Since the crypto boom, there has been a lot of buzz about initial coin offering and how it is the game-changer for fund-raising for different crypto projects looking to scale. But what is an initial coin offering (ICO) and how has it remarkably solved the issue of funding for many crypto projects? Read on to learn everything you need to know about ICOs. Plus, we will take you through a list of some of the top ICOs in the world, just to show you how effective ICOs were during their heydays.
Now to the million-dollar question many of you have been asking, What is an ICO? Read on as we will get to all that in a bit.
An initial coin offering (ICO) is among the many ways of raising capital for your project. Most blockchain-based digital projects between 2017 and 2018 heavily relied on this method to raise funds for their project.
Let’s say for instance you have a brilliant concept for a new blockchain startup, or you’re planning to build one of the world’s first decentralized computers on the blockchain network, say a project that would let users create native digital tokens and build sophisticated decentralized applications. Also, your project will allow users on the network to transact using your platform’s native tokens, a kind of digital assets created using your blockchain.
Sounds like a pretty good idea right? But then again, you’ll need funds to bring this project to fruition.
For more traditional projects or startups, you have some options on the table. You can either raise a seed round from private investors, pitch your idea to hundreds of venture capital funds or decide to opt for crowdfunding via many of the crowdfunding platforms out there.
On the flip side, with indigenous blockchain startups, you have another option on the card. Instead of opting for some of the funding sources highlighted above, you can decide to sell the tokens your project will eventually use. And as your project gains momentum and the tokens become more in demand, the value of your native token will surge, allowing investors to cash in on their investment. This is essentially what an ICO is. And like we mentioned right from the get-go, ICOs were insanely popular in the build-up of 2017 to 2018.
ICOs have tons of exciting advantages, little wonder why many projects between 2017 and 2018 heavily relied on it to raise funds for their project. Here are some reasons why we love ICOs:
Speed: It only takes about 100 lines of code to build an Ethereum powered token like ERC-20. More so, tokens can be created within the shortest time frame. With this information, we are sure you’re not too surprised about the rate at which new tokens were launched between 2017 and 2018.
Liquidity: Tokens are bought and sold on a global market that works around the clock.
No gatekeepers: With ICOs, any project can raise funds without having to deal with the bureaucracies of gatekeepers that are prevalent with traditional funding sources. All you need is a crypto-wallet and willing investors and you’re ready to roll.
Ownership: Remember that tokens do not necessarily grant investors ownership, except, of course, this is uniquely included in the token smart contract.
Community: Most ICOs initially attract early adopters who believe in their project and align to push the project to the next level. Without a community, no ICO project will be successful.
Little to no bureaucracy: When it comes to disclosure requirements and paperwork, ICOs have nothing to worry about as there is little to no bureaucracy in the entire process. That said, the level of bureaucracy a project gets is subject to the regulatory status of its token.
While there are tons of incredible advantages that come with ICOs, keep in mind that putting together an ICO is no walk in the park. And that’s because the crypto marketplace is extremely competitive. And for your project to scale, it has to face serious scrutiny from both the crypto community and regulators who are always looking for loopholes in your project. As you read further, you’ll get some insight into all of the work needed to pull off a successful ICO.
Before kicking off any crypto project, you’ll need to sit with your team and ask yourself if an ICO is the right way to go in your attempt to raise capital for your project. Just so you know, the graveyard of failed ICO projects is pretty wide and deep. Nevertheless, the opportunity to raise an insane amount of funds using this method always tempts overzealous projects to ignore the many risks that come with ICOs.
The truth is not many projects can successfully raise capital via an ICO. To this end, you’ll first need to understand that an ICO is more than just raising funds for your project. So before deciding if an ICO is the right thing for your project, here are some things you must know:
The most successful ICOs we have come across have an incredible use case for a blockchain. More so, these ICOs have impressive products and services that investors are interested in.
Seeing that there are tons of tokens in the crypto space, you must have a compelling answer to these fundamental questions as investors are likely to shun a project that is not well thought out.
An ICO isn’t a small project. Plus, most ICOs are multifaceted so you can’t go at it alone. To be successful and scale, you’ll need to put together a robust team. Without mincing words, the team behind an ICO shows whether or not the project will succeed. And yes, keep in mind that investors are paying attention and watching closely.
