LESSONS LEARNED FROM STARTING AN ICO/TOKEN SALE
For the longest time, I have wanted to disrupt the way healthcare information is managed and disseminated, but found the barrier to entry quite difficult and costly.
Let me backtrack a little….around 2007 or so, while practicing as a physical therapist, I found that the use of paper charts was outdated and difficult, and EMR systems were coming into play, but were crude and expensive. As our multi-disciplinary practice researched options, we were presented with a simple electronic record keeping system. It did its job, but was wholly inadequate. Since I was in tech prior to going into healthcare, I thought I could help solve the problem, but soon realized that legacy based EMRs dominated the market. Plus, their marketing budgets were astronomical and made it difficult for me to compete in that landscape, so I left it alone.
In 2010, I joined forces with AMSYS Group (www.amsysgroup.com) and we created a medical division to help physician practices with back office services, which included EMR implementation. If I couldn’t compete with the big companies, then, my goal was to help smaller practices maintain a proper budget and implement with smaller EHR/EMR companies. But, something still gnawed at me to try again.
I continued to leave the topic of an EHR alone until the advent of blockchain technologies led me to begin the exploration towards an EHR platform that could help steer healthcare in a new direction. And while continuing to help with our medical division, Transwise, I also became the CEO of AMSYS Blockchain/Cryptocurrency. I was given free reign to bring in the developers needed and was given all autonomy to build our flagship product, AMCHART (www.amchart.io). Now, I am not saying that we are the only player in this realm, but we do want to be at the forefront of change. For too long, old EMR companies have kept their systems from being integrated with other EHRs, they silo information, and do not allow for easy access for patients/providers.
Since we have a solid company and 15 years of reputation in our respective fields, I thought our path to developing a blockchain based EHR and performing a token sale would be relatively painless, but I was wrong.
At this moment, we are currently in the midst of our pre-sale and thankfully, we have done very well with contributions, so I will not complain there. But, other companies have approached us on what lessons we have learned so they can have a smoother pathway. And, if we believe in a decentralized world, we should also be free to share the basic lessons learned.
- Have a good executive and development team — There are many ICOs out in the marketplace and more will be coming out soon. The problem is that many of these ICOs have developers without blockchain experience and executives who have never run a company or business. I am not saying you can’t be successful with limited experience, but it makes talking to investors more difficult when there is no proven track record.
- Know the tech involved and skills of your team — We scoured the United States and beyond searching for the right fit for our CTO and found him across the country. He has been a welcome blessing both as our developer, and as a friend. When you have a leader that wants to see a project succeed as much as you do, it is a great feeling. Don’t be quick to hire blockchain developers into a full time role out of desperation. Start with a contract engagement and if things go well, snag them into a full time role as quick as possible.
- Find the right ICO partner to develop your technical platform — When you have blockchain developers who are great, you feel like they can do everything. Remember that your focus should be with the development of the product, not spending time on creating tokens, marketing, etc. Setting up the right SOW is important, but leave it to the partner to complete the transaction, help develop smart contracts, wallets, token acceptance/distribution, and auditing. (on a side note — I have interviewed many ICO shops who state the experiences they have had in the industry, but are hesitant to give references…beware!)
- Be comfortable with spending more money than you want on legal fees! I know that is a crazy statement, but the regulatory landscape changes daily, and you need a legal team that can help you pivot quickly. We have been able to receive advice from 3+ different law firms and all have their place throughout your ICO. It is easy to get frustrated on monies spent, but it is worth it. Have insights from these perspectives: crypto, tax, corporate structure, legal agreements and disclosures, patent/source code, among others.
- Marketing budgets and planning — This is another area where money can disappear quickly. Plan for social media spending, PR campaigns, banner ads, and two way communication. You should also spend some of your budget towards educating the public on how to invest in your ICO (wallet creation, when the tokens will be distributed, contact people, etc.). Plan to start 4–5 months before the public sale and continue throughout the sale afterwards.
- Communicate regularly with your contributors — I have made the effort to send out a weekly email blast with updates on our build. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, but have been told by many in the community that it has been appreciated.
- Understand that you may have to pivot on your tech, agreements, or timelines — As much as you want to stay on track, things happen. Whether its a new ruling by the SEC, changes in international acceptance of crypto, or a change in your blockchain architecture, remember this….we are all playing in a new frontier and obstacles are bound to come up. You can either adapt and move forward or be stuck analyzing the details and not realize that someone else has passed you by.
- Realize that you probably aren’t the only one working on your type of project — There are plenty of people in the ICO community who ask me how we compare to Company XYZ . I try to keep up with the latest companies/tech, but have been comfortable with saying that all companies who are willing to get into this space realize the potential for change needed in healthcare. I think there is plenty of room for collaboration and consolidation in this space, so let’s all work at it and see what transpires.
For now, that seems to be a good place to start. As I mentioned before, we are still in the midst of a pre-sale, so still some lessons to be learned. If you want further information, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.