Reflections on a Token Sale
What we’ve learned so far, where we’re going and what we’re excited for in 2018
aXpire is a cloud-based and AI-enabled blockchain spend management company; find out more at www.axpire.io. Our company’s express goal is to remove the paper, pdf and spreadsheets (PPS) in the mid and back office, and to become the Salesforce of expense management. Boring is beautiful.
We recently completed our token sale at the beginning of 2018 and were blown away at the level of community support that pushed our main sale over the finish less in less than 48 hours. Our entire sale, pre-sale and full sale, was complete in 89 hours; we had targeted March 22nd.
Beyond our superb community, we would also like to extend a thank you to our advisory board and administrators; they each have brought a unique set of skills to the table, and have laid the foundation for not only a successful token sale, but also a successful company. We have a busy future ahead, and most certainly an exciting one.
All of the celebration aside, as we look at the mechanics of our token sale, we recognize that there is a lot we want to do better going forward. Our community deserves the best from us, as they have given us their best. We also want to provide a framework for those looking at doing an ICO in the future in 2018, we are all in crypto together.
We have not had time until now to address these lessons in detail, and would like to share them with the aXpire community and with the crypto community in general. We are not beyond saying that there were bumps in the road, and we’d like to share openly share these lessons in no particular order:
- The community makes or breaks the launch. Your community is the beating heart of your crypto platform. They are your best advocates, and want to see you succeed. There are the occasional bad apples, as there are in any community, but they are few and far between (<1% of our ~6,650 official aXpire telegram channel members); the vast majority are rooting for you. We have found a number of our current administrators from our Telegram channel, as they proved that they could consistently manage the community in a professional manner. Also, be aware that you are not only managing the people directly asking you questions, but also you are managing your brand for those people who are just reading. Let your community in on your thinking, be consistent, courteous and professional. They have put hard earned capital into the platform, treat them as such.
- Be available and be patient. This is a new concept and technology to so many people, they need to be certain the underlying concept and company-specific technology makes sense. If you are asking for them to participate on your platform, you must make sure you have someone available to answer questions 24/7. Don’t underestimate the power of one-on-one interactions; we found this was a great way to connect on a more personal level with our community. One thing we had absolutely no issues with was the responsiveness of our administrators, our customer support team. Without them, this sale would have not been what it was; they perfectly embodied the aXpire spirit of going above and beyond to make sure our clients are successful. 10/10, and hats off to them. Just one example of the messages we received as a result of our customer service: “I just wanna let you know that as someone who has bought AXP, I’m super comfortable with the platform and the team behind it. I’m glad to be part of something that’s gonna use blockchain technology in such a big way.”
- Keep your official channel as professional as possible. Keep in mind these venues are sources of diligence for people thinking about applying their hard-earned capital to get behind your technology. If it’s mainly memes and “when lambo?” it does not reflect well on the professionalism of your business. We did not crack down on that as early as we should have, but we’ve learnt our lesson. If people are so inclined to discuss anything unrelated to the technology of your company and the mechanisms of your token sale ask them to create a separate, unofficial, un-endorsed channel to discuss.
- Diligence your partners. We’ve been blessed to have fantastic partners thus far, but *buyer beware* there is an extreme lack of professionalism in the crypto community at this stage of its development. Make sure to ask for at least two references, call those references and talk in detail to those references. Minimize the contract length for a “try before you buy” and have multiple partners available for the job you’re looking for, don’t let lack of choice force you into mediocrity. Crypto moves fast, and you need partners who can keep up. We can recommend our partners R3, Microsoft, WeDoICOs, International RegTech Association and Bounty0X. If you would like an introduction to any of those groups, email email@example.com and cc firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have to chase a vendor, which was often the case, then they’re out! Thank them for showing you their cards early! The “flakiness factor” in crypto as it stands now needs to change, but that can’t be your problem. If you can’t find a great vendor, then don’t settle, delay your process and do it correctly yourself, or wait until you can get an excellent partner. This has been one of the most challenging lessons to learn in our token sale. Also, don’t be afraid to make an upgrade if one of your partners is just not delivering, you owe it to your community. The good news is that it’s only getting better!
