The largest holder of messaging app Telegram’s tokens, known as TON, is planning to offer them to the public. South Korea-based Gram Asia is offering the tokens in a public offering on the Liquid cryptocurrency exchange on July 10th. Exact details of the sale are, such as number of TON tokens to be made available to the public and their prices, have not been released.
Users at the exchange can purchase the tokens using US dollar and USDC, a stablecoin launched by Boston-based Circle. The tokens will not be available to users until the network’s actual launch on October 31st, when they will be transferred to TON-compatible wallets on Liquid. The exchange has promised to refund investors if the Telegram’s proposed network does not launch. The sale is not open to investors in several countries, including United States and Japan.
Gram Asia is led by Dongbeong Kim, who also leads Koinvestor – a global blockchain investment firm. Koinvestor is also an investor in Qash, Liquid’s internal token. Not surprisingly, Qash holders will receive a rebate discount for TON tokens during the July offering.
Su Zhu, CEO of venture capital firm Three Arrows Capital, described the move by Gram Asia as effectively “syndicating its Gram holdings onto Liquid exchange clients.” In other words, it will be minimizing its own risk by offloading the tokens onto clients of Liquid exchange.
A Checkered Trajectory
Telegram’s TON tokens have had an interesting trajectory. The tokens are part of a peer-to-peer network planned by Telegram to sell goods and services to its users. The network is planned to be a rival to similar ones operated by financial services firms, such as Visa and MasterCard.
Even as Telegram publicized the sale, however, critics pointed out various flaws in its whitepaper, from blockchain’s scaling problems to the absence of an innovative approach. The numbered days for SAFT (Safe Agreement for Future Tokens), which envisages security tokens being converted to utility tokens at some point in the future, was another reason.
Major venture capital firms were split on the merits of Telegram’s offering. While Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures sat it out, others, like Benchmark Capital and Facebook investor Yuri Milner, were attracted to the prospect of implementing crypto at scale across Telegram’s user base consisting of 260 million members. Eventually, Telegram ended up raising the required amount through private offering and the public sale was shelved. Telegram is reported to have contracted with German firm Wirecard for development of its network.
According to a PDF that online publication Cointelegraph claimed is the original investor agreement, Telegram’s founders will have to pay back the full amount they raised from VC firms, if the proposed blockchain network does not launch by 31 Oct.