What Kills Crypto Projects: Analyzing Deadcoins

With Halloween approaching, it seems like an appropriate moment to take a peek into the crypto industry’s graveyard. Even in an industry as young as crypto, plenty of projects have already died, and sites like Coinopsy and DeadCoins are providing crowd-sourced autopsy reports.

Just for fun, we did some digging into Coinopsy’s data to learn more about the kinds of projects that fail. And we found some interesting patterns.

Coinospy has over 700 entries spanning eight years, which makes it one of the best available windows into the crypto project burial ground. That said, Coinopsy’s data is incomplete and crowd-sourced, so it probably contains some inaccuracies.

The site also doesn’t provide its data in downloadable or chart format, so to perform our analysis, we collected this data manually.

What Kills Crypto Projects

Coinopsy’s data includes a few different causes of death. The most common was death by abandonment, meaning that investors have simply stopped trading the token and its volume has fallen to zero (or near zero). 63.1% of projects met this fate.

The next big group of dead projects was (alleged) scams — a whopping 29.9% of projects on Coinopsy fell into this category. Most of these alleged scams came during 2017, probably inspired by the runaway bull market. In this data set, the number of scams jumps more than 5x in 2017 compared to the previous year.

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Interestingly, the data also includes the names of founders for some of the projects. Two founders, a Bitcointalk user named “Crunck” and someone named “Daniel Mendoza” are each named as having founded three different dead alleged scam projects on the list (although again, this data is curated from crowd-sourced suggestions and may not be accurate).

Other sources of crypto death include ICOs failing or fizzling (3.6%) and obvious “joke” projects (3.2%) like “AnalCoin”, “BagCoin”, and “BieberCoin.”

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How Many Dead Projects Are There?

It’s impossible to say precisely how many crypto projects have died, and the answer depends to some extent on how you define “dead.” Cointopsy currently lists 705, DeadCoins lists 1,779, and CoinMarketCap lists over 1,000 projects with less than USD $1,000 per day in trading volume, which certainly puts them in the category of “dying” if not “outright dead.”

These three databases have overlaps, of course, but there are probably quite a few dead projects that aren’t listed on any of them. It’s likely that failed international projects marketed primarily in non-English languages are particularly under-sampled, since all three of the aforementioned sites serve a primarily English-speaking audience.

How Long Do Doomed Projects Survive?

One of the most interesting things about the Cointopsy data is that it has “start” and “end” years for almost every project, which enables us to get a rough picture of how long each project survived.

Unsurprisingly, the “abandoned” projects — i.e., those that actually got off the ground but ultimately lost investor interest — tended to last the longest, with an average lifespan of 1.7 years. Failed and fizzled ICOs lasted nearly as long, with a 1.6 year average lifespan. Joke projects, apparently, only stay funny for an average of 1.4 years.

Scam projects had the shortest average lifespan of the bunch, lasting just around one year.