Hackernoon logoHow to do an ICO — Step 5: Working with the Right Partners by@arran

How to do an ICO — Step 5: Working with the Right Partners

Arran Stewart Hacker Noon profile picture

@arranArran Stewart

Caveat emptor. There are many self-proclaimed experts and professional advisors in the ICO space, but the reality is that this is still a very new industry, and everyone is learning on the fly. Of course, there are some individuals who’ve had great success, but if that success was only recently achieved in 2017, it almost doesn’t count. Today’s crypto landscape is a very different and unforgiving place, and you need multi-dimensional partners who have what it takes to adapt and deliver.

Choosing partners leading up to the ICO raise can be tough. You need them, but they are going to cost you. If you are on a budget, get creative with the deals you structure and determine the most appropriate use of funds. The key is deciding who and what you really need in order to pull your raise over the line. Prioritize establishing longevity with partners who can commit to the long-term goal of turning your project and tokenized economy into a success.

Key areas you want to focus on finding support in are: technology, PR, marketing (especially Telegram, Reddit, Bitcointalk, Github, etc.) and advisory groups. There are more, but in my experience, these are the foundation of a strong team.


You will find the same challenge in any ICO today: savvy crypto investors from small, 1 ETH purchasers, to robust family offices and VC’s, are looking for a ready and available MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to guide their decision-making on whether or not to buy your token. Quite often ICO DApps, and most certainly protocols (both utility and security), already have tech individuals as founders or part of the project. However, it’s becoming increasingly common to outsource much of the MVP build to third parties.

But producing an MVP can be expensive, especially if you haven’t raised capital in a private round or had an initial soft cap from buyers. The key here is to find a technology partner who believes in your project as much as you do, and is willing to accept all, or some of the payment for the platform build at the backend of the deal. In return, it’s advisable to allocate them part of the token economy, as a bonus, in return for the risk they shared with you.

Be very clear with your tech partners on what your MVP needs to achieve, as this impacts your ability to attract the much-needed token buyers.


‘Hype’ is critical for getting your ICO raise any form of traction, and buyers need to be able to see you well-placed in the market. PR is essential, and, in my opinion, one of the most important partnership components within the process. My advice is to choose this partner carefully, as many companies claim to have reach with major publications, when in fact, they’re actually just using your content as a way of trying to build their own business.

PR is one of those services that requires as much work from you, as it does your partner. What do I mean by that? Simple press requires content, time spent speaking with numerous mediums and channels, a commitment to thought-leadership, commentary, articles, Q&A, and the list goes on. Don’t be a publication snob. You can’t always be on the cover of Forbes, so take the time to interview, write and contribute to as many publications as you can, big and small. It’s about footprint. Land grab. Be everywhere. There’s no such thing as too much publicity. When you are campaigning for token buyers and then going to market, your buyers can Google you and have tangible evidence of the activity around your project, the leadership team and general market knowledge. You are the vision that is leading the project, so a good PR firm will make the introductions and bring the leads, but you have to close them. Do this and you will get as much out as you put in.

Your PR partner should be delivering at least one to two press opportunities a week. They should be talking to publications about your project and developing hype around why people should want to talk about you. Communicate regularly with them about your timelines, updates, product development, partnerships, and strategies on how to seed your project into the market, and create impactful FOMO. It’s crystal clear when you have the right PR partner, and I can comfortably say, during my journey, we chose the right long-term PR partner.


Realistically, expensive marketing campaigns are out of the question in the first instance for any ICO, as the cost is high, the risk is high and the results unknown. But there is one tangible source that ICO’s need to do effectively before their ICO, and that is social marketing.

There are more channels than ever that require the attention of a good social marketing company to produce the necessary results and further support the hype of your project. Obvious social channels are Telegram, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. But there are many others, especially within the tech niche that require the right level of attention.

A social marketing partner should not cost an arm and a leg. If you are investing harder into this expenditure, then find a partner that really knows how to nurture a community to growth. The key is creating meaningful content that can be pushed out and grab the attention of the masses. There are two types of social media marketing services: one is simply managing accounts, posting content, and responding to any community interactions, but the second is far more strategic, and is about creating campaigns and calculated communication that will provoke thought, go viral and encourage users to follow.

The market is overrun with so-called social media experts who can produce nice graphs of how many more followers you will have, but so what. Can your partner provide you with a viable strategy for growth, dynamic content, press engagement and other guerilla marketing techniques to generate buzz and an organic, reactive community? These genuine suppliers are rare and will probably be expensive, but going back to my previous comments, find a partner who wants to buy into your project. If they believe in what you do and feel they can deliver, then they’ll work with a deal loaded on the backend of the ICO raise. #realpartner

Advisory Groups

These are a collective group of people who have experience in the ICO space and give insight on each necessary step. They are slightly different than single individual advisory persons sitting on company boards. These contributors to your team should have access to everything you could possibly need to make your ICO a success, and the insight on which other partners to use or not on the journey.

Sadly, there are many ‘experts’ in the space who simply are not. These fly-by-night partners can ruin a project and we have had our fair share of experiences with them. The indisputable reality is you need strong advisory partnerships in order to raise funds. My advice is: do your homework on any potential advisor, as they can truly be the difference between success and failure. If they ask for money first, forget them, unless they have a verifiable track record of success in 2018 (not 2017). Anything that happened in 2017 should be taken with a grain of salt. It was a unicorn year that made lots of people money who would have otherwise never succeeded without the generous market conditions working in their favor. It is extremely rare to win the lottery twice and that is what 2017 was. Many “advisors” are riding on the back of last year’s success to win business today. The reality is they most likely have no idea how they even managed to make the money they did, or how to continue profiting during unfavorable market conditions like the ones we are experiencing today.

In Conclusion

There are other partnerships you may need to consider when conducting your ICO, and above is just a sample of what to expect when building these relationships. The fundamental point is simple: money will be tight in the beginning, so spend every cent wisely and work with partners who are willing to prove they will share the risk of the adventure with you. If they really think the project is good, the management team is strong and the vision is profitable, why wouldn’t they? Just remember, when they do, be prepared to share the rewards with them on the other side.


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