An ICO white paper is the main document that consists all main points behind a blockchain project.

In today’s cryptoworld, ICOs are so common, anyone with the littlest interest in the field will have heard of them. They allow blockchain projects to raise funds for development in a matter of days. However, not all are successful. As a matter of fact, a large percentage of them ultimately fail to raise their desired sums. However, this article is not about that. This is dedicated to one of the most important elements of any ICO. The whitepaper.

ICOs are largely unregulated. There are no laws regulating how one should go, and what needs to be done in order to host one. However, there are plenty of ‘unwritten’ rules. A whitepaper being one of them. Whitepapers are crucial for any ICO hoping to successfully raise funds, but what are they actually? This article will focus on what whitepapers are, and what should be included in a good one. Hopefully, by the end, you will have a good understanding of why whitepapers are so necessary to ICOs, and if you have a specific ICO you’re interested in, maybe this will help you judge whether the whitepaper has all the necessary information.

Whitepaper meaning

It is not difficult to explain what is a whitepaper, as it is one of the easier to understand concepts when it comes to ICOs and cryptocurrency. A whitepaper is essentially a detailed description of a project for which an ICO is hosted. The document should outline an existing problem, a clear solution/product, and give technical information as well as details about the team behind the project. There are no set regulations for what a whitepaper should include and what it needs to look like, but they usually follow a pattern and take into account what investors look for. You can even find whitepaper templates for download, though they will probably not come cheap.

It can be difficult to write a good whitepaper because of all the things that need to be included. You have to provide technical information but not make it boring, give details but not make it overly complicated, target both experts in the field and regular people, etc. Finding the balance can be quite complex, particularly because there are no set rules about what it is supposed to look like.

The term whitepaper has been used long before ICOs and blockchain whitepapers. The first use is believed to actually date back to 1920s, with many pointing to the Churchill White Paper as being the earliest well-known example. Whitepapers are generally meant to help understand an issue and come up with a solution. The idea is the same with ICO whitepapers as well. They outline a problem, and propose a way to solve it, aka a product. They also introduce the team behind the project, which gives investors a rough idea about how likely the team is to successfully develop the product. The team is actually the most important, and the part investors pay most attention to.

A whitepaper usually becomes available a couple of months before the ICO event begins. It helps attract attention to the ICO event and gives investors time to analyze the paper, as well as decide if the project is worth following. Whitepaper downloads can usually be done via the official project website, where additional information is also provided. So what are investors looking for in an ICO whitepaper, and what classifies as a good one?

What does a good whitepaper look like?

What every whitepaper should have:

  • Problem outline;
  • Solution/Product introduction;
  • Detailed product explanation (how it works, technical information, if there is a prototype, etc.);
  • Token economics;
  • Roadmap and financial information;
  • ICO details;
  • Team introduction.

A whitepaper’s main objectives are:

  • Outline the problem and the necessity for the product;
  • Present the product and the technology in a compelling way;
  • Establish trust between the reader and the team.

By the end of the whitepaper, the reader should:

  • have a clear understanding of why the product is necessary;
  • understand how the product would work;
  • grasp the token economics;
  • be given approximate dates for events;
  • be interested in investing in it.

Problem outline and proposed solution

The first part of the whitepaper often introduces a problem. Developers should not try to fix what is not broken, and instead should focus on a problem that actually needs solving. However, describing the issue is not enough, as there should be evidence and statistics provided as well. When the problem is clearly outlined, the solution should be introduced. It’s important to clearly explain how exactly the offered product will help solve the current problem, but it is too early to explain the technical details. The first part should focus on introducing the product and its features, why it could be beneficial, so that the people with no technical background can understand. Not everyone will read the full paper, so it’s important to introduce the most important parts early on. If tech specialists are interested enough, they will continue to the second part, where technical information should be provided.

Technical information

The second part is where all the technical specifications about how the technology works should be explained. One key thing to clarify is why the project needs the blockchain. A lot of ICO whitepapers mention blockchain just to create that buzz but fail to specify why exactly it is necessary. If decentralization actually benefits the product, it should be clearly explained. Token economics are also a must for every whitepaper. What is the purpose of the token and how will it work with the product? How will the token economics work? However, it should be noted that the end goal is to keep the audience engaged, and not bore it with unnecessary facts and buzzwords. Graphics and images are the way to go as they will help keep the audience engaged while also providing key facts. Nevertheless, images and graphics should be relevant and not for the sake of simply being there. If there is a prototype, it should also be introduced. In many cases, ICO projects do not have a working product and simply present a whitepaper. However, having a prototype will somewhat reassure possible investors that the project has potential and that the team is capable. If there already is a user base, there is a higher chance that the project will gain traction, which will result in tokens increasing in value, benefiting investors.

Financial information and the roadmap

Presenting a clear roadmap will help the reader get an idea of how the development process will go and how long until the actual product is released. The roadmap should be realistic. If a team that is yet to develop a prototype claims to be able to create a fully functioning product in a matter of a couple of months, it may be too good to be true. Information about the finances is also essential. The whitepaper should give numbers of both the hard and soft cap, how the raised funds will be allocated and what they will be used for. It is recommended to be as transparent as possible because ICOs are already frowned upon by many. Some even consider them to be scams altogether. This is why there needs to be detailed plans of how funds will be used at each stage of development.

The team

This is perhaps one of the most important parts of a whitepaper and ICO. You can ask any ICO expert and they will all tell you that the team is everything. The project idea could be perfect, but if the people behind it cannot develop it, then it does not matter how great the idea is, it won’t succeed anyway. Therefore, the audience will pay particular attention to the team and their experience. Many ICOs focus on the idea and the product too much and fail to prove that they are actually capable of delivering the product. How much experience do the team members have in the industry? Have they worked on similar projects before? Does the team have experts necessary to develop the idea into an actual working product? All these questions need to be addressed.


A lot of ICO projects downplay the importance of a whitepaper. When there is no actual product, the whitepaper is what people use to make investment decisions, so it should be carefully prepared. A good whitepaper should clearly explain what problem the product is trying to solve and how it will work. Technical information should be included but too much text may bore the reader, thus graphics and images are necessary. The document should also provide information about key dates, financial goals, and development phases. And most importantly, it should introduce a team that will convince potential investors that it will be able to deliver the promised product.