How to do an ICO – Step 1: Lightpaper

How to do an ICO – Step 1: Lightpaper

Strategic Coin offers thought leaders an opportunity to get recognized for their views and expertise in this game changing marketplace. Arran J Stewart is the co-founder of blockchain recruitment platform This article was originally posted on Medium

As the Co-Founder of, my partner and I set out on a journey to decentralize hiring, with value exchange being at the heart of our ecosystem. With that in mind, I am contributing my value and knowledge with this community, in exchange for a better and more productive blockchain world, and to improve the quality of the projects being created and the benefits of those projects being enjoyed by all. Since the ICO gold rush of 2017, there have been a lot of ideas flooding the market, for the right and wrong reasons. To truly realize the potential of this new frontier, ambitious projects must succeed and legitimize mainstream adoption. It is important we collaborate and share our insights to minimize the pitfalls that can derail even the most dedicated and impactful ideas.

My advice here is simply my opinion, there are not guaranteed formulas to success, only practical wisdom which you may chose to embrace, or disregard. Either way, my disclaimer to everything I write is, it’s just an opinion, but an educated one at that. I am sharing what I have learnt through the process of completing a successful ICO, with some lessons still yet to come. There will be others that disagree or have a different view, which is also key to groupthink and growth. My intention is to support the growth of the blockchain and crypto, as I believe we are entering a new opportunity for humanity to truly rewrite its future.

Conducting an ICO is simple, as long as you accept one thing: Be prepared to commit blood, sweat and tears. That’s the only way.

Now, it should go without saying, that if you are about to embark on an ICO, you have relevant experience in the space you are launching in, and that your product is worthy of blockchain. If you have any questions about that regarding your project, stop reading and go back to the drawing board.

If you are confident about your idea, proceed to step one when starting your ICO:

Write a good lightpaper. A good one is easier said than done.

Some will argue that the lightpaper is a boiled down whitepaper, and I wholeheartedly DISAGREE. It is the start, the seed of something brilliant, to which you inspire others to join your movement, understand your product, and input on how to refine your service, structure, tech, ICO, token metrics and more.

Your lightpaper is the first step to the journey, as you need to use this to entice the right advisory team to take your project from start to completion. You must have an articulate perception of your product, how blockchain is needed within the application, and how a token economy supports making the vision possible. It’s down to you as the founder of your new blockchain ecosystem, to have a decent understanding of all the components needed to deliver a successful ICO. The lightpaper should be as it says, light product outline, basic numbers, a use case and application, current team, projections and estimated funds required with rough use of funds.

Most ICOs have a lightpaper as a quick snapshot of the project and this is correct as well, but should be crafted when you have a public site. Before this happens, I advise keeping your project as secretive as possible until you are able to execute. It will evolve, but at first, a private lightpaper serves the purpose of getting buy-in from other parties, namely advisors.

Some will say a full whitepaper is required for gaining advisors, but again I have to disagree. A good project, with a clear overview of the tech, how it’s used, and a team that looks like it knows what they’re doing is enough to pull over the necessary support. The reason I say ‘no’ to doing the whitepaper first is unless you have experience in launching a successful ICO, you will get it wrong. I guarantee you will waste valuable time writing “War and Peace”, only for your seasoned advisors to rip it apart. So my intention here is to save you time. Being completely transparent throughout our ICO process, the team and I wrote and rewrote the whitepaper more than a dozen times, only to then be directed to breakdown and restructure the whole paper once we onboarded veteran ICO pros. In hindsight, we could have simply created a lightpaper and then a whitepaper with our advisory team and saved a whole lot of hassle.

In the beginning, be comfortable not having all the answers. All you need to be sure about is your vision and roughly how you are going to get there. The granular detail should and will come later. It’s not a weakness not knowing all the answers. It is, however, a weakness not being the master of your own vision.

Great ideas spark a passion that can be felt in everything you write, every presentation you give and every conversation you have. You will know when creating your lightpaper, and reflecting on your experience, whether you have something special that could grace the listings of ICOdrops in the near future. Don’t be afraid to share that passion and dedication to decentralize your industry so hard that all that will exist is your token and the ecosystem it has created for itself.

Last year, too many projects broke a fundamental rule: if money is the only thing you chase, it will be the last thing you get. Focus on being brilliant at what you do and money will follow. Sadly, so many projects badged as S%!tcoins rewarded people with lots of life-changing money for utter rubbish. Now, during an ICO “winter”, where crypto is down and everyone is far more savvy, money is not as plentiful for those dishonest players, but there is certainly ICO funds out there for the right projects.

So to summarize, for all of you who are too lazy to read my entire article and just want to get on with starting your ICO, here are my DO’s and DON’TS for Step 1 – Lightpaper:


  1. Team – talented, dedicated, accomplished, and with skill diversity
  2. Solid product overview – what is it? how will it do it?
  3. Blockchain use case
  4. Token use case
  5. The Big Vision
  6. Some market overview – does the world need this? what’s the market size?
  7. Anticipated funds required
  8. Anticipated use of funds
  9. Use clear diagrams and visual aids where possible
  10. Keep this document private and under NDA with anyone until you are in a position of strength
  11. There is never any harm in creating a small demo/prototype of your product as early as possible


  1. Don’t do this for ICO money. Do it to create something that will make a difference. Check your mindset.
  2. Write a full whitepaper, you will only rip it up later, let the advisors help you
  3. Spend any money one anyone at all. You can do this part alone
  4. Commit to companies that promise to do everything for you. The right advisor, will be attracted by this lightpaper and will make all the intro’s you need.

Once you have done this, then Step 2 is gaining the right advisors, which I will get to in my next article.

I will be writing on every step you need for your ICO, from token economics, a productive telegram, and attending/sponsoring blockchain conferences. Feel free to share topics with me that you would like me to cover.

I’ll close on this…

A successful ICO is about creating a meaningful product that can sustain a token economy based on its own merit after the funds have been raised. It is not about raising a load of other people’s money, then figuring it out later. Only a real vision will deliver a successful stable economy after launch and determine long-term viability and scalability.