What is an ICO and how to conduct it: everything about the initial coin offering

26 February 2024


Today we will dive into the world of cryptocurrencies and break down such a phenomenon as ICO (Initial Coin Offering), or Initial Coin Offering. It is a unique and innovative way of funding that has opened new horizons for startups and investors. We will discuss in detail how to conduct an ICO, for what purposes projects do it, and what you should pay attention to before participating in such a project. Let's understand this topic together!

What is an ICO? Everything you need to know


An ICO, or initial coin offering, is a funding method in which startups offer investors their digital tokens in exchange for cryptocurrencies or fiat money. These tokens can serve as an internal currency on the project's platform or be traded on various exchanges. A very popular term used alongside ICOs is "crowdsale", emphasizing the massive nature of fundraising.

What is the purpose of ICOs?

What is an ICO

Funding for development
The main purpose of an ICO is to raise funds to support and develop projects. This can include improving technology, developing new features, expanding the team and scaling the business. An example of a successful ICO is Bancor, which raised over $150 million to create a decentralized exchange, increasing the liquidity of cryptocurrencies.

Issuing a cryptocurrency or token
Many projects use ICOs as a way to issue their cryptocurrencies or tokens, which can then circulate within their ecosystem or in external markets.

Developing new products and services
Funds raised are often used to create and launch new products, services, or applications that align with the project's strategy. NEO, for example, has raised significant funds to develop a blockchain platform supported by weighty partners such as the Chinese government and Microsoft.

Creation of investment funds
Some ICOs aim to form investment funds, offering participants the opportunity to invest in a variety of assets and projects through a unique platform.

Developing decentralized applications
Using smart contract technology, ICOs can fund the creation of decentralized applications (DApps) and platforms, automating processes and enforcing contractual obligations without intermediaries.

How to organize a successful ICO?

Preparation and planning
At the heart of a successful ICO is careful planning. Start by developing a clear business plan and marketing strategy. Determine how much money you need to raise and what goals you want to achieve with those funds.

Create and test the product
Before launching an ICO, it's important to have a working prototype of your product or service. Not only will this build confidence with potential investors, but it will also demonstrate your technical expertise and seriousness of purpose.

Token development
A token should have real value within your platform or ecosystem. Determine what features the token will have and how it will interact with your product or service.

Legal Preparation
Make sure your ICO meets the legal requirements in the countries where you plan to conduct it. Consider consulting with legal experts who specialize in cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Marketing and PR
An active marketing campaign and community outreach is vital to draw attention to your ICO. Use social media, specialized forums and blogs to promote your project.

What attracts investors to an ICO?

What is the purpose of ICOs
  1. Innovation: Many ICOs are unique projects that can revolutionize their fields.
  2. Growth potential: Tokens acquired at the ICO stage can grow significantly in value, providing investors with high returns.
  3. Early Access: Participating in an ICO gives investors the opportunity to be among the first to gain access to new technologies and products.

What should investors look for?

  1. Project transparency: Look for projects with clear business models, clear documentation and an open team.
  2. Risk Analysis: Always evaluate potential risks and be prepared for the possibility of losing your investment.
  3. Diversification: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Spreading your investment across different ICOs can reduce risks.

Differences between ICOs and IPOs

ICOs and IPOs offer different approaches to financing, each with its own characteristics:

  • Asset type: In an ICO, you purchase tokens, which can serve as the project's internal currency or grant certain privileges. In an IPO, you buy shares that give you an ownership stake in the company.
  • Regulation: IPOs are subject to strict rules and regulations set by government agencies, which provides additional protection for investors. An ICO, on the other hand, is often left outside of traditional regulation, which increases the risks.
  • Investment protection: IPO investors have rights and protections that are not always available to ICO participants. For example, shareholders are entitled to dividends and can participate in the management of the company.
  • Stage of project development: IPO companies are usually already established in the market and have stable revenues. ICOs, on the other hand, are often a means of raising funds for early-stage startups.
  • Accessibility and complexity: IPOs require significant investment and complex procedures, while ICOs are more accessible to the general public due to lower entry barriers.
Why do ICO

ICOs offer startups the opportunity to raise capital quickly without having to meet complex regulatory requirements. This makes them attractive to innovative projects and those looking for opportunities in the crypto space. However, it also entails a higher level of risk for investors due to the lack of regulation and protection.

IPOs, on the other hand, provide companies with a path to sustainable growth and expansion by attracting investment from a wide range of institutional and private investors. With strict regulation and transparency requirements, IPOs offer investors greater protection and are a sign of a company's maturity and stability.

The choice between an ICO and an IPO depends on a company's objectives, its current state and readiness to deal with regulatory requirements, as well as the preferences and risk appetite of investors.

Risks of participating in an ICO

ICO scams
As sad as it may sound, not all ICOs are honest. Some promise the impossible, while others disappear with investors' money. That's why it's important to be wary.

Price volatility
Token prices can go up and down like a roller coaster. Investors can lose money if the price of a token falls after purchase.

Technical risks
Smart contracts and blockchain technology are not immune to hacks, and the amounts stolen can be huge. Be prepared for the risk of technical failures.

Token liquidity
Not all tokens are easy to sell. If a token is not listed on major exchanges, this can limit the ability to sell it.

Changing the rules of the game
ICO organizers can make changes to the terms of the project after fundraising, which is not always to the benefit of investors.

Competitive ICO market
Choosing the right project to invest in can be difficult due to the huge number of offers.

