In July, The Wall Street Journal declared Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to be the “New Road to Startup Riches.”
They were absolutely right.
By the end of 2017, ICOs raised more than $4 billion toward their projects, and by some measures, it has even surpassed venture capital funding as a means of securing the finances to launch a business. New ICOs continue to proliferate as companies seek flexible ways to raise funds that can jumpstart their business, and, when done correctly, establish a dynamic community of loyal investors.
As an added benefit, the cryptocurrencies launched through an ICO are often tradeable through digital currency exchanges, and many companies have secured additional capital this way. For example, at the start of last year Ripple and its accompanying CRP token was worth less than $0.01. Today, it boasts the second largest crypto market cap, and its founders are now as wealthy as some of the most legendary tech luminaries.
Even for all of their success, ICOs are not a perfect mechanism. In December, the head of the SEC, Jay Clayton, released an official statement that seemed to simultaneously endorse the crypto-ecosystem while also reminding investors of the risks associated with it. Moreover, the class action lawsuit against Tezos represents the worst parts of the ICO boom.
With this in mind, if you’re considering launching an ICO, there are some critical steps to consider before going public. In doing so, you can give yourself the greatest opportunity for success while mitigating the possibilities of failure.
3 Steps to Launching an ICO
#1 Make a Plan
Like any business, a successful ICO launch requires you to understand your product, target audience, and growth strategy.
Typically, this starts with a white paper. This document is a high-level overview of your project, and it serves as a technical blueprint for your project. Your white paper should be accompanied by a roadmap that documents your timeline and gives investors reasonable expectations for your ICO launch.
Of course, ICOs aren’t launched in a bubble. There is an abundance of resources available that help you research the field and prepare your investment pitch.
Once your product and purpose are established, develop a plan that includes a pricing strategy and protection for your investors. Depending on your product and purpose, there are certain legal qualifications that provide parameters for your launch.
There are several pricing models to choose from including an undetermined price, fixed price, Dutch auction, and a price rise ICO. Perhaps more importantly, developing investor discounts and rewards can be key to luring early investors.
#2 Get Help
You and your business partners are probably incredibly talented. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have made it this far. However, you can’t do this alone. You need a team of talented professionals who can account for every aspect of an ICO launch.
Established developers, marketers, strategists, and legal advisers can help translate your ICO ambitions into a well-rounded launch strategy. The freelance platform Upwork identified blockchain related skills as the second fastest growing skill on their platform, so there are plenty of alternatives if you don’t have everything covered in-house.
There are even entire platforms that consult with ICOs to help fill the talent gaps within their organizations.
#3 Spread the Word
Marketing and public relations are essential tools to help you stand out in a crowded ICO field. Before you begin, establish a robust marketing budget to ensure that you can effectively spread the word about your ICO start. While numbers vary greatly, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends allocating up to 5% of projected gross revenue to your marketing campaign.
For ICOs, a marketing campaign includes traditional social media and web advertising, but also direct communication and demonstrated industry influence.
Use your platforms to communicate your goals, progress, and future opportunities. Popular social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are obvious accounts, but many ICOs are also developing Slack channels, Telegram messages, and subreddits. These are valuable marketing tools for an ICO. In addition, these channels form communities that allow you to connect with your customer base after your launch.
Most importantly, demonstrate your industry expertise by participating in the robust crypto-communities online. Well-placed articles on influential platforms can go a long way toward proving your industry prowess and developing trust with your investors.
The product will always be the most important component of a successful ICO, but a trifecta that includes a captivating product, a skilled team, and effective marketing campaign are necessary elements for making your ICO launch a success.