San Francisco, CA
September 2018

Ever since the advent of Bitcoin and the subsequent popularization of blockchain technologies, many new blockchain-enabled products have been launched with just a couple of theories, formulas, and conjectures. The white paper has emerged as the primary document that can enlighten investors around a new projects’ plans and product roadmap, in particular. I have, however, observed after reading quite a few ICO white papers that many cryptocurrency projects make the same costly mistakes that can potentially scare away would-be investors.

First off, some ICO projects write their whitepapers in a careless manner, without any well-defined structure. A white paper. however, is not a general document but rather one that deals with specifics and technical information that should be split into sections and subsections. Having a structural pattern that makes sense can increase the number of readers that make it through the whole whitepaper and come away with a positive impression.

Second, formatting and grammar are also very important. Formatting is important in whitepapers and inconsistency in fonts, layout, capitalization of certain terms, writing style, level of technical fluency, etc. can create the impression of lack of consistency or attention to detail. I see this especially with white papers written by founders whose native language is not English. Grammar is important. Therefore, I recommend that projects outside of the U.S. employ various third party editors to correct grammatical mistakes such as improper use of tenses, incorrect punctuation, etc.

Third, some white papers are not as objective with their analysis of the given market landscape and problems to be solved. Startups attempt to provide solutions to everyday problems and communicate their observations and solutions via the white papers using their existing technology and use blanket statements such as “first, best, only” to describe their platform without outlining how their solution is positioned against other players in the landscape and quantitatively better. This is why research is important. Many projects that are pre-product launch can also be quite subjective by basing product requirements and features that will hypothetically lend a competitive advantage on assumptions and intuition rather than actual user research surveys.

Fourth, white papers should contain adequate information on the risk and legal protections the investors will or will not have when participating in the project’s fundraising. Many ICO whitepapers emphasize the positives and downplay the negatives. However, a white paper with a more neutral, unbiased take on things can come across with more credibility. Thus, companies should seek to inform investors adequately around risks associated with the project.

Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own and do not represent the opinions of Sharespost or any companies that I may advise or invest in.

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On Common Mistakes I See In Blockchain Whitepapers was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.