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initial coin offerings

3 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Own ICO

Ever hear of 'pump-and-dump' groups? You'd best be aware of this and other scams before you jump into cryptocurrency.
3 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Own ICO
Image credit: Classen Rafael | EyeEm | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Co-founder of Tailored Ink
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you could be forgiven for thinking the crypto market is already dead in the water. Consider the reports that have said:

  • We’re firmly in a crypto bear market, which might (or might not) last for several years.
  • Talking heads like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates prophesize doom and gloom for bitcoin.
  • There are still many scam ICOs.

My take? Don't believe all that negativity. In fact, ICOs have never been hotter, according to the numbers:

  • More than twice as much money was raised through ICOs in the first five months of 2018 than in all of 2017 ($7.7 billion vs. $3.8 billion).
  • More than twice as many ICOs launched in the first five months of 2018 than in all of 2017 (322 vs. 210).
  • The highest private sale of all time took place in 2018 (Telegram: $1.7 billion).

Related: 6 Ways Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Are Changing Entrepreneurship

Perhaps this isn't too surprising since most entrepreneurs tend to have a long-term view of new technologies. And most people agree that even if current cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum disappear, blockchain is here to stay.

So, if you’ve been on the sidelines looking in and are wondering whether to start your own ICO, there are three things you should know before you dive in:

1. Most ICOs are built on bad ideas (or are exit scams).

In the past few months, my company has spent a lot of time talking to, pitching and working with ICOs on their marketing. We’ve been approached by everyone from seasoned entrepreneurs with profitable businesses to pizza delivery guys with big dreams.

If I had to generalize, I’d say that nine out of 10 people we talk to are either: (1) business savvy but don’t understand blockchain technology at all; or (2) understand blockchain and are very compentent, technically, but don’t really have any business experience.

Not surprisingly, this means that most ICOs aren’t really able to deliver on all their promises. Or they can, but their business idea is inherently flawed and doesn’t really make any sense.

Related: 6 Things Good and Bad You Should Consider Before Investing in Cryptocurrencies

For example, one of the ICOs that ran in 2017 was for asteroid claiming and mining rights. Another one is attempting to build a worldwide supercomputer using the combined power of its community’s mobile devices. These are pie-in-the-sky ideas that are way too early to market.

Fortunately, though, the fact that your competition is pretty "out there" isn’t a bad thing if you're an entrepreneur looking to enter the ICO market. What this means is that if you have a deep bench, a solid business model and developers experienced in blockchain, and if you're doing everything above board, you’re already head-and-shoulders above the competition.

2. Your token will be subject to pump-and-dumps and high volatility.

The altcoin market has been subject to wild swings and high volatility since its inception, and this isn’t necessarily the fault of ICO teams. Bad actors, like pump-and-dump groups, which artificially raise a crytocurrency's value to sell at a profit, make the growing cryptocurrency market a very dangerous place for inexperienced investors. Exit scams don’t help, either.

Then there’s the fact that cryptocurrency as a whole is such a new asset class that everything basically tracks Bitcoin, especially in a bear market. Whenever Bitcoin is up, everything is up. And whenever Bitcoin is down, everything goes down.

The way this plays out in practice is that every ICO, shortly after launch (or whenever its token first hits an exchange) sees a large pump that skyrockets the price into the stratosphere. Then, just as quickly, the price of that token collapses -- usually to a resistance point near the initial sale price.

If you’re going to enter the ICO market, you need to be aware of these things. And you need to come up with a game plan to preserve the value of your token even in turbulent times. Pump-and-dumps will happen, but the long-term value of your token is still determined by your actions. Strategies like token burning, token buybacks and airdrops can help preserve value.

3. There is still a ton of opportunity in this blue ocean market.

In light of the current bear market, the ever-increasing number of ICOs and the continued regulatory uncertainty, it’s easy to think that the time for starting an ICO is already over. But we firmly believe that now is the best time to get involved.

Blockchains are a growing, maturing technology with too many potential uses to list here. Most of these use cases have only been lightly touched upon in ICO white papers and road maps. None of them have been fully explored.

Putting real estate sales on the blockchain, for example, would solve all sorts of problems surrounding illiquidity and ease of investing. Putting the freelance marketplace on the blockchain would ensure that vendors got paid on time.

There are also several problems with cryptocurrencies that urgently need to be solved. Nearly all cryptocurrencies and tokens suffer from high volatility and unpredictable price swings because they aren’t backed by real assets.

Figuring out how to create the world’s first true stablecoin (as did the guys at Basis, who raised $133 million from VCs like Andreessen Horowitz) would revolutionize finance as we know it. Finding a way to efficiently edit immutable code is also an ongoing challenge.

The early bird gets the worm.

Just as happened with the internet in the '90s, early movers and adopters are setting themselves up for decades of demand down the road. Even if blockchain as we know it implodes, it will return in another form.

Of course, no one’s solved the most pressing problems of cryptocurrencies yet. And no one’s fully leveraged blockchain to improve or revolutionize an existing industry; everything’s still very much in the idea stage.

Related: How to Protect Your Cryptocurrency Holdings (Infographic)

But the good news is that blockchain entrepreneurs and technologists are actively trying to make good on their promises every single day. So, who knows? You just might beat them to it.

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