Before you consider launching an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), you will first want to make sure an ICO campaign is suitable for your particular project. Can your business plan survive without a token? If so, why use a token? How would your token work? ICO’s are a hot funding source at the moment but the competition is tough and regulation is taking hold. So, before you spend your time and resources make sure you know you actually have a viable ICO project.
If you have decided an ICO is the way to go — here are some of the key elements you will have to cover on the road to your ICO launch:
Get a Lawyer
Talk to an experienced ICO lawyer. You, the issuer of the token, need to make sure you are not breaking any laws in the country your business is in and in the regions you are targeting the sale of your ICO in. Make sure your attorney has experience in ICO’s and cryptocurrency. I have seen many unnecessary delays due to projects having attorneys with good intentions but no cryptocurrency experience. I have also worked with ICO’s that thought they were ok locating their company in one country and having to stop the ICO, change course and start all over again due to regulations. ICO investors will feel more confident if your ICO is fully compliant with the security laws that apply to that country/state/region — period. Legal advisory should continue throughout your ICO sale and beyond.
“The regulatory landscape is evolving so quickly, ICO compliance is ever more nuanced. It’s critical to have an advisory firm that has been there, done that with multiple ICOs.” - Jack Bensimon, LL.M.
Investors want to see what real world problem your project will address and solve. What is the market like? Who are your competitors? I worked with an ICO that thought they were the ‘only’ company offering their specific product. A little research found one company in Asia attempting to do the same thing. A SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, if done correctly, helps the management team identify the internal and external factors that may affect the performance of your ICO and of the development of your project. The information you collect from your market analysis will help in the development of your white paper and prevent you from making marketing mistakes like claiming your the ‘one and only’ when there are other projects coming down the wire just like yours.
Create a Working Prototype
A working prototype can be vital to the success of your ICO. In fact, some investors will not even consider investing in an ICO which has no prototype. Proof of Work (POW) or POC (Proof of Concept) shows investors that your product is in development and has been given to real users to test. Crypto projects tend to contain open-source code. Push a piece of code to the Github code repository. This creates trust and allows others to see and make suggestions about the code.
Team & Advisors
Develop your team and advisors — Your team is essential to the success of your ICO. You will have more success with a team of professionals that have traceable histories and great reputations within the Community and or in their respective fields than those with flowery, descriptive backgrounds that can’t be traced or are faked. Choose your advisors wisely. Many just want to collect a pay check and will do little to advise your or the public about your project.
The white paper may be one of the most important elements of your ICO, especially if you do not have a Proof of Work. The white paper thoroughly describes the technical specifications of your project, the solution to the problem you project will solve, the SWOT analysis you did at the beginning of your ICO journey, information about your token, legal waivers, team composition, advisors, roadmap of project deliverables, etc.
Website — Front and Backend
The frontend of your website is what we like to call ‘the pretty’ part. This is the face of your website that contains the crypto looking graphics, a cool diagram of your roadmap, your whitepaper, team members, advisors, token allocation, token sales dates, social media accounts, contribution details and links to any necessary translations. Most importantly there should be clear instructions on how to invest. This links to the backend of your website which contains the investors portal, wallet and smart contract.
Audits — Security and White Paper
We stress above about legal advisory throughout the ICO. Before you launch you may want to have a final audit and legal advisory of your white paper. Marketing claims can get you in trouble with regulators so it’s wise to make sure all claims in your white paper and on your website are not going to raise any red flags.
A security audit on your ICO purchasing protocol is a must. If your ICO shows signs of success you will be open to various types of attacks that could result in the loss of a lot of money and your reputation within the Community. A security audit will let your investors know you are following good data protection procedures and give your investors peace of mind knowing that all ‘known’ risk factors have been mitigated.
Community Engagement & Social Media
Time to get the information about your ICO launch to as many places as possible. Bitcointalk, and Reddit are two important channels for ICO information. You will need to spend time on these sites; just posting and leaving; not spending any time on these platforms get you nowhere. Telegram and or Slack are great places to have ongoing conversations, grow a following and answer questions about your ICO. Traditional social media like Twitter and Facebook are important places to maintain a presence as well.
Marketing & PR
Press releases and blog articles should be written and published via selective paid sources and free platforms. Crypto sites are going to get more costly due to Google’s ban on ICO Adword campaigns but they are incredibly important. I found during successful ICO campaigns that even if the potential investor saw an ad served up by Adwords or through a thread on Reddit or Bitcointalk, they still went to the top crypto sites and ICO rating sites for further research and validation. ICO calendar listings & paid advertising on select sites will be vital to raising awareness about your ICO — Coinschedule, Top ICO List, ICO Alert, ICO Watchlist, CryptoCompare, etc. Medium, Steemit and LinkedIn are great places to post articles.
Now your ready to launch your ICO, however, don’t think it’s all smooth sailing from here. Managing your ICO sale is a whole other article.
**The following roadmap is not an exact step by step guide to launching your ICO — it is just a guide**
Tip — schedule a vacation shortly after the completion of your successful ICO