5 mistakes you’re making in your Token White Paper

The long and short of writing a good White Paper

Melissa Dylan
Jan 16, 2018 · 5 min read

In the shifting-sand world of ICOs, the White Paper has been a constant: Every token sale project has to have one. A White Paper is a cotillion for your ICO — You debut your idea, parade your token (and how it works) and show-off your team’s credentials — to attract contributors to your project. A good White Paper can’t make a bad project successful, but a bad White Paper can certainly undo a good project.

When writing an ICO White Paper, it’s easy to get lost in the details. As the ICO market has gotten louder and more crowded, a greater focus on polish is necessary to stand out from the crowd and be appreciated for what you offer. As a Documentation Manager at New Alchemy, I’ve advised and written my fair share of ICO White Papers for clients, and I’ve noticed many ICOs make the same White Paper mistakes that prevent their projects from shining bright.

Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Not defining your target audience.

Early day ICOs targeted a crypto-savvy community that was already familiar with the basic technology. White Papers heavily laden in tech-speak earned the most crypto-cred. But as the ICO market has saturated and the crypto world is going mainstream, a project’s White Paper now needs to cater to a wider audience of future token users, many of whom are not crypto-savvy.

An eye to broader audiences means defining who you’re targeting with your White Paper, and writing it with the audience in mind. How much do they know about technology? How much explanation is required of the target industry? Ignoring questions like this will mean over- or under-explaining key facets of your project, potentially alienating your reader. Get in the mindset of your key target demographics and explain the project as simply as possible without obscuring important details.


2. Failing to identify why the project needs a blockchain or a token.

It used to be that ‘Decentralization’ was a magic mantra for a successful ICO. Now the landscape has matured (thankfully) and scrutinizing readers want to know why your idea or product will benefit from being decentralized. Does the blockchain add a key piece of the puzzle that no other solution will complete? Does your token achieve something specific that an existing coin or token will not? A well-developed answer assures contributors that you’ve thought through the details and aren’t just slapping a token and blockchain on an existing idea.


3. Underestimating how much the team matters.

Who you are — your background, your experience, and your expertise — are more important than most teams recognize when it comes to the success of your project and token sale. Not only do ICO participants want assurance that you’ll deliver on your promised product, but it helps reassure token buyers that you won’t be usurped if someone with more experience or insider knowledge comes along with a similar project. Does your team include the right subject matter experts? Do you have the right sphere of influence? Do you understand your market? Do you have what it takes to pivot, if necessary?

Go beyond just the list of companies or projects where you’ve worked. Include details on how long you’ve been involved in your industry, entrepreneurial experience, and why you created this project to begin with. Moonlighting began when the CEO, jeff tennery, saw some of his friends laid off during the recession and wanted to help. Hearing this story convinces us of his commitment and investment in success. Familiarity helps gain readers’ trust and assures them that you’re in the project for the long haul.


4. Failing to tell a story.

Your White Paper should be more than a series of facts. Eyes will glaze over and drool will form at the corner of readers’ mouths while reading paragraphs that could easily be a series of bullet points. Don’t forget to add your who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Instead of: The blockchain captures prescriptions from doctors so everyone can see them at any time.

Try: Our platform captures each patient’s medical prescriptions on the blockchain, giving care providers a record of current medications in emergency cases where the patient isn’t responsive. Because the record is permanent, opiate abusers will have a difficult time getting prescriptions from multiple or new doctors, putting us at the forefront of the war on opiate addiction.

Which project would you rather support?


5. Burying us in buzz words.

This revolutionary solution will disrupt our industry. By decentralizing transactions on a distributed ledger, all users will have access to a decentralized network, globalizing our industry and incentivizing our users with a 2-sided marketplace in this billion dollar industry. Did we mention it’s decentralized? Because it’s decentralized.

A lot of White Papers get so trapped in rhetoric that they forget to actually say anything. The paragraph above doesn’t give any insight into why someone should contribute to your project. Instead, you’ve just added your voice to the noise. If you find yourself using a buzzword or common term, ask yourself what you’re really saying. A blockchain is decentralized, sure, but why does it matter to your specific project? Say that instead.

Additionally, avoid statements that are overly grandiose. Are you really disrupting something, or did you simply invent a cool way to approach it? Starbucks is hugely successful today, simply by developing a different way to approach coffee and focusing on the quality of coffee beans. Being upfront and avoiding overstatements will help build trust between you and potential token buyers.


A White Paper is the perfect tool to share your vision, passion, and ambition for your project, with those who would like to contribute and play a pivotal role. If you do it right, the White Paper will attract not just participants today but supporters invested in the mission of your blockchain project, for years to come.


New Alchemy is a strategy and technology advisory group specializing in tokenization. The only company to offer a full spectrum of guidance from tactical technical execution to high-level theoretical modeling, New Alchemy provides technology, token game theory, smart contracts, security audits, and ICO advisory to the most innovative startups worldwide. Get in touch with us at Hello@NewAlchemy.io

New Alchemy

Analysis, updates, and education from the world's leading blockchain experts

Melissa Dylan

Written by

Documentation Manager, New Alchemy

New Alchemy

Analysis, updates, and education from the world's leading blockchain experts