Regulators and legislators are becoming pretty experienced in terms of their understanding of cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the likes. But as this industry is pretty new and there isn’t a robust understanding of the technology just yet, there seems to be a lot of grey areas of the law, and ICOs aren’t left out.
But as exciting as this may sound to many projects, never interpret that your ICO won’t be subject to local regulations. What we mean here is that your project needs legal expertise to bring you up to speed on the exact legal nature of your token, how your project might be regulated as well as everything you’ll need to stay compliant, especially when it comes to security laws which guide the issuance of all asset classes that are classified as securities (Such as bonds, stocks and sometimes, tokens. There is also a need for your project to conform to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws, which are designed to prevent any type of money laundering.
Let us also quickly add that the regulations that apply to your project and ICO will vary significantly according to the jurisdiction you’re operating in. For instance, tokens offered for sale to users in the U.S. may be subject to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. And sure enough, the Howey Test will help to determine whether or not your token will be considered a security by the SEC (which means it may end up being regulated by federal securities laws).
There are tons of countries lauded for their favorable legal framework that makes things easy for ICOs and other crypto-related projects. These countries include the likes of Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Lichtenstein, Malta and Gibraltar, and the Cayman Islands.
For successful fundraising for your ICO, you’ll need to choose the right technologies. The most important technology you’ll need to have in place include blockchain, a smart contract, a token, together with a brilliant array of back-end web and security architecture.
Blockchain: While many projects we have come across in the crypto space develop their own blockchain which powers their project and ICO, the majority of the crypto projects we have come across choose to leverage platforms such as Ethereum. The reality is, building a blockchain is a sophisticated, complex, and time-consuming process and only recommended for projects that require bespoke blockchain technology. And while these unique blockchains offer tons of brilliant features and greater flexibility, they also need more time and expertise.
Smart contract: A smart contract is an engine that powers your ICO project. It is designed to take care of incoming token sales while granting token holders the opportunity to transfer, sell their tokens, connect to their token wallet, and much more. To this end, it is important that you properly audit your smart contract to ensure that it is functional and super secure as hackers will be lurking around to exploit the vulnerabilities in your smart contract to steal money from you and your investors.
Tokens: For the very fact that tokens are code, they can easily be programmed using different features. And just so you know, tokens are categorized into several categories including, Investment, utility, asset-backed, or participation. And sure enough, each of these categories of tokens is bound by special legal requirements. To this end, you must be clear on the status of your token.
Infrastructure: Besides all of the blockchain-specific technologies that are essential for your ICO to sail, there is also a need to have a robust collection of servers to manage your website traffic and onboard users. This will also include manual verification and Know Your Customer (KYC) services.
Security: While blockchains boast a robust level of security, websites and smart contracts are vulnerable and can be exploited by hackers. And just so you know, ICOs are a playground for scammers and hackers. Also keep in mind that your project may be subject to domain name and social phishing, smart contract breaches, distributed denial of service (DDoS), personal data breaches, and more. Nonetheless, having a robust security architecture will protect and reassure your investors about the seriousness of your project.
Another thing you can do to beef up security is to employ the services of professionals to audit your smart contract. Not just that, you can also opt for a reliable hosting service (with DDoS protection) and domain monitoring for phishing. Also, buying all similar domain names will help secure your project even further, boosting investors’ trust in your project.
While working on your project, it’s important you find a balance between the supply and price of your native token for your ICO. Here is the deal, if the supply is too high, then expect the price per token to be diluted and slow. On the other hand, if the supply is too low, then you may not have enough tokens to satisfy your investor base, or your potential investors may be put off by the high price of your token. These factors are essentially what the tokenomics of your ICO mean
The tokennomics of your project should work in such a way that it not only supports the nature of your product or services but also the price of your token. While exploring the tokenomics of your ICO, you need to focus on two major factors and they include, the allocation and distribution of tokens as well as the supply of your tokens.
Allocation and distribution: When it comes to deciding how to allocate and distribute your tokens, there are tons of decisions and you and your team need to make. The first decision is whether it will be best to launch private or public ICOs. You can also decide to use both, especially if you think it is great for your project.
