ICO startups band together to create $100M+ grant fund for Ethereum projects

In a first of its kind, half a dozen ICO companies have come together to collaborate on a new fund that plans to pay out more than $100 million to promising projects in the Ethereum crypto space.

The vehicle — called the Ethereum Community Fund — will be supported by crypto projects Omise Go, Cosmos, Golem, Maker, and Raiden, with Japanese VC Global Brain also in tow. The door is open for other projects and companies to join and the fund size could increase independent of that, too.

These are visible members of the crypto space: among them, OMG’s coin market cap is $1.6 billion, Golem’s is $360 million, and Maker’s is $680 million, according to Coinmarketcap.com, while Raiden and Cosmos are highly-rated from a technical standpoint.

Beyond those projects, the Ethereum Foundation, which controls the Ether token that is the base for the majority of ICO projects, is involved with founder Vitalik Buterin confirmed in an advisory role alongside a number of other industry figures.

The exact scope of the project is not fully clear at this point, but TechCrunch understands that initially more than $100 million in fiat, Ether and other tokens has been pooled for the fund, which is known as ECF. The capital will be deployed via grants — i.e. not in exchange for equity or tokens — that will be awarded to projects, services or business that are seen to “enrich” the Ethereum community.

“This program will be established as a permanent financial endowment to support and aid projects in building crucial open-source infrastructure, tooling, and applications,” reads the fund’s website.

In practical terms, the ‘Infrastructure Grant Program’ is likely to primarily focus on enabling valuable tech on the infrastructure side. For one thing, Ethereum needs to work on increasing its transaction capacity, as Buterin himself has long admitted and is working to improve. There’s also scope for grants to add value in other ways, perhaps with highly-rated technology or projects.

ECF isn’t providing grant details at this point, but sources with knowledge of the plans said grants could range from $50,000-$500,000 in size with the potential for follow-on funding (grants) to enable progress. Even still, that’s a fairly wide berth. We’re only likely to know more once the money begins to be deployed.

“Ethereum has grown beyond my expectations over the last few years, but the work is clearly not finished. Delivering value that matches the hype should be the mantra of 2018; efforts such as the ECF which help organize the development of the ecosystem are going to help to make that possible,” the Ethereum Foundation’s Buterin said in a statement.

The Ethereum Foundation itself has long run a grant program, and last month it announced its own revamped effort to dole out checks of $50,000-$1 million to projects that can help the scaling problem.

There could be more beyond the grants.

The ECF website states that the grant program is a “first step towards supporting the growth of the Ethereum ecosystem,” and we understand that there is the potential for a for-profit investment element to emerge from the organization in the future. (Naming it the Ethereum Community Fund is another hint that it may not just focus on grants.)

As I reported last month, a host of ICO companies are primed to launch investment funds that are aimed at growing their nascent ecosystems and encouraging companies to build on the platforms that they are developing.

Already, we’ve seen Ripple executives taking part in venture capital funding — after backing San Francisco-based Omni — and it stands to reason that the trend will continue given the vast amounts of capital (albeit in crypto tokens) that some of these crypto companies have pulled in via their ICOs. Even with crypto tokens dropping from all-time highs in January, a number of them remain awash with funds and keen to lure developers and other projects to their platforms.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.