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ICO Checklist: What’s Essential, What’s Important, and When to Stay Away (or get help!)

July 30, 2018

Table of content:

Are you a blockchain initiative founder trying to figure out if your project has got the right stuff to move forward? Did a relative or old family friend ask you to invest in his ICO? Did he tell you his project is primed to change the way humanity conducts commerce (with the added benefit of saving Planet Earth)? Or maybe you’re a freelance writer with a client who’s has asked you to write her ICO whitepaper, and you’re looking for a list of do’s, don’ts, and don’t you dares.

If you’re facing any of these challenges, you’re likely to find our one-page Checklist for ICO Assessment a handy tool to guide your decision-making.

If any of the Critical Elements are missing, the answer is no, you shouldn’t invest. Don’t launch (at least not right away). Don’t go to work on a project that’s bound to hit unrecoverable turbulence because it’s lacking essential components. If any of the Importants are absent, press the founder for answers before devoting money, time, or energy. If any warning signs are present, you want to think twice before going forward.

And if, as an investor, you notice any stay-aways, turn and run in the other direction (quickly!). If you’re a founder or project team principal, pause and seek some advice. At ICO Whitepapers, we offer a team of experienced consultants, combining decades of tech and business experience with dozens of ICO whitepapers written and delivered. This is your dream that you’re pursuing. We’re here to help you get there.

Checklist for ICO Assessment


Does the project / ICO / coin have a purpose and clear objective? (What are you doing?)
Does the project / ICO / coin solve a particular real-world problem? (Where’s the pain?)
Is the solution aimed at a particular market? (Whose pain does the project / ICO / coin address?)
Is there a product / solution under development?
Is there an existing or target group of users or end-customers?


Does the proposed solution / economy require a token?
Does the token have any real utility to give it value, and to provide people with an incentive to hold the token?
Are the token mechanics sound? Is there a proposed token distribution model?
Is the token supply intended to be finite?
Is there a hard cap in place on raising funds in the ICO?
Is the distribution of funds fairly even (i.e. no “whales”)? Or, is a high percentage of the token being allocated to the founders?
Is there a leader (CEO), a leadership team—CTO, CFO, CMO—dev. team, and creative types doing web design, as well as copywriters and brand identity builders?
First of its kind? Or, “me too” / copycat? If the ICO / project is imitative, does it, at minimum, have some differentiating factors that distinguish it from other similar projects?
Is the timing right? I.e. project/ICO is timely, before its time, or missed the boat?
Are the target market segments large and/or lucrative?
Are there marketing channels in place for reaching the product’s market segments?
Are there mechanisms for engaging target communities?
Is there a content strategy? (I.e. web site up or in the making?)
Is the marketing plan based on actual data? Has the project considered cost per acquisition of each new user?
Does the project involve a platform or ecosystem, or is it “just” a dApp?
Does the token’s consensus mechanism actually exist and has it been demonstrated to work?
Does the consensus mechanism align with the project’s stated governance model?
Is there a #Slack, Reddit, Steemit channel or blog through which the development team communicates? Can others join in to monitor and participate in the conversation?

Warning Signs

  • Token bonus offer, “airdrops,” but no vesting schedule.
  • No development roadmap, or lack of adherence to a project timeline.
  • No product prototype, code, or core team.
  • No prominent investors.
  • No governance.
  • Major legal or regulatory barriers to project/token implementation.

Absolute Stay-aways

  • Coin is a clear Ponzi scheme
  • MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) company
  • There is an active scam warning relating to the project, its team, or advisors.

Agree? Disagree? Please comment! Exploring the ICO space and seeking to ramp up your knowledge? Planning a blockchain project and looking for some success strategies? Check out our blog posts! Want to talk? Contact us for a consult!

Dave is a senior writer at Follow Dave on LinkedIn and Twitter (@DavidEgyes).