On the one hand, a private ICO allows limited investors to buy pre-mined tokens. This usually happens in a pre-sale event, just ahead of a public ICO. On the flip side, public ICOs allow almost anyone with a crypto wallet to invest in your native token. Sometimes, public ICOs are called token crowdfunding.
While exploring allocation and distribution, keep in mind that you’ll need to strike a balance here. If early investors and employees hold a larger percentage of your tokens, the price of your token will eventually take a hit as they will scramble to sell their tokens once they notice any significant increase in price. To forestall such events, most ICOs include lock-up agreements in their tokenomics. This helps to stabilize the price in the short time.
Again if a large percentage of your tokens are controlled by whales ( i.e. investors who own a significant percentage of your tokens), it is a massive red flag for retail investors who will be worried about whales dumping on them.
Supply of tokens: Every token has a maximum supply ( i.e the total number of tokens that will ever be created or mined), a total supply (total number of tokens that currently exist), as well as a circulating supply ( i.e., the total number of tokens in circulation currently)
While the value of your token will be boosted by its supply, all of the promises of your project will also entice investors, pushing its value higher.
These days many projects design the supply of their native token to be either inflationary or deflationary. But keep in mind that this depends greatly on the nature of your project. With inflationary tokens, there is no maximum supply ( i.e. new tokens can always be created). Deflationary tokens like bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Litecoin all have a capped maximum supply.
If you opt for an inflationary model, keep in mind that this can result in the devaluation of your token in the long run. However, it also encourages token holders to use their tokens, which is exciting. A deflationary mode will help increase or maintain the value of each token, especially as demand surges. Unfortunately, a deflationary model can result in investors hoarding their tokens instead of using them. At the end of the day, it’s your call as you have to decide which model is best suited for your project.
After exploring the tokenomics of your project, the next thing is to decide how you and your team are going to manage the sale of your native tokens. To be on top of your game, you’ll need to opt for a token sale model that balances simplicity in all ramifications so your project sounds enticing to a mix of investors.
Soft, hard, and hidden caps: The soft cap refers to the minimum amount of capital your ICO must raise (either in terms of the amount raised or the number of tokens sold). Hard cap refers to the maximum amount your ICO must raise before the event ends. These caps are set even before the ICO begins. Hidden Caps can be either hard or soft, however, investors have no idea on the capitalization, until the allocation elapses.
Uncapped or capped with fixed rates: Using this model, projects set a specific price for their tokens at the early stage of their ICO, which is usually a discounted price. As the project gains momentum and interest, they will increase the price later on. This model helps to motivate investors to key in early.
Dutch auction and reverse dutch auction: Using a Dutch auction model, projects use their smart contract to calculate the price of their token only after bids are received from investors. Eventually, the highest bid is prioritized. On the other side of the aisle is a reverse dutch auction, which kicks off with a high token price and cap. The difference between this model and the previous one is that the token price and cap decline each day the sale runs or for each block that is mined. Once the cap is achieved, the sale ends.
Collect and return (C&R): With this model, the cap is fixed but with some form of flexibility. Using this model, a smart contract is used to accept contributions that are beyond the predetermined fixed cap. Once that is done, the smart contract then adjusts the final allocations of tokens by ratio. At the end of the day, the difference is returned to investors.
Dynamic Ceiling: This model is designed in such a way that the entire cap isn’t made available upfront. Instead of making the total cap available to investors, this model is used to create a series of hard caps, with specific targets for each stage. This type of model ensures that whales do not buy the entire allocation on the go. Plus, it provides for smaller investors to participate.
While building your project, always keep in mind that your ICO is just a means to an end. Eventually, your investors would want some clarifications on why you’re raising capital, what the money will be used for, and the direction the company is headed. That’s why every project needs a detailed roadmap to woo and convince investors that their project is legitimate and pretty likely to succeed.
Here is what your roadmap should feature:
A whitepaper is essentially a pitch for your ICO. It is the most important material that gives investors doing their due diligence a breakdown of your project. This whitepaper is super important to your project as it will help convince investors of the credibility, legitimacy, and seriousness of your project.
