It’s cheaper than ever to launch a tech startup, thanks to cloud computing, ubiquitous smartphones, and open-source codebases, or so the truism goes. Now add to that list the critical ingredient of any multi-million dollar initial coin offering, or ICO: the whitepaper.
Since ICOs generally raise funding on the promise of some future technology, the whitepaper is the key pitch document to potential investors. Freelance workers on the task outsourcing platform Fiverr can now write an ICO whitepaper for $100 a pop, as wannabe ICO issuers chase the over $3.5 billion in funding that such offerings have raised this year already.
A search for “ICO” on Fiverr shows 32 entries under the “research and summaries” category of services. These token offerings are the hot new way to raise funding. They are a hybrid between a traditional public stock offering and a crowdfunding campaign. ICOs promise to cut out professional early-stage investors like venture capitalists, allowing users to invest directly in projects in the early stages of their development. Here is a sampling of the advertised services on Fiverr and what they cost:
Potential clients only need to supply some basic information to a Fiverr writer. These include things like number of words, the number of citations, and what industry the ICO might relate to. Customers appear to be satisfied. One review reads: “Well researched and expertly written. The graphical illustrations exceeded what I ordered. I am very happy with the outcome.” Another notes: “Took a difficult to write subject and made it work with the confines of the blockchain.” Others are more critical: “The paper was done on time. It was OK quality. Some grammatical and syntax errors. Overall the delivered product was serviceable.”
It’s not clear how many ICO whitepapers have been written by Fiverr freelancers, but Quartz found one example. It’s for a project called Dowcoin, which is envisioned as a digital token that reflects the value of the top 30 cryptocurrencies at any one time. The idea is for Dowcoin to act like an index that “will bring stability to a volatile marketplace.” This is all explained in the whitepaper (pdf), which is around 3,700 words long. This should have cost $100 on Fiverr. Dowcoin intends to raise $120 million in its ICO. Dowcoin confirmed to Quartz that it used a Fiverr freelancer to write its whitepaper. The offering opened Nov. 10 and will end Dec. 10.
Fiverr says it’s only natural for ICO whitepaper services to pop up on its platform, since 6,000 new services are advertised daily. “It makes sense that the continued interest and popularity of ICOs would be reflected on our marketplace,” it said in a statement to Quartz. It noted that it doesn’t endorse any particular token offerings or similar fundraising mechanisms. It didn’t have any other data specific to ICO whitepaper writing.