10 Steps to do an ICO Series: Step 2 How to Write Your Whitepaper
Here’s the thing. NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR ICO!
There are so many projects to choose from these days, your project truly has to be extraordinary in order to get noticed. Your white paper (in crypto we write it as whitepaper) is one opportunity to make your project stand out.
A whitepaper is where you explain every aspect of your project. You detail what problem exists in the world, and how your technology will solve it.
You need to talk about all of the technical details of your project, and how you intend on making money.
See Satoshi’s whitepaper here.
Satoshi’s whitepaper is an elegant, to-the-point 8 pages. The purpose of it was to get people interested in his “Peer to peer electronic cash system” so that they could help him refine it. (I will refer to Satoshi as a him, since Satoshi is a male name in Japanese. Satomi or Satoko are female versions of Satoshi FYI)
Today’s typical ICO whitepapers are 20-40 pages since they cover non technical aspects of the project such as go-to-market strategy, team member profiles and backgrounds, graphics, etc.
There are two types of people that participate in ICOs.
- Cryptocurrency holders that truly believe in the power of the blockchain and dream of a day where blockchain technology is ubiquitous, and want to support projects that help realize this dream. These people are more like crowdfunding participants.
- Cryptocurrency holders that want to make a profit on your token. These people are speculators.
You must write your whitepaper to appeal to these two personas. You must show that your project will somehow help facilitate mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. Equally if not more importantly, you have to be able to paint a picture of a company that could be the crypto equivalent of Facebook, without actually saying that.
Who DOESN’T participate in an ICO
Ok this is a common mistake. Do not bother trying to convince non-cryptocurrency users to participate in your ICO. They will not. It’s too difficult. That’s like teaching someone how to ride a motorcycle before learning how to ride a bicycle. You will waste your time and money on PR and online marketing targeting the wrong people. Don’t forget this. Surprisingly most people do.
Ok, let’s look at how to write the whitepaper for your project.
How to Write Your Whitepaper Defined
Keep in mind there are 4 major aspects that every whitepaper needs to take into account. I call them the 4 T’s:
- Tech: What problem does your tech solve? How does your solution make your company mountains of profit? How does your technology work? How it will provide a solution for a specific problem? Where future product growth will come from?
- Team: Who are you and your team? What experience do you have that you can leverage to make your project successful.
- Token: How much money are you raising? What will you do with the money? What blockchain are you using to create your token? How many are you creating? What does your token do?
- Timeline: When will you launch your beta product? When will you launch the live version? When will you distribute tokens?
How to Write Your Whitepaper Outline
The outline will be the first section investors read. Remember, you must show that your project will help facilitate the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies and you have to be able to paint a picture of a company who’s growth will go viral. Therefore write your outline to hook these potential participants. Make them fall in love with your project.
I read about 3 whitepapers per week. It’s rare that I finish reading any of them but if you can hook me from the very beginning, I will read your whitepaper back to back.
If your outline can stand out from the dozens of others that the average ICO investor reads, you will be way ahead of your peers. This is not easy, but I am confident that you can do it.
How to Write Your Whitepaper
Here you delve into how your solution works. Never forget to be solving a specific problem. Breakdown the entire project from start to finish. Include relevant market data as evidence for your case. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Research, research, research. You must demonstrate how current market trends indicate the need for your solution and convince potential participants that your project fills that need.
Get into the technical details on on how your solution works.
Overview of Team
Introducing your management, engineering, marketing, and creative teams to your audience is a must and helps to increase trust and interest in your project. Include profiles on each individual developer and describe their experience. If any of them have been involved with successful ICO launches or startups in the past, that will be a big plus.
Pro tip: It seems obvious, but play up any extraordinary accomplishments that you may have, and list any well-known companies/schools that you are someway associated with. (ex. I went to law school, interned at Google, pitched to Nike, tried out for the 2020 Olympics, can put together anything from IKEA, chosen out of 2,000 people as an advanced math teacher’s aid. etc.)
The main goal here is to persuade investors that your team has sufficient ambition and technical, marketing, operations, business knowledge to bring the project to life and enable it to thrive.
This section will include many important details for a potential ICO investor, such as:
- How much money you are raising
- Initial value of crypto tokens
- Quantity of tokens offered
- Blockchain that your tokens are built on
Your development roadmap is crucial. Showing specific plan for how your project will proceed signals to investors that you’re serious. Without a development plan, how can anyone see a project through to its completion?
You should also give details of your token distribution schedule.
How to Write Your Whitepaper Reviewed
Remember that the standards for whitepapers are always changing. The Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper of 2008, for example, was only 8 pages long. The average length of a white paper today is well over that. It’s safe to assume that standards will continue to evolve further over the years to come.
In short, the whitepaper should be part academic research paper, part business plan, and part persuasive. It should sell potential participants on your project by describing how promising it is.
Review as many whitepapers as you can and learn from them. See what works for you and what doesn’t then use this research to formulate how your outline will look. Be sure not to plagiarise. Plagiarism is easy to catch, and it will forever tarnish your project and your personal reputation.
Pro Tip: Also write an investor deck. I won’t go into how to write a standard investor deck here, but I suggest you do so in order to attract traditional angel/VC equity investors.
Once you have figured out how to write your whitepaper, how do you get the word out to potential investors?
Next up, in the the 10 Steps to Launching in ICO series:
First of all, congratulations for making it this far! You now have your MBA in how to run a blockchain business. Your post ICO strategy should be focused on delivering on the promises that you made during your ICO.
The cryptocurrency exchange dimension is what makes the difference between crowdfunding and an ICO. As a crowdfunding contributor, after contributing to a campaign you simply sit, wait, and hope that the project that you contributed to is completed.
This is a technical team’s webapp/website checklist for running an ICO. Note: Some of these steps are relevant only for ICOs with ERC20 tokens. While the rest is applicable to all ICOs.
Unlike typical startups, ICOs usually use advisors to help with various functions of the company. We have new projects signing up to our platform daily, so I have seen and evaluated over 400 ICOs.
You've got your product in place; you're implementing your marketing strategy, speaking with lawyers, building your community, now it’s time to hit the road.
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