Regulation of cryptocurrencies and ICOs
The rules of the game are subject to change. For example, the SEC considers some ICOs as securities offerings, which requires compliance with certain laws.

Here's what to look out for before investing in an ICO:

Whitepaper Dive
First things first, familiarizing yourself with the project's Whitepaper is your everything. From there, you'll learn about the technical side of things, the business plan, the dream team, and how they're going to develop. The more complete the picture, the better you'll understand if the game is worth the candle.

Who's at the helm?
Dig into the biographies of the founders and key players on the team. The experience and credibility of these individuals can play a critical role in the success of the project.

The legal side of things
Make sure the project is not in a gray area and complies with all necessary legal frameworks and regulations, especially in the countries where it plans to operate.

Market and business model perspective
Assess how the project is going to make money and its potential in the market. The more unique the proposition, the more interesting.

Technological breakthrough
Explore how innovative the proposed technology is. After all, it is innovation that often drives a project to success.

Risks, risks and more risks
ICOs are no joke, and the risks are through the roof. From loss of investment to possible fraud, weigh everything before investing your money.

Rules of the game for tokens
Don't miss the fine print of the terms of use for tokens. How do they fit into the project ecosystem and what are their benefits?

Echoes in the community
What does the crypto community think about the project? Reviews and discussions on social networks and forums can tell you a lot about the reputation and openness of the project.

Where will the funds raised go?
A transparent plan for the distribution of funds is a sign that the project is serious and has a clear vision of its development.

Remember, investing in an ICO is always a gamble. Approach this process wisely and cautiously, armed with all available information.

What were some examples of the most successful ICOs?

Successful ICOs in the past have attracted significant investments and led to the creation of major projects in the world of cryptocurrencies. Here are some examples of the most successful ICOs:

  1. Ethereum (2014): Launched by Vitalik Buterin along with a team of enthusiasts, Ethereum raised over $18 million dollars. This project laid the foundation for decentralized applications and smart contracts, becoming a key player in the blockchain industry.
  2. EOS (2017): EOS stands out as one of the largest ICOs in history, raising around $4 billion dollars. Focused on building decentralized applications, EOS is highly performant and scalable, generating significant interest in the community.
  3. Filecoin (2017): With over $257 million raised through an ICO, Filecoin offered a decentralized storage solution. Filecoin coins are used to pay for storage and file sharing. By applying to the SEC to conduct private sales without registering as securities, Filecoin demonstrates a commitment to regulatory compliance while maintaining the startup's flexibility.
  4. Tezos (2017): Having raised about $232 million, Tezos is designed to manage smart contracts using a community voting system for protocol updates, emphasizing democracy and adaptability.
  5. Binance Coin (BNB) (2017): The Binance ICO supported the launch of the crypto exchange of the same name, making BNB one of the most successful crypto projects. BNB is used to pay fees on the Binance platform, offering discounts and access to a wide range of financial services.
  6. Chainlink (2017): With nearly $32 million raised, Chainlink introduced a world of oracles connecting smart contracts to the outside world of data and systems, expanding the possibilities of blockchain technology.
  7. Polkadot (2020): Raising over $140 million dollars, Polkadot aims to improve cross-blockchain communication by providing the means to securely and efficiently exchange data between different blockchains through a unique connectivity architecture.

Tips from the Cryptology team for those considering an initial coin offering

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) remain a popular and effective way for cryptocurrency startups to raise capital. However, it is important to consider a number of potential complications, especially in light of increased regulatory (SEC) scrutiny on projects conducting ICOs. Before conducting an ICO, it is critical to research and understand the regulatory requirements in various jurisdictions. The SEC closely monitors ICOs to ensure compliance with securities laws, as projects that conduct ICOs under the SAFT (Simple agreement for future tokens) program must register their assets as securities in the future, or they will be subject to fines. Under the SAFT program, a project can raise funding from both qualified and non-qualified investors. However, it is important to remember that the number of non-qualified investors should not exceed 35. These investors must be fully aware of the details of the project and the potential risks associated with the investment. In addition, it is critical that the project avoids public marketing promotions or announcements of such sales. Sales should be done privately only, as this ensures that the project can legitimately attract investment.

If you decide to conduct an ICO targeting a non-US market, you should create full transparency of the project. Provide potential investors with all necessary information, including a business plan, product description, team information, and a project roadmap. Transparency increases investor confidence and reduces the risk of legal issues. Also, be sure to create a White Paper, as it is the key document of your ICO. It should contain a detailed description of the project, including technical details, commercial strategy, and how the funds raised will be used. Develop an effective marketing strategy to attract attention to your ICO. After all, as long as no one knows about your project, it doesn't exist. An ICO can be a great strategy for startups looking to attract investment and accelerate the realization of their projects. However, it is important to prepare thoroughly and consider all legal aspects before launching.

Frequently asked questions about ICO

What is an ICO?

An ICO, or Initial Coin Offering, is a way to raise funds for cryptocurrency and blockchain technology projects. In an ICO, a company issues and sells tokens or coins, usually in exchange for cryptocurrency, to raise investment.

Why do ICOs?

The main purpose of an ICO is to attract investment to develop a project or product related to cryptocurrency or blockchain. This can help fund development, marketing, expansion and other aspects of the business.

How can I participate in the ICO?

A: To participate in an ICO, you will usually need to create a cryptocurrency wallet, purchase the cryptocurrency used in the ICO (most commonly Ethereum), and send that cryptocurrency to the ICO address. In exchange, you will receive project tokens.
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