How Civic Sold $33 Million Dollars in Tokens with Zero Marketing

Last week, one of my favorite companies raised $33 million in less than a month…and they did it without selling stock or borrowing money. Civic, an emerging leader in digital identity verification sold tokens to the public in a heavily oversubscribed Initial Coin Offering (ICO). And they did it without spending a single cent on marketing.

We are living in exciting times, where companies are selling digital tokens that allow users and supporters of the network to buy in early, kind of like a Kickstarter campaign. This empowers innovators to bypass traditional means of venture funding (angel investment, venture capital, venture debt, …) while raising all of the capital they may ever need to bring their platform and operations to scale. The cherry on top is that these tokens can be freely exchanged in real-time…it’s kind of like a non-dilutive startup IPO! Sound too good to be true? Thinking of launching your own token sale? This post will touch on the playbook Civic used flawlessly to ensure an ICO success.

But first, let’s cover the basics of what Civic is.

What is Civic?

Civic is an identity platform that provides trusted, decentralized identity verification in compliance with laws and regulations around the world. The first version of the product is similar to Facebook Connect, which allows third parties to verify your identity upon registration and login. Unlike Facebook, Civic allows the user to control the level privacy they maintain in the authentication process. Users thus own their data instead of a third-party platform, like Facebook, who can profit from selling it to pesky advertisers.

Now, back to the Civic ICO launch playbook. I bet you’re wondering how they raised $10s of millions without spending a dollar on buying ads or lists. Well, here’s a page out of the playbook.


Takeaways from Civic’s Token Sale Playbook

Here’s a snapshot of what Civic executed for their token sale. Take and use these points and consider them as you go and launch your next project.

Write a white paper in plain English.

White papers are typically written for the developer community, a relatively technical audience. Civic considered their broader community of supporters when they crafted their white paper, and as a result, a lot more people actually took the time to read it. Kind of makes sense, right? If you’re not sure how to write this way, think about explaining what you do to your grandmother. She probably has the best of intentions, but isn’t likely to be hip to the bits and bytes. You know like - “explain like I’m five.”

Setup a telegram room.

Last year, much of the ‘crypto’ community jumped to Telegram for it’s nimble security focused messaging application. Recognizing that many of their supporters are Telegram users, Civic created a dedicated Telegram room to host discussions about their platform and the impending ICO. As a result, the community could ask questions and get answers from Civic as well as other supporters.

Engage on Twitter.

Civic’s CEO (@VinnyLingham) is active on Twitter, with over 35,000 followers who have read his more than 12,000 tweets. Vinny has used his strong Twitter presence to answer questions about the Civic token sale and engage with Civic’s community of interested supporters.

Inbound marketing via thought leadership essays.

Vinny wrote a series of essays on Medium across a variety of related topics that help familiarize readers with both Civic and Vinny as a leader in the crypto community. You’re probably sensing a pattern (white paper, tweeting, messaging, essays): sharing transparent, concise and understandable content about the platform gives supporters the confidence to get involved as users and token purchasers.

The vanity headline is not the goal: Introducing the Civic Token Sale.

Civic: Enabling the future of privacy & digital security with ChainAuth™

Bottom up ICO model.

Civic decided early on that they wanted to attract the widest audience possible to their ICO. So unlike most companies approaching token sales, Civic made their offering open and public, while putting a cap on the amount raised during both the crowd sale and presale. This cap ensured that small buyers could participate, which supported building broad viral, word-of-mouth awareness and reduced the exposure to speculative buyers (who might just be looking to turn a quick profit). I like to call this a “Bottom Up ICO” and, in my opinion, we’re going to see a lot more of these to come.

Civic Network Effect Model

Launch the product first.

Civic built and launched the product first before announcing the token sale. Even the coolest idea is often difficult to conceptualize. With physical products on Kickstarter, campaigns include videos and prototypes to help overcome this challenge. Recognizing this, Civic released its first product well in advance of announcing their ICO. In fact, the user excitement around the product in many respects has driven the ICO success, rather than the other way around.

Sell the vision.

Civic has conveyed a bigger vision — solving a problem of global democracy, enabling digital identity and keeping personal data private. The sheer magnitude of their ambition, and the credibility of the team and the early product show supporters the long-term potential of Civic’s innovation and just how important it is. For example, think about how the Hyperloop is attempting to solve the world’s transportation challenges.

Hyperloop is the future of travel

Dogfooding.

Dogfooding is when you use your own product to solve a problem in the market, thus solving the problem for your users as well. Civic required users in the crowdsale download and use the Civic app to participate in the offering. This aligns their earliest user base with their strongest supporters to activate and then grow the network.

No discounts.

Civic gave no discounts to large purchasers of their tokens. Giving preferential pricing to anyone in either the pre-sale and crowdsale can attract the wrong type of buyers — financial speculators who don’t plan to be users. Instead, Civic’s pricing uniformity is fundamentally more fair and is designed to attract supporters who intend to be users.


In conclusion, if you want your next token sale (ICO) to perform well, create a strong community of supporters and (of course) increase in value, I’d recommend applying these key differentiators from the Civic playbook.

The Civic crowdsale will start on Wednesday June 21, 2017. For more information, visit Civic’s token sale site.