Ethereum is not Bitcoin, it was not and it will never be. But its impact is great, if not greater, than Bitcoin. It did not start the whole cryptocurrency world as Bitcoin did, but the revolutionary system brings a new taste to the community. Back then when there was no Ethereum, there is no easy way to collect money to start a new project. Indeed there are also ways to get funded by receiving bitcoins (and later Ethereum, since the its transaction fee is way lower than bitcoin back then when bottleneck happened).
When I joined an ICO for the first time a year ago, I received nothing as a proof that I have a fraction of their company (we can see an ICO as similar to IPO – initial public offering to sell new stocks). It was just stated on their fundraising website that they promise to give me a certain amount of coins (not an exact number of coins) after they roll out their products (uncertain when they really roll out their system, probably next year).
Ethereum community then found a more convenient way to do the ICO. Instead of just receiving an empty promise (or receiving nothing at all), everyone can create tokens whenever they want, especially during ICO. Even now there are several standards in which can be adopted by anyone, for example ERC20 Token or its modification, called ERC23 Token. It is easy to just copy-paste the code provided in the standard and make some modifications if needed. Then, they can commit the smart contract and do some PR jobs.
By the time people buy the tokens, they can start buying and selling the tokens at the markets. So it is one of the team’s task to make sure that their token can be bought or sold on the market, although it is not the final product. By the end of the promised timeline they can roll out their products and they can have a much higher market price. It is a nice strategy for those who want to start their own cryptocurrencies.
Now, I have explained the role of Ethereum. It is convenient because during ICO we do not need to show our final products and the token system will do the job well. The Ethereum impact is real and huge. Several high-value cryptocurrencies listed on Coinmarketcap nowadays are just Ethereum tokens. OmiseGO as the top 18 for instance, is currently worth US$915,638,021, each token is valued at US$8.97. Half of the US$300billion market value still goes to Bitcoin, but Ethereum is also holding a significant portion when we calculate the value of its own ETH added by every tokens created using its system.
I still believe that Ethereum (or at least its approach of providing a flexible programming feature) has a place in the future.