The crypto market hit such a fevered pitch in late 2017 that it seemed like any token sale could raise millions of dollars with only a website and a promise of an eventual whitepaper draft. But those days are coming to a close. Mainstream investors (and their regulators) are getting more and more involved in the blockchain world, and expect information to help them conduct due diligence before handing over money. Experienced crypto investors are becoming choosier too, after getting burned by a series of failed or scam companies.
When companies launch ICOs, they’re asking token purchasers to take a chance. Purchasers buy tokens hoping that they’ll hold their value and serve a use on a real blockchain platform that the company can’t yet afford to complete. A shocking number of ICOs fail to deliver platforms after selling their tokens (a recent study found that almost half of 2017 ICOs had collapsed by early 2018), so purchasers are understandably becoming more picky about who they trust to follow through on platform deployment.
Develop Talent and Partnerships
One essential component to earning potential purchasers’ trust is to nurture talent, experience, and valuable partnerships within the company. A proven track record among company leadership shows that executives know how to execute a complete project and are less likely to flounder and drown in the many, many challenges that face startups and new businesses. Many promising startups, of course, are helmed by fresh faces in the tech world, but the presence of unproven members on the team must be balanced out by guidance and expertise from more experienced members of the business world.
If a company’s business model revolves around heavy usage by stakeholders outside the (still somewhat insular) blockchain world, then proving partnerships and experience in the target industry and not just the blockchain industry is essential. Deedcoin, a startup that uses blockchain tokens to improve the economics of real estate agent fees, requires a network of Deedcoin-approved agents who work with the token and charge lower prices to consumers. Deedcoin is co-founded by two experienced real estate professionals. Perhaps even more importantly, by the time they launched their ICO, they already boasted a network of partner agents in 150 cities spread across all 50 U.S. states (with plans to expand internationally). Deedcoin token purchasers didn’t need to wonder if Deedcoin had the skills to build necessary connections for deploying their product, because those connections were already in place.
Write a Quality Whitepaper
Whitepapers are essential in the ICO world. They synthesize the market need your company will address, the platform it will use to address it, and how it will turn revenues from a token sale into a fully deployed product.
Unfortunately, crypto has experienced a rash of low-quality white papers. A sarcastic post from Adam Ghahramani on VentureBeat satirized many of the common pitfalls of ICO whitepapers. He exhorted writers to “Never use an everyday word when you can use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word” and “Copy and paste every section of your website into the white paper.” An informal whitepaper survey from Reza Jafery on Hackernoon found that successful papers tend to use simple and highly readable language, even if they explain highly technical platforms.
Use of industry terminology is unavoidable at some points, but even industry outsiders should be able to read a whitepaper and grasp the basics of the company’s value offering. Whitepapers are one of the most critical marketing tools ICOs have, so it’s worth it to take the time to get them right.
Create a Marketing Presence
While crypto enthusiasm has attracted billions of dollars to blockchain innovation, a downside of the recent exuberant crypto space has been its crowded nature. Quality platforms can’t just let their product speak for itself and assume token purchasers will find it. Instead, they must have a marketing presence that provides real information on the offered token’s utility, relying both on style and substance.
Crypto marketing has become more difficult recently as platforms have begun restricting crypto content in an attempt to curb scams. Facebook recently banned most kinds of ICO ads, while the SEC has issued warnings to investors about potentially misleading ad promises. In a tenser marketing atmosphere, marketing tactics must be backed up by real information on token’s market value. Some companies, for example, participate in crypto events where they can explain their product as part of a panel discussion, while others create Youtube videos that use graphics to illustrate how their platform works. Logos and banner ads are only a small portion of the crypto marketing puzzle and will be less and less useful as more ICO restrictions go into place and token buyers become more discerning.
It’s tempting to rush into an ICO–they can provide a welcome cash infusion for bootstrapped blockchain startups. But a hastily launched ICO often doesn’t adequately communicate its value to investors, and as a result is more likely to attract token speculators rather than purchasers who are genuinely invested in the platform’s long-term success. A well-planned ICO can also be a very short process when it commences. DAOstack, a platform that offers a “Wordpress for DAOs,” took the time needed to attract an impressive talent roster, draft a comprehensive white paper, and increase their marketing presence in a substantive, platform-focused way. When they launched their ICO in early May, eager token buyers snapped up their entire token sale offering in about 66 seconds.
Planning an ICO takes time, but that time pays off when a successful token sale attracts revenue and a meaningful relationship with an invested token holder community.