- Security comes first. There are plenty of bad actors in this space, and we all need to do our part in shutting them down. Phishers tried to take our brand and use it to steal people’s private keys. Our community quickly alerted us to this fraud, and we shut it down. Not only that, but some of our community spammed these phishers with fake private keys to buy some of our community time to move their tokens. Luckily, all of our private information is hashed and secure. That is a must. Speaking of “musts,” three words: two factor authentication. Take your time, and do quality assurance testing, even if it means you must budge timeline. Better to risk your timeliness reputation than your quality reputation. Even better to risk neither!
- Compliance may not be higher than security on the list, but it’s mandatory. Be extremely aware of the latest developments in the world of crypto law, we highly recommend the “Unchained” podcast by Laura Shin, as she usually highlights the latest developments, and stay on top of coindesk.com. Speak with your counsel regularly, and make sure you are as fully compliant with the latest thinking. Saying that, realize that some counsel may have a vested interest in a certain “solution” becoming the norm, even when it’s not regulator-confirmed. Read all of the SEC commentary, you must conform to their views, regardless of your own. Do your own legal diligence too.
- Focus on the big picture. When the token sale initiated there were countless customer support tickets to handle, but you need to allocate full time resources to that, allowing the rest of the team to dedicate their time to what will actually generate value for the business, a.k.a. don’t get sucked in! It’s very tempting, but it’s in the long term interest of your community to have the bulk of the team working on securing sales, partnerships and talent.
- Keep spirits high. There will inevitably be bumps in the road, there’s no such thing as a perfect plan here. The only thing you can do is be patient, keep your chin up and remember you are creating a better future. Don’t get flustered, respond positively and professionally.
- Be a good steward. Remember that you represent the face of crypto, “don’t let the team down.” People are actively watching this space, including regulators, and are gauging if it should exist as it does now in the near future. Show them that not only should the space exist, but it should be augmented; it represents a promising technology and a new avenue of entrepreneurial growth that was previously underserved.
- Under promise, over deliver. Enough said.
So, where are we going? Well, in a few words, we’re looking at expanding the use case of AXP from simply a % of the software license to e-bidding, e-procurement and a number of other uses. We want to expand the eventual use case from asset managers, to industry-agnostic to potentially white-labeling aXpire’s technology outside of spend management.
We want our platform to enjoy all the benefits of the blockchain without forcing the technology onto our customers. Now, don’t get us wrong, they will be able to use our blockchain-enabled software, but we will offer a way for them to never “see” the AXP interactions built into the background. User friendliness is key, especially as we are selling brand new technology to established (and sometimes, regulated) firms. If we can maintain a familiar “API” while enjoying automatic transaction logging security, then we will be in spend management 2.0.
So, finally, what’s next? We see 2018 as the “year of crypto.” It is a make or break year, for many reasons, most notably, regulation. This industry is becoming too big to ignore, and the “internet v1.0” feeling is real. One needs only look at an average ICO or token sale message board to see that the majority of the members are retail investors. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need to encourage each other to do real due diligence on companies, and to not buy due to hype. We spent <$5k on pure marketing, ignoring advisor marketing, because our focus is our company. This was seen as a detractor by third party (unaffiliated) review sites, but we politely disagree; if the software and technology are good, then they should speak for themselves. We agree marketing is important to build a community, but I think we can safely say it’s overused. Too many ICOs create noise, and that’s where the bulk of the funding goes. If this industry continues to go down this rabbit hole it may not end well; there needs to be a legitimate business case underlying the noise.
Regulators can crack down, and would have good reason if the industry was all noise and no “meat.” Look at China as a recent example of this. To date, the Chinese government has banned ICOs and shut down all cryptocurrency exchanges. The government already has plans to require Alibaba to block any exchange of cryptocurrency soon. So far, China seems to be committed to blocking cryptocurrencies, but they could very well be setting the stage to ensure they are in control of the country’s cyrptotechnology. The U.S. is watching, so let’s show regulators the promise and legitimacy of this technology within a controlled environment, or risk losing it.
We have great hopes for our platform and the future of cryptoassets. aXpire plans to stand at the forefront of the movement to further legitimize blockchain-enabled technology. Again, thanks to all involved, and here’s to the year of crypto.
Find out more at www.axpire.io