Hackernoon logoHow to do an ICO — Step 2: Advisors and avoiding the BS. by@arran

How to do an ICO — Step 2: Advisors and avoiding the BS.

Arran Stewart Hacker Noon profile picture

@arranArran Stewart

The merit of your blockchain-based project will determine your ability to attract, retain and gain advocacy from the right advisory team. As you you have read in my previous article in this series, the lightpaper is the first step to engaging the right support team that will aid you with writing your white paper and holistically guide the creation of the structure needed to ensure a successful ICO. Most ICO’s are completely cash strapped before doing any private sale, so advisors will have to be convinced (from your pitch and lightpaper) that the idea can have significant impact and be profitable for them if they are to defer payments and be allocated part of the total token economy. This is the true acid test, because if your ICO project is just an invented way to do a raise, fly-by-night advisors will want cash upfront, and quality advisors will see right through this and not put their name on it. Or at least that is the case now in later 2018.

If you truly have a great blockchain project, one that is offering something unique to an industry, and ultimately, the world, then stand fast and take your time choosing the right people for your project. I repeat, they will make or BREAK IT. Your advisory team is the most important part of the entire process, as pulling in the right skill sets and managing the right deals between them, is truly the difference between success and failure.

Be aware there is a lot of rubbish out there, with individuals coming out as self- professed blockchain, crypto, ICO experts, when in fact they are looking for a free ride, some quick cash and acquiring as many alt tokens as possible like a glorified bounty hunter.

Things to look out for with advisors you shouldn’t have on your project:

No Cash, No Work.

Rubbish. If your project is awesome and they believe in it, they will want to be part of it and will easily commit their time for the upside. They will get part of the token economy, something that is equivalent to shares or equity, but they can liquidate and turn to cash after the ICO and be entitled to funds during the ICO raise. In comparison to a normal ‘growth business to exit’ scenario, they are cashing out in 6–12 months, something only 2 years ago was UNHEARD OF. If they have been successful already in other ICOs (they need to have been to be giving advice) then they aren’t dying for funds, make them put their time where their mouth is.

Success In 2017:

Doesn’t count. They need to have done something meaningful recently. Looking at 2017 and 2018 in this space, is like comparing 2008 to 2018 in normal financial markets. Time has moved on and things are much harder with the true testing of real projects, with real people upon us.

Did ICO raises but projects went nowhere:

That is not a successful ICO. Raising money for projects that go nowhere is simply unacceptable and you have no place in this industry. Please leave.

Huge percentages of the Token Economy:

No way, no how. Greed is not good. Blockchain is about creating value for all, and having advisors hold you for ransom because of their reputation isn’t worth it.

They want to cash tokens out fast after the ICO:

If your token has any chance of getting of the ground, everyone, from founders to team and advisors need to hodl. No cash out. Advisors sitting on sizable parts of the token economy looking to cash out will crash you token value, flood the market and leave you holding the baby with all your other token holders.

Just a face that does nothing:

There are many, high profile advisors that simply put their face on a project as a way of endorsing it, but literally offer no other value than that. They are so far removed from the project and literally sell their reputation to give you credibility. This is not an advisor, this is a fraud. Don’t accept it, don’t allow your project to degraded in such a way. You owe it to yourself and your vision not to be suckered.

Uses all the right buzz words but has no real track record:

Conducting an ICO in this day and age is complex and challenging, especially in the current ICO winter we are experiencing. You need advisors who can take you through the granular process required to deliver the goods.

Doubling up:

Advisors looking to double their rewards up normally come armed with an array of suppliers for social, telegram, PR and all the other services needed to deliver an ICO, but these suppliers are worthless newbies and clueless leeches that will work with your advisor to drain any resources you have and feed of the carcass that is your project. Sound harsh? It’s true. If an advisor needs to bring in suppliers, make sure you do you own due diligence on everyone who is ever involved.

Normally if someone is right for any project, you instantly feel that you are in the hands of someone that can deliver. Our gut is a powerful tool for detecting fraudsters and predators to any situation, an instinct built up over thousands of primitive human years, so trust that inner voice when it tells you, “this person is full of BS.”

Here’s what I think you need to find in the different advisors that will make up your support team:

Not everyone has to be a blockchain expert:

Skill diversity. You will need a marketing advisor, someone for finance, possibly someone to help you get the best hires for the business, etc. There are many things you need from an advisory board, beyond people educating you about all the blockchain stuff, remember that.

You need someone who has written a solid white paper:

It’s a real art, no joke. This is the foundation coupled with the tech merit of the project itself. Look for someone with a track record for writing white papers or someone who was at least part of a project that had a successful whitepaper accepted by the community.

Someone with the right connections:

Things are tight for you right now. The ICO hasn’t happened yet and you need suppliers who can deliver and are willing to work for upside. If you work with advisors who have built a reputation and have delivered before on projects with suppliers, you’ll have a higher chance of lining up those deals. The suppliers are more likely to take a risk on you if an advisor is vouching for you.

The skills sets you need…

Social Media and Marketing:

We all know the power of Telegram, Reddit, Discord, Medium and all other original networks for delivering the right level of quality engagement to and from the blockchain community. An advisor who has this understanding and access to the productive channels and influencers in this space is essential.


Possibly one of the most important when it comes to building credibility for your project. Let’s face it, if no one knows about you, NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT YOU.


You need other technology wizards around the fiery caldron that is your blockchain project. Hubble-bubble toil and code. You need people with serious reputations in the space for delivering the best blockchain projects.


This is the seasoned pro who can wrap everything together with you and create the whitepaper masterpiece needed to draw in the right ICO investors.

Access to Exchanges:

You need an advisor who has significant influence over exchanges in order to make it easier for you to list your tokens when ready.

Wallets, KYC etc…

An advisor who can tell you the best Wallets and ICO platforms to use to accept your token buyers crypto.


This goes with the tech, but is also someone who is connected to blockchain protocols, especially if you are looking to put your project on something other than ERC20.


A proven track record of someone who has written the right token metrics, lock in’s and can genuinely value your token accurately when it goes to market. As well as sustain then on after once the ICO is complete and the economy must stand on its own two feet.

Access to funds:

We would all love 10,000 users to come and give us 2 ETH each, but that just doesn’t happen like that. Normally it requires some whales and anchors in the mix, and having an advisory who has harpooned some of these individuals before and delivered the goods, is exactly what you need.


You need seasoned and thorough counsel if you wish to survive the ever moving target that is the ICO world. Many lawyers claim, but few deliver. Find an advisor who can categorically tell you they know a firm that can walk the walk.

In my opinion, if you pull together a team of around 5–10 (max) advisors that have at least 2 of the above skills each, all with access to various suppliers, allowing you some choice and comparison, you will have success with this step of your ICO.

All of the above provides you with the necessary direction to create the ultimate whitepaper, which will be the subject of my next article in this series.

My final thought:

Don’t be a sucker for BS advisors, as sadly the market is full of them. Hype and bravado shouldn’t fool you into bringing in a dead-weight sponger onto your project’s talent lineup. I have seen it first hand and it’s not cool.

You are only ever as good as your team, so get the best, be the best.


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