Finance

Estonia’s plan to replace boring bonds with crazy cryptocurrencies

By Oliver Smith 23 August 2017
Kaspar Korjus, head of Estonia's e-Residency.
Summary

Is Estcoin the next Bitcoin?

If you missed it, we’re in the midst of a boom in new digital money.

First people launched them as a new type of currency, like Bitcoin, then companies started them as a way to raise money, known as ‘initial coin offerings’ or ICOs, now even countries are looking at smart new ways to make money.

Estonia is one of the most digitally-savvy countries in the world, having already launched a digital citizenship scheme which lets anyone in the world gain access to government services and set up an EU-based company without ever even visiting.

Now the director of ‘e-Residency’ is mulling whether a digital currency called ‘Estcoin’ could be a natural next step.

Read more: ‘Underground fundraising’ is keeping investors up at night

Image: Getty/KavalenkavaVolha.

Will you invest?

The idea of Estcoin would “enable anyone to invest in a country for the first time” writes Kaspar Korjus, whose idea is that investor’s cash would be placed in a fund to develop Estonia’s digital nation project.

“This would enable Estonia to invest in new technologies and innovations for the public sector, from smart contracts to Artificial Intelligence, as well as make it technically scalable to benefit more people around the world,” he writes.

“Estonia would then serve a model for how societies of the future can be served in the digital era.”

Estcoins value could be based on the success of the fund, which might also invest in Estonian startups, and its investors could trade Estcoins as the value of that fund grows – although Korjus stresses that right now this is all hypothetical.

Will it work?

It sounds nuts, but followers of the industry say this is the future.

“A country launching its own ICO may sound absurd, but it’s just the logical progression of a future with a spectrum of different kinds of money,” Wong Joon Ian, who covers technology, cryptocurrencies and blockchains at Quartz and previously at Coindesk, told The Memo.

“Indeed, Estcoin could be seen as less absurd than many company ICOs we have already seen that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars without even a product or users yet.”

Hussein Kanji, partner of venture capital fund Hoxton Ventures, told The Memo that Estonia’s idea is akin to what countries have done for hundreds of years when they need to raise cash.

“The idea of a bond offering from external investors to support internal growth is nothing new. [Estcoin just] looks like a variation of this.”

With over 21,000 e-Residents of Estonia, who’ve already paid €100 for the privilege, Estcoin certainly wouldn’t be short of interest.

And, given Estonia’s huge startup success with the likes of Skype and Transferwise (founded in Estonia), a public fund that invests in these businesses and supports the country’s digital projects could be a very appealing investment.

Would you invest?