What Is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)?
An initial coin offering (ICO) is the cryptocurrency industry’s equivalent to an initial public offering (IPO). A company looking to raise money to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO as a way to raise funds.
Interested investors can buy into the offering and receive a new cryptocurrency coin/token issued by the company. This token may have some utility in using the product or service the company is offering, or it may just represent a stake in the company or project.
ICOs usually are positioned towards supporters that are keen to invest in a new project, much like a crowdfunding event. But ICOs differ from crowdfunding in that the backers of ICOs are motivated by a prospective return on their investments while the funds raised in crowdfunding campaigns are basically donations. For these reasons, ICOs are referred to as “crowdsales.”
How an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) Works
When a cryptocurrency startup wants to raise money through ICO, it usually creates a whitepaper that outlines what the project is about, the need the project will fulfill upon completion, how much money is needed, how many of the virtual tokens the founders will keep, what type of money will be accepted, and how long the ICO campaign will run for.
During the ICO campaign, enthusiasts and supporters of the project buy some of the project’s tokens with fiat or digital currency. These coins are referred to the buyers as tokens and are similar to shares of a company sold to investors during an IPO.
If the money raised does not meet the minimum funds required by the firm, the money may be returned to the backers; at this point, the ICO would be deemed unsuccessful. If the funding requirements are met within the specified timeframe, the money raised is used to pursue the goals of the project.
Investors looking to buy into ICOs should first familiarize themselves with the cryptocurrency space more broadly. In the case of most ICOs, investors must purchase tokens with pre-existing cryptocurrencies. This means that an ICO investor will need to already have a cryptocurrency wallet set up for a currency like bitcoin or ethereum, as well as having a wallet capable of holding whichever token or currency they want to purchase.
How does one go about finding ICOs in which to participate? There is no recipe for staying abreast of the latest ICOs. The best thing that an interested investor can do is read up about new projects online. ICOs generate a substantial amount of hype, and there are numerous places online in which investors gather to discuss new opportunities. There are dedicated sites that aggregate ICOs, allowing investors to discover new ICOs and compare different offerings against one another.
What goes into an ICO
ICOs can be structured in a variety of ways. In some cases, a company sets a specific goal or limit for its funding, which means that each token sold in the ICO has a pre-set price and that the total token supply is static. In other cases, there is a static supply of ICO tokens but a dynamic funding goal—this means that the distribution of tokens to investors will be dependent upon the funds received (i.e. the more total funds received in the ICO, the higher the overall token price).
Filecoin had its ICO in August and September 2017 and raised more than $257M. At that time, Filecoin’s ICO was the largest completed ICO, surpassing Tezos, which raised $232M
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Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.