Before you start building a community, it’s essential to have your whitepaper right from the get-go as it will make reaching out to investors easier and watering the ground for a private or public ICO.
Like we stated earlier, your whitepaper should feature everything that your project entails. From market research data to tokenomics to your technology to your team members and product roadmap, everything should be nicely featured in your whitepaper.
Make sure you don’t skimp on graphic designers and copywriters and that’s because investors don’t want to read a tacky whitepaper or shoddy design. For the success of your project, it’s important you go for the best.
If you are looking for some ideas on how to structure your whitepaper, you can search google for tons of brilliant ideas.
To be honest, many investors like to gauge the quality of a project by taking a look at their website. To this end, you have to employ the best web developers and designers you and your team can afford. And yes, it’s best if you don’t cut corners. If your project is international and you plan to attract investors from abroad, you may need to hire professional translators to translate your website into all of the native languages of your project’s jurisdiction.
Before your ICO goes live, there is a need to have a token sale landing page. This page will give investors a snapshot of your project and its major selling points. Also, you have to ensure that your whitepaper is clearly signposted. Having a well-executed landing page will generate powerful leads for your ICO.
When it comes to cryptocurrency, your community is the lifeblood that powers your projects. Having a loyal, dedicated and enthusiastic community will push your project to unbelievable heights. Also, it will be a game-changer as per marketing your project and ICO. With a robust marketing push and sophisticated PR campaign, you should be able to build a reliable community.
To be on top of your game, we always recommend hiring the services of PR and marketing agencies that specialize in ICOs and crypto. Keep in mind that the crypto-verse is unique. Plus, most corporate and traditional practitioners don’t have enough understanding of the ecosystem, media, or investors.
PR: A great PR team has its ear to the ground and has an in-depth understanding of the crypto media. More so, they also have a list of robust contacts that will be important for your project. A professional PR team should be able to get your project on the front pages of top crypto publications, positioning your project as one of the best the industry has seen yet. PRs should also be able to get you and your team featured on top leadership pieces. Again, PRs are responsible for writing highly engaging press releases that will convince investors to check out your project. If you’re looking to pitch your project to journalists, having a dedicated PR team is the right way to go.
Lastly, your PR team should be able to get founders featured on podcasts and interview them on top YouTube channels hosted by famous crypto enthusiasts.
Community groups: While building a community, it’s important to ensure that you keep the engagement going with your community, before, during, and even after your ICO. With a dedicated community manager to organize slack, Discord Channels, and Telegram, you should be on the right trajectory. Also, you need to be active on popular platforms like Bitcoin Talk, Reddit. Not just that, it’s also important to put out regular blogs on medium while updating GitHub, every now and then.
Social media: Building a presence on top social media platforms is important. This will help keep investors and potential ones informed. To this end, you and your team have to hire a professional social media manager that can keep your community engaged with relevant and entertaining content.
Pay to play: Even though a lot of mainstream social media platforms banned ICO-related advertising in 2018 (Thankfully, some of these bans have been axed), you can still run paid crypto ads on top crypto publications and websites. While exploring paid ads, it’s important to experiment with multiple types and pricing models and see what each gets you ( i.e., impressions and direct response) at different stages of your token sale.
Influencer marketing: Getting a popular celebrity to support your project will go a long way to boost your project and help to woo investors. While exploring this option, we always encourage projects to do their homework and only choose influencers that will push their projects to new heights. By opting for influencer marketing, what you’re doing is tying your project’s reputation to theirs.
Bounty programs: You can generate a lot of buzz about your project pre-ICO by setting up bounties on project promotion, reporting bugs, unique taste, maintaining forums, and more. Bounty programs are an exceptional way to win over crypto enthusiasts. Plus, it provides them with an opportunity to engage with the details of your project.
Ico calendars: Another thing you’ll need to ensure while building your project is having your ICO featured on all of the top ICO calendars. A simple google search should present you with tons of details.
Rating agencies: There are tons of specialty rating platforms whose job is to rate and audit your ICO. While they aren’t cheap, they will be valuable to your project as their stamp of quality, credibility, and approval will stook investors interest in your project.
