limits the quantity that will be produced, and the rate at which they will be produced. It is a finite commodity – there is a fixed amount, and that ensures that greater demand will always prop up the price. In this way, it is similar to other finite commodities such as crude oil, silver, or gold.