There’s another major factor at work here. The DAO is funded entirely with Ether, the cryptocurrency that’s rivalling bitcoin and exploding in value. That is to say, users need to convert dollars or bitcoins or other currencies to Ether, which they then use to invest in the DAO.

Ether was trading at about $0.90 in December, but is now changing hands at nearly $15, or a 15-fold increase in six months. In fact, the DAO has proved so popular among holders of Ether, that the DAO now accounts for almost 14% of the value of all Ether in circulation.

Ether, and the protocol it’s built on, called Ethereum, is an essential part of the DAO project. It allows developers to write smart contracts, self-executing agreements that don’t require human intervention, thus enabling ideas like an organization that manages itself. The DAO is essentially a complicated smart contract, with hard-coded rules on voting and governance.

But the same free-market beliefs that birthed the DAO could also stifle it. That’s because DAO stakeholders received tokens in exchange for their Ether at a fixed rate when they bought in. The price of Ether has nearly doubled since DAO tokens first became available on Apr. 30, in large part because of the hype generated by the DAO itself.  Token holders now have a large incentive to swap their tokens out and get Ether back, which can then be sold for US dollars or bitcoins.

Token-holders can’t sell out now, because the DAO smart contract says tokens are locked up during this subscription period. But the lock-up period ends in seven days. That’s when we’ll see a drop in Ether’s stratospheric price rise. “As soon as people are able to transfer out of DAO tokens, the Ether price will drop temporarily,” says Joseph Lee, who runs London-based bitcoin trading platform Magnr. “People would want to cash out. The price has been rising rapidly.”

A drop in the Ether price would leave a dent in the value of the DAO’s funds. But for true believers in the decentralized ways of the DAO, it’s a small price to pay for a future without middle-men. “The amounts raised now are making people think this is no longer a toy,” says Slockit’s Tual. “This is going to make a very big difference. It’s paving the way for a billion-dollar project.”

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