Hackernoon logoHow to do an ICO — Step 3: Writing the perfect Whitepaper by@arran

How to do an ICO — Step 3: Writing the perfect Whitepaper

Arran Stewart Hacker Noon profile picture

@arranArran Stewart

Define perfect? In this situation, I can. If a whitepaper convinces others that your idea has merit enough to support with coin, cash, time, public recognition, or even just a shout out on social, then your whitepaper is perfect. And the more people it impacts, the more perfect it really is.

Doing this is VERY HARD.

If you’ve read my other 2 steps, you will know that step 1 is writing a light paper used to engage the right advisors, which I address the selection of in step 2. Now is the time to leverage their expertise to create the perfect whitepaper. From your thorough vetting process, you will know that your advisors have the insight and experience needed to know guide how the whitepaper should be crafted with the goal of raising funds and gaining advocacy towards your project.

However… it is your responsibility to do your research. You have conceived this unique business idea and articulating it into a structured, whitepaper format requires precision. Study other successful projects. Take note of why their whitepaper makes them stand out.

Whitepaper Must Dos:

  • Make your mission clear
  • Show off the team
  • Explain the market
  • Product overview
  • What problem does your project solve?
  • How does the tech work? (make it clear why blockchain is needed)
  • Token metrics*
  • Explain the growth strategy
  • Close with your advisors and partners

Make Your Mission Clear

This first statement will set the tempo for the rest of the document, make it inspiring, clear and relative to what you are looking to do. A shallow mission statement will disappoint, but one that has meaning can intellectually invest your reader in the first minute.

Show Off Your Team

Get bio’s and relevant links to LinkedIn/Twitter of your execs, tech team and support staff. Update and polish all social platforms where the reader can learn more about you and them. Interestingly enough, this is a time consuming step, so leave yourself time to this chase down, with headshots. Your team might be rockstars in their space, but that will be lost if their bios aren’t clear and well-written. Feel free at this point to include any press logos or ‘as seen in’ mentions right at the beginning, as again, it starts the reader off in a positive view about the people behind the idea. It will also buy you time. Often if the reader does not understand what is in front of them, but is aware of how credible the team is and see all your press, they’re more likely to invest the time and understand your project.

Explain the Market

Make a quick overview, establishing industry size, growth and influencing market factors. Plant seeds into the minds of the reader that your product has enough demand to ensure grow and profitability.

Product Overview

This section is split into two: ‘what Problem does it solve?’, and explaining the tech. My recommendation is to include any visuals, figures, graphs or tables that help the understanding of potential lay readers. During my tenure of pitching new product ideas to potential investors, I’ve had moments of deep frustration where I explained the ‘Eureka’ moment and the entire room has just looked blankly. Remember, because they don’t eat sleep and breath it like you do, the reader of your whitepaper might struggle to get just how brilliant what you’re proposing is, the first time they read it. Do your best to make things clear, simple and logical.

What Problem Does It Solve?

This section, in my opinion is the most important part out of the entire document. Here you give your project purpose- from the product, the blockchain use, the potential ROI, plan for executing a successful ICO, and the viability of a lasting token economy. When a problem is solved, it becomes the de facto solution which users embrace into their lives. This is real success.

How Does the Tech Work?

So if you aren’t already aware, you are pitching to a demographic of investors who are primarily technical individuals by trade. This means that the tech part of your whitepaper needs to really shine and the explanation of your use of blockchain needs to be fully thought out. Any holes in the tech and you may as well forget a successful ICO.


Otherwise known as the token-economy. I asterixed this, as it is of course part of the these whitepaper steps, but in my opinion, it’s also a step all in itself. Without the metrics properly thought out, the entire economy will fail after your raise and the ICO will be a complete failure, something that cannot happen. Once you have this mapped out, it needs to explained succinctly.

Explain the Growth Strategy

Anyone in this market, from investor to follower, is going to want to know how you plan to grow your idea into a blockchain success. The growth strategy needs to be something that feels well thought out, and not an afterthought. You may have got everything else right up until this point, but if you can’t strategically explain how you are going to take your project to market, and how the market will embrace your project, then you’ve failed.

Close on Your Advisors and Partners

In later steps, I will explain partners, as they come later to help deliver your project all the way to raise and beyond. But in this instance, you may only have advisors right now to list in your whitepaper, and that is fine. This section aims to convey that your project is backed by people and services that ensure success. What is the difference between an advisor and a partner? Advisors are mostly individuals from the ICO/Blockchain space who will already be on board by now, supporting your project. Partners can be company suppliers in the space who help with everything from Telegram community management, PR management, and networking to potential investors in the crypto space. Normally, advisors help introduce the best partner/supply/vendor relationships. Note that these intros can come at a cost, so by this point you may want to consider doing some sort of small raise towards helping towards these costs, especially if you are starting from a zero capital position.

Now, format the paper. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Too many projects make the mistake of overwhelming the reader with jargon. The reality is, most of your potential token holders won’t have specialist knowledge about your industry. Remember this and review. And then review again. Simplify. Ask people who are familiar to you to read it and explain it to you — can they, or is it still too complex? You should expect to re-draft the whitepaper potentially twenty times. No joke.

Don’t write “War and Peace”. It’s easy to over-explain, repeat yourself, and write more than is needed when you are trying to sell the next big thing. Simplicity is exactly what your project, and the whitepaper reader needs.

Now, empower everything in the paper with your brand. Everyone likes looking at something that is visually appealing, so design the document to look professional with diagrams, images and even infographics, where it appropriately assists the data.

Last, but by all means not leas, use your advisors. I said before and I’ll say it again- this is your main support team for the ICO side of your project. They know the process, are your greatest hope to getting the best advice on what your whitepaper needs. So use them. And if they’re not helpful, you don’t need them (see Step 2).

A good whitepaper is critical to securing success. The biggest mistake you can make is assuming it only serves to raise you money. It isn’t. It is the most visible, and highly demanded touch point for your emerging project, and reflects your strategy and intention for its long-term success.


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