It doesn’t make any sense to have a brilliant project, a great native token that investors would like to buy and have absolutely nowhere to sell it. That’s why it’s super important to have your token listed on top exchanges ahead of your ICO date. Having your project listed on high-quality, secure and legally compliant exchanges will undoubtedly help promote your ICO organically.
Each exchange has its unique requirements you have to meet before your token is listed. But most times, it all depends on the nature of your token and business. Also, some of these requirements are universal and may include having your smart contract properly audited by professionals.
Because most exchanges make money from charging fees on trades executed on their platforms, they are always looking to list new in-demand tokens. Let’s say you have a large community and can demonstrate high demand for your token, finding an exchange to list on will be a walk in the park. From application to listing, the entire process should take about 1-2 months. So it’s important you include that into the timeline and overall ICO roadmap for your project.
Like we mentioned right from the get-go, your ICO is just a means to an end. After you must have successfully raised the capital needed for your project, the next thing is to stay engaged with your community and to deliver on all of the promises outlined in your whitepaper. Read on for a list of some of the top ICOs in history.
The crypto space has experienced an insane level of hype, especially with the tons of emerging technologies in this industry. But guess what, none of these emerging technologies generated as much buzz as the initial coin offering (ICO), a crowdfunding model used to launch new tokens, coins, and services. While this funding option has birthed tons of great crypto projects, it has also posed a significant risk for everyday investors.
The thing about ICO is that it is highly speculative and that’s because only very few ICOs actually go on to meet investors’ expectations. More so, many ICOs are fraudulent. Nevertheless, investors keep combing the ICO space for the next big project. Read on to find some of the biggest ICO events in the crypto space.
The DAO project was the original definition of a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a unique project where open source code provides a special form of governance mechanism instead of traditional leadership.
The DAO was a brilliant project in every practical sense as it was designed to work as a venture funding platform for crypto projects. The system works in such a way that funds are awarded automatically following a set of criteria.
In 2017, the team behind DAO launched its ICO, with the project pulling in 12.7 million in Ethereum tokens. At that time, the worth was around $150 million. Unfortunately, the team had to abandon the project after a malicious hacker made away with over $50 million of the funds raised.
After the hack, the Ethereum community voted massively to hard fork the network in a bid to reverse the hack and return the stolen ETH to investors. This hurt the project immensely. The decision was somewhat controversial, especially considering that it violated the immutability of the ledger and the code is law ethos of blockchain.
NEO is a brilliant open-source blockchain project with a Chinese origin. The project has gone by many different names since its inception. The most popular one, however, is its nickname, China’s Ethereum. NEO stood out from the pack by leveraging smart contract applications and decentralized commerce.
The team behind NEO had a massive ICO and that’s partly thanks to Microsoft Corp., the Chinese government, as well as other top companies who believed in the project. From its initial token price of 3 cents to an all-time high of nearly $180, NEO has proved times and times again that it is an A-list project.
In its very first ICO, which was held in October 2015, NEO raised nearly $550,000 from 17.5 million tokens sold. While the sum looks modest, between 2015 and 2018, this was quite an impressive feat for any ICO project.
In 2016, the team held a second crowdsale, which saw the project raise $4.5 million from 22.5 million tokens sold.
The Switzerland-based Bancor project held its ICO in June 2017, with the company raising $153 million in a little over three hours from investors who believed in the project. The project attracted notable personalities like Tim Draper and Blockchain Capital. The Bancor ICO was to fund a platform that made it easier for users to launch their very own blockchain tokens.
Unfortunately, just two years after the company launched, their token, BNT plummeted. Also, hackers made away with $13.5 million worth of BNT from the project’s decentralized exchange (DEX) in 2018. Plus, the company was barred from offering its services to U.S. users following regulatory uncertainties.
That same year, an anonymous source claimed that while the company had fulfilled a majority of its ICO promises, most of the funds generated from its ICO were invested elsewhere.
While Bancor’s DEX has profited from the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi), its native token hasn’t come close to its all-time high of January 2018.
Tezos Foundation generated a lot of hype during its ICO with the project pulling in over $232 million from its very first ICO in July 2017. The Tezos project was intended to create a smart contract platform that powers online digital economies like gaming.
