Quantitative Finance and Economics (2020-12-01)

Cheap signals in security token offerings (STOs)

  • Lennart Ante,
  • Ingo Fiedler

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 4, no. 4
pp. 608 – 639


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Blockchain-based security token offerings (STOs) provide a new way of crowdfunding and corporate financing. Tokens are immediately transferable and can be traded 24/7 on secondary markets, clearing and settlement is a matter of only a few minutes, tokens can be held personally, i.e. brokers and custody accounts are no longer required and the underlying blockchain ensures transparency of all transactions. This study provides an overview of security tokens and the STO model for corporate financing. Our analysis investigates security tokens from the perspective of a firm looking to raise capital. Building on signaling theory, this paper examines 1) whether companies conducting an STO make use of cheap signals to influence investment behavior and 2) if such use of cheap signals is effective. We analyze a dataset of 151 STOs and identify that cheap signals of human capital and social media are used by projects and have a positive effect on funding success. The type of signals influencing funding success indicate that the market is still immature, as projects have a clear incentive to enlarge the level of asymmetric information between them and potential investors. The anticipated level of punishment for misusing cheap signaling is low, as the mechanism does not represent fraud but "cheating". This is a concern for investor protection.