Cryptocurrency To Buy Real Estate? Aspen Resort Offered Exactly That, Through Indiegogo

St. Regis Aspen Resort launched unique real estate security tokens on blockchain. Here, the new lobby mural debuts at the resort in Aspen, Colorado, Dec. 20, 2013. Photo: Jason Bahr/Getty Images

By Ranjitha Shastry, International Business Times

In an example of the use of blockchain for real-world transactions, the owners of St. Regis Aspen Resort in Colorado launched real estate security tokens on ethereum blockchain with help from Indiegogo, an online crowdfunding platform.

"It’s the Aspen St. Regis, which is a blueship luxury resort in Aspen. It’s an Asset, and now people will be able to invest in it through a security token, and we are working with them (the owners of the Resort) as our marketing partner," Slava Rubin, cofounder of Indiegogo explained at Fortune’s Balancing the Ledger show Aug. 23, when the token sale was announced. “From the beginning ten years ago, we always looked at democratizing access to capital and allowing people to get more involved in these opportunities and today we are talking about our expansion into security token offerings."

For the purposes of investment, the cryptocurrency coins are treated as security tokens which are replacement for paper certificates of equity in the property as investments.

In August, Indiegogo announced investors could buy shares in St. Regis Aspen Resort with tokens sold on the blockchain. For the sale of tokens, the resort started Aspen Coins from Aspen Digital Inc. token asset offering. These tokens were offered through Templum Markets, a broker-dealer registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and member of non-governmental regulator, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The sale price of tokens was set at $1 each, with a minimum investment of $10,000. The total size of the offering was $18 million and the offering ended Sept. 14. The tokens are tied to ethereum, the second-most valued cryptocurrency after bitcoin.

As a security token in the property, Aspen Coins provide no utility to holders other than as an investment instrument. That means that owning a coin does not translate into benefits or property ownership, but instead, is similar to owning shares in a publicly listed company. The mechanism of investment is merely that the tokens are themselves backed by a tangible asset.

St. Regis Aspen Resort represents one of the first major real estate properties in the U.S. to test out tokenization. Speaking about the concept, Stephane De Baets, owner of resort, conveyed to Fortune his interest in pursuing tokenization of properties "as it may bring liquidity to the historically illiquid asset class that is real estate."

“We’ve lined up a substantial pipeline of global properties to bring to market subsequent to the first offering. A lot of people don’t want to sit on depreciating fiat cash in a bank account,” De Baets told Fortune. “A high profile trophy asset is something you can be emotionally connected to and build a little bit of your savings portfolio on,” he added.

Indiegogo first ventured into the cryptocurrency space in December 2017 with a fan-controlled football league ICO. However, the company shut down operation in July after receiving $5.3 million in the token sale. Indiegogo’s token brokerage partner in that venture, MicroVentures, announced at the time buyers would receive refunds and no tokens were issued.

With this new attempt, Indiegogo is seeking to connect digital tokens with physical assets as a way to differentiate from other ICOs in the market.

“Having a clear asset like the St. Regis Aspen is the beginning of signaling a shift in how people think about tokenization and investing in blockchains and crypto,” Rubin said.

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