The highlight of the Tezos project was its “self-amending” governance, a technology put in place to head off hard fork such as the one suffered by DAO. Unfortunately, the project saw many lawsuits instituted against it, including a class-action suit filed by investors who allege that the project violated securities laws with its ICO. This lawsuit hampered the company’s project until it was settled last year after the company agreed to pay $25 million in damages to investors.
Another project that generated massive waves during its ICO is Sirin Labs. Thanks to the hype about its ICO, the project raised $158 million from its ICO event held in December 2017. The project was designed to build the world’s first blockchain phone, nicknamed Finney. This phone featured a built-in crypto wallet, a native token dubbed SRC, which was intended to power purchases across the dapp ecosystem.
The team behind this project made good on its promise as they went on to launch Finney almost a year later. Nevertheless, the project failed to take off, with the company eventually laying off 25% of its employees in April 2019. Following the project’s inability to scale, the CEO of the company, Moshe Hogeg faced multiple lawsuits linked to his other businesses as well as a $6 million unpaid factory bill for Finney’s manufacturing.
Protocol Labs, the brain behind Filecoin raised nearly $257 million from its ICO event in September 2017. The company planned on launching a decentralized marketplace for Data storage that will disrupt cloud companies just the way Airbnb did to the hotel world.
While the project suffered a series of setbacks, the project finally launched in October 2020. When Filecoin was listed on exchanges, it opened at $26 and peaked at $63, before finally settling at $31.
At the moment, Filecoin tokens are 14 times the average price investors paid during their ICO. And good enough, its native token has been listed on top exchanges.
At the peak of the ICO boom in 2018, Dragon Inc. launched an ICO for its native token Dragon Coin (DRG). This project was supposed to launch a payment system for the South East Asia online casino market. Both institutional and retail investors jumped on the opportunity to invest in a gambling token. This allowed the project to raise $320 million.
Sadly, the controversy started a few months later when the New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica, a very controversial political consulting firm known for influencing elections in several countries, was behind Dragons Coin’s promotion campaign. The article by New York Times also linked the project with Wan Kuok-koi, a very notorious Macau gangster. As if that’s not enough, the publication also exposed the project’s well-publicized partnerships with the likes of Visa as shams.
December 2017, witnessed the fifth-largest ICO event with Hyundai Digital Asset Company, an arm of the Korean carmaker, raising a whopping $258 million from investors. The HDAC ecosystem was intended to be used with the Internet of Things and other blockchains. Unfortunately, the project fell short of expectations and hasn’t been able to set the world alight. Its native token is currently selling for $0.016 after hitting an all-time high of $0.106 in June 2018.
But don’t give up on the project just yet, as the company launched its first dapp on its mainnet in 2020. More so, there are rumors that the company plans to launch a blockchain ecosystem of partners to rival companies like Klatyn.
Tatatu had one of the most successful ICO events, with the company raising a staggering $575 million from investors including top companies like Polymath Capital, and BlockTower Capital in June 2018. The project was marketed as a blockchain-based Netflix where users will be rewarded with TTU tokens for simply watching movies.
Even though the project teamed up with famous Hollywood actor, Johnny Depp, the platform struggled to list A-list movies on its platform. Today, it is more like a social media platform that rewards users with tokens for liking and sharing visual content.
EOS raised an incredible $4.2 billion in funds. And just so you know, EOS raised more than three times what the biggest venture funding rounds of 2018 were able to pull in (Uber, Epics Games, and Juul).
EOS was founded by Block.One’s chief technology officer Dan Larimer. Before EOS, he had initially founded the social media network Steemit and the DEX, BitShares.
The EOS project was marketed as an Ethereum competitor even as the founders claimed its project which is powered by delegated proof-of-stake platform (dPoS) could handle thousands of transactions per second more than Ethereum. This will eventually make EOS the go-to platform for dapp development.
That said, the project has suffered congestion issues with researchers questioning the project’s claims of being decentralized. Also, research from VC firm Outlier Ventures claims that there is a massive exodus of developers from the EOS network.
In 2020, Larimer resigned from his position as Block.One CTO, leaving the future of the project uncertain and sending the EOS token tumbling to a 16% loss.