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2017 was the breakout year for cryptocurrency; the year when ICOs went from something known only to those in certain dark corners of the internet, to an irresistible investment opportunity for both casual individuals and major capital firms.

In the first quarter of 2017, a total of seven ICOs were launched, raising around $28 million in the process. The following quarter saw a four-fold increase as the number of ICOs launched jumped to twenty-five, with a fundraising total of $680 million.

By the third quarter the number of launches doubled again, and the market value of those ICOs tipped over the $1 billion mark.

The trend continued into the fourth quarter, and by the end of December a total of $4.9 billion had been raised in the space of a year, and cryptocurrency was now well and truly on the map.

Most of the projects attached to these ICOs have either disappeared, or have simply not made a noticeable impact on the market yet.

But which of those ICOs actually delivered on their investment potential? Here’s a list of the top five most profitable ICOs of 2017, rated by returns on investment.

Aeternity – 7803%

Aeternity (AE) occupies the top spot among the ICOs launched in 2017 for their returns on investment, and in the 13 months since Aeternity’s launch the value of the AE token has risen by a ridiculous 7803%.

AE tokens started at a price of $0.043, and now stand at a unit price of $3.41. Aeternity rose rapidly to the market cap top 30, where it now competes with Ox and Bitcoin Gold.

Aeternity’s highest market cap value to date did not come in January during the spike, but at the beginning of May when one AE token reached a price of $5.00. From April to May of 2018, Aeternity grew 381% in value.

Aeternity uses a type of off-chain technology known as State Channels to facilitate direct transactions between users without having to go through the main blockchain. Smart contracts can operate on these state channels, and transaction records only have to pass through the mainchain in the case of disagreements between transacting parties.

Off-chain solutions solve the typical blockchain scalability problem, as they allow transactions to take place off the main blockchain, thus cutting down on processing times.

Aeternity uses a hybrid consensus algorithm which combines aspects of both Proof-of-Stake (PoS) and Proof-of-Work (PoW); features an Oracle system which tracks real world events that might affect trade markets, and comes with an integrated voting system where anyone with AE tokens can have their voice heard on the network.

The growth of AE thus far has all come before the launch of Aeternity’s mainnet, which is due on the 30th June, 2018.

Populous – 4529%

Populous is a peer-to-peer blockchain platform which provides direct access to the invoice trading market.

The practice of trading in unpaid invoices is already a booming market hidden away inside the technical corners of the financial sector. Creditors will happily sell their uncollected debts off for a lower price if it means they paid quicker. Investors get the chance to earn money by contributing to the payment of those debts, and then collecting the profit at the end when the debt is paid in full.

When Populous launched in June of 2017 their PPT tokens were sold at a value of $0.278. Less than twelve months later that same token is worth $12.871 – averaging gains of over 400% month on month.

The market cap of the time of writing is around $480 million, while during January’s brief peak Populous was worth $2.2 billion, when a single PPT token was worth $72 dollars.

QTUM – 4497%

Qtum (QTUM) launched in April of 2017 with an initial coin price of $0.292. Now, just over a year later, the unit price stands at $13.425. For those of you without calculators that’s a 4497% return on investment.

Qtum occupies a unique space in the crypto community, as it is a hybrid platform which blends the best features of Bitcoin and Ethereum into one efficient system.

Originally created from a fork of the Bitcoin blockchain, Qtum also features a modified version of the EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine). This gives Qtum the ability to execute smart contracts and run decentralized applications, without sacrificing the reliability of the original, trusted blockchain.

The project is also compatible with already existing Bitcoin gateways and Ethereum smart contracts, and this may go some way in explaining how Qtum has been able to make such an impact in such a short time.

OmiseGo – 4338%

When OmiseGo (OMG) arrived on the scene in July 2017, it came bearing promises of a project which would unify the disparate range of financial services all over the world into one easily accessible Ethereum-based platform.

With an initial coin offering price of $0.244, OmiseGo shot to prominence over the next ten months, and at the time of writing one OMG token is currently worth $10.653. That’s an ROI gain of 4338%.

OmiseGo propelled itself to the higher echelons of the market cap top 100 – where it now hovers around 20th place, competing with the likes of Qtum and Lisk.

It’s interesting to note the similarities between OmiseGo and Qtum – they both started off with near identical coin prices, both have comparable coin circulations, and now they are both fighting it out for 20th spot on the top 100.

OmiseGo provides services for the financial industry, and it aims to provide a digital infrastructure for every day functions like payroll management, business-to-business transactions, and even pension and loyalty programmes.

Digital assets can be traded directly on OmiseGo’s on-chain exchange, and the development team hope to rollout their Plasma Network in coming years, which they say will be capable of millions of transactions per second.

Neblio – 3693%

Neblio has been up and running for nine months and already has seen a dramatic upturn in value – to the tune of 3693%. Or to put it another way, if you’d gambled $200 on Neblio at startup just nine months ago, you’d currently be sitting on a lump sum of $7,368.

At the launch of the ICO, one NEBL coin was worth $0.207, and now less than a year on it sells for $7.853 on popular exchanges.

Neblio caters to the industrial scale decentralized application market, and provides handy tool sets for the creation of apps directly on their blockchain network. Neblio’s apps are compatible with nearly every programming language, and the company have proven that if you can provide a useful product, customers will invariably come.

Neblio uses proof-of-stake for its consensus algorithm, and allows every wallet on the network to act as a node. Neblio proclaim infinite scalability, since the network can grow organically whenever a new user logs on, simply by opening up another node.

The Neblio roadmap extends to 2019, however the network is already up and running and can joined by buying NEBL coins from a current holder.

Notable Mentions – Ox, Etheroll, Metal, EOS

All of these altcoins were formed in 2017 and have performed admirably – every one of them recording gains well above 1000%.

Ox in particular only narrowly missed out on the top 5 after growing 2669% since its launch last August.

EOS may be the highest placed of these in terms of market cap, but is has only grown 1241% since its launch – less than a sixth of the growth shown by Aeternity in roughly the same time frame.

Ultimately, 2017 proved a landmark year for cryptocurrencies. The highest ROI growth of all time has been recorded by NXT and IOTA – but those projects were launched in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

All of the ICOs in this list have grown at such a rate that they could feasibly be expected to outperform some of the more established coins in the years to come.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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