ICO Checklist: How to Setup a Successful Initial Coin Offering from Idea to Funding

A list of fundamentals for your blockchain project

This article is part of our “How to Launch an Initial Coin Offering” comprehensive guide. If you are interested in understanding all the necessary aspects involved in launching an ICO and are looking for a more indepth ICO checklist we recommend you download our guide here.

In the future, when we look back at the blockchain industry, the year 2017 will likely be remembered as a game-changer for the space. Amongst the many important things that took place, Initial Coin Offerings may be considered as the most important of all.

I know this is quite a controversial claim. With all the scams, hacks, and negatives aspects surrounding ICOs, it is not easy to shine such a positive light on this bubble. But the way I see it, this frenzy and ICO-mania is giving way to what technologist Carlota Perez calls the Installation Phase of technological revolutions.

Most of the projects that are being built right now can (and probably will) fail. However, these projects, with their ICOs and the money they bring into the space, are helping create the infrastructure that will propel future blockchain projects and drive mainstream adoption.

The fact that we are in the early stages of the ICOs rise to prominence as a legitimate funding mechanism means that it’s even more important for entrepreneurs to act responsibly and professionally. This includes how they raise and invest ICO proceeds and show transparency to their supporters amongst several other issues like delivering on their promises and commitments.

To help founders with this process and provide perspective on everything that they will need on their ICO journey we’ve put together the following list of needs and fundamental elements.

ICO Preparation Checklist:
*Not every successful project has covered all of these steps, however, the more you cover the more solid and serious your proposal will be.

  1. Concept of idea/project: Like any traditional startup, everything starts from an idea to solve a problem.
  2. Assembling core team: The founder/s assembles the core team members that will drive the project forward.
  3. Product planning: With a team of diverse skilled members important decisions such as the technology to be used, the product functionality, the token/ICO characteristics, etc. are decided.
  4. Getting advisors: Fulfilling the shortcomings of your team with experienced individuals that can provide advice, mentorship, and connections.
  5. Product/Community marketing: Start building an engaged community and introducing the project to the space. Create a communication plan to introduce the product and the vision for the project.
  6. Developing a whitepaper: Authoring a white paper to introduce the problem, the solution, the product and its technology, the token and the ICO, team, business, etc.
  7. Releasing a roadmap: Present a feasible plan of action with commitments for development and milestones to keep the team accountable to the community and supporters.
  8. Seeking legal council: Define jurisdiction and get legal council to operate under the corresponding legislation including corporate structure, taxes, securities, AML and KYC laws, etc.
  9. Token sale marketing: Announce and develop a communication strategy to inform people about the token sale, the specifics of the token, its distribution, sale terms, etc.
  10. Releasing code and audits: Share your smart contracts code for revision and ideally have a specific auditing service do a revision.
  11. Token Sale (optional pre-sale): Run the actual crowdsale or a pre-sale (public or private) to collect some “seed” money for development.
  12. Proceeds conversion: Teams liquidate some of the received money to secure cash and pay to build out the team, technology, and business.
  13. Releasing prototype: The sooner a prototype is presented the better. If it is before the ICO even better.
  14. Transparency reports and post sale: After an ICO is completed the real work and responsibility to your community begins. Being transparent, showing progress, and keeping constant updates is essential.


Fundamentals for your blockchain project ICO

While not every successful project has covered all of the checklist steps above, there are certain fundamental elements your blockchain project will need to have in place.

A set of basic criteria has organically emerged in the space as a way to identify serious and respectable projects. Making sure you cover these at an early stage should be part of your initial efforts. The elements that most supporters tend to look at first include –


Who’s involved in the project is probably the first thing supporters will look at when doing their due diligence. Showing faces and experience go a long way to building trust. While different projects require different team members overall, you should look to build a team that demonstrates technical experience, business development capacity, and knowledge of the blockchain space (both technical and industry related). Open-source collaborations is always a plus in the space!

Advisory board

Any shortcomings from your core team should be filled in with your advisors. This can be for technical knowledge (it is hard to find experienced blockchain developers, so advisors are incredibly useful), or inside knowledge about the industry you are building (i.e., if you are implementing blockchain technology into the insurance industry somebody with experience in that field would be very relevant). Choose your advisors based on the value they can add to your project rather than as “popular faces.” In the long run, you will get much more out of them.

White paper (Position and yellow paper a plus)

Probably because the two most popular blockchains, Bitcoin and Ethereum, were introduced with whitepapers, this document has come to represent a guarantee of credibility and seriousness. Although not everyone agrees with this at the moment, having a whitepaper that explains in depth how your project will work is essential. The most serious buyers and the people that are interested in your platform for reasons other than speculation will want to read a whitepaper before supporting a project.

Position paper: some projects release one before the technical whitepaper. It is a clear 2– 3-page argument supported by your technology proposal that helps get community feedback to develop the technical whitepaper later on.

Yellow paper: The more sophisticated crypto/blockchain companies will offer a Yellow paper, or a second “technical” white paper. This one presents in scientific detail the technology and the innovations that they have created, or propose to create.

Code and/or prototype

You may be great at communicating a vision, but can you build it? Showing a good code repository, or even better, a working prototype is one of the hardest aspects to fulfill, but also the one that can make the biggest difference. Currently, most ICOs raise funds based on the promise of the product. Developing a working prototype can deliver a huge advantage.


If you decide to accept money you should also provide a tool to help people hold you accountable. This is one of the primary goals of the roadmap. You should present the plan for the next years in the project and share the most relevant milestones. It’s also of critical importance to show the different product version releases.

Token sale terms

In addition to the platform and the utility of the token, buyers will want to know the terms of your token sales. How much is being distributed and how much will be kept, the duration of the sale, any soft or hard caps and other mechanisms will impact their interest.

Having all of these elements in place and understanding up front the steps that you will have to go through when doing an ICO are just the first part of being ready. Running an ICO is a long journey of several months (at a minimum), that will include a lot of ups and downs. I hope we were able to provide you with a more solid foundation to understand what you are getting into, and how to make it the best way possible.

Key points:

1. Despite the craze and exuberance, ICOs are a necessary aspect of the blockchain technological revolution. A bubble in the capital markets is part of what will enable the transformation from the installation stage to the deployment stage of the technology.

2. A successful blockchain project needs a solid foundational structure in place. The team, a white paper, a roadmap, a prototype, etc are all necessary fundamentals that need to be developed as early as possible.

3. The cryptocurrency and blockchain space has always been quite fast-changing and hectic causing anxiety and uncertainty. Shift away from the noise and focus on your plan of action – what needs to be done.

For more details on each of the steps and more in-depth explanations download our “How to Launch an Initial Coin Offering” comprehensive guide.

If you’re planning an ICO, Token Deck is our Initial Coin Offering solution that makes the ICO process safe, compliant and easy. Check it out!

If you have any questions or would like to connect you can find me on Twitter or email me at [email protected] I’m always interested in meeting people working, learning, or involved with the blockchain space.

Disclaimer This document does not constitute legal or investment advice nor should be taken as such. You should not rely on it and if seeking to do an ICO or any other related activity you should seek separate professional counsel. It is for informational purposes only. Views do not represent the views of my employer, investors, or partners. Furthermore, the blockchain industry and technology is undergoing constant development so this post is intended as a guide at the current moment of publication and the issues and topics, and therefore the guidance, covered are vulnerable to change and development. The reader should bear this in mind when reading.

Also published on Medium.