How Should the Law Classify Decentralized Businesses?

In July 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a ruling on The DAO, a decentralized smart-contract based investment fund, determining that the tokens it sold were unregistered securities and warning that other initial coin offerings (ICO) may need to comply with securities laws.[1] The DAO operated a decentralized venture capital firm on top of the Ethereum protocol. Investors contributed ether (a crypto-currency) to The DAO and received DAO tokens in exchange. The DAO held the ether in smart contracts, while the DAO tokens entitled investors to: (1) vote on which investment proposals to fund, and (2) a … Read more

Companies Face Risk and Opportunity with Distributed Governance Structures

In 2016, enterprising software developers sought to create a business entity with a unique governance structure: a leaderless, decentralized venture capital firm that would allow investors to vote on and collectively fund proposals. The Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO) attracted more capital than its backers had anticipated, becoming the largest crowdfunded project ever with $168 million raised. To participate, investors poured funds into ether, a digital currency designed to facilitate decentralized applications on Ethereum, which is an open source, blockchain-based computing platform. After acquiring ether, investors exchanged it for the DAO’s tokens, entitling them to participate in its governance, profits, and … Read more