Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Initial Coin Offering (ICO)


An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a fundraising method used primarily by startups wishing to offer products and services, usually related to the cryptocurrency and blockchain technology industry. It involves creating and selling a new digital currency or token to investors in exchange for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum. Essentially, it’s a way for companies to raise capital by issuing a new cryptocurrency.


The phonetic pronunciation is: Ih-nish-ul Koin Oh-fur-ing (Ahy-see-oh)

Key Takeaways

1. Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a type of crowdfunding, used by startups. This is a technique used by businesses, particularly startups, to avoid strenuous and complicated capital-raising processes regulated by financial institutions or venture capitalists. An ICO campaign allows the business to issue a digital token (a form of cryptocurrency) to early investors in exchange for legal tender or other established cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

2. ICOs have the potential to raise a considerable amount of capital. The popularity of ICOs has skyrocketed in recent years. This is primarily due to the potential high return on investment it can provide to early investors, much higher than traditional forms of investments. Startups have managed to raise millions and even billions of dollars through this method, indicating the tremendous potential of ICOs to procure capital for businesses. However, this high return on investment comes with high risk due to the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies and regulations.

3. ICOs lack regulation and are subject to risk. The fundamental problem with ICOs is the lack of regulation, primarily due to it being relatively new and the technology it utilizes, blockchain, being barely understood by experts. This lack of regulation, while making investments lucrative, also makes them risky. This is because the potential for fraud is high in ICO campaigns. Additionally, due to the use of cryptocurrencies, the funds raised are subject to the volatility of the cryptocurrency market, which presents risks to both the investor and the startup company.


An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a significant term in business/finance because it represents a novel form of fundraising used primarily by startups willing to avoid the regulated capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks. In an ICO, a quantity of cryptocurrency is sold in the form of “tokens” to speculators or investors, in exchange for legal tender or other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. These coins are promoted as future functional units of currency if or when the ICO’s funding goal is met, and the project launches. The potential for high returns on investment makes ICOs attractive, while also introducing a new vehicle for innovation and business growth. However, it’s also crucial to note that this field is highly unregulated, making it susceptible to scams and market manipulation, which poses significant risk to investors.


The Initial Coin Offering (ICO) serves as a fundraising tool that trades future crypto coins for cryptocurrencies with immediate, liquid value. Essentially, it allows entrepreneurs to raise funds for their projects or businesses without going through traditional routes such as banks or venture capitalists. ICOs allow these businesses to bypass the rigorous and regulated capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks and instead, investors into the endeavor are given a new cryptocurrency token specific to the ICO. Investors hope that the token will perform exceptionally well into the future, providing them with a stellar return on investment. Often compared to an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for stocks, an ICO has its own distinct differences. For one, the buyers in an ICO enter the investment with the hope that the project will launch and their tokens will appreciate in value, leading to high returns. Over the past few years, ICOs have become a popular method to raise money quickly due to advancements in blockchain technology and the growing popularity of cryptocurrencies. However, they come with a high level of risk and are largely unregulated, leading some to warn of their potential for being a bubble with the potential to pop. Nonetheless, for investors who are well-versed in the cryptocurrency space and willing to take a risk, ICOs can potentially offer a lucrative return.


1. Ethereum ICO: One of the largest ICOs ever, Ethereum managed to raise over $18 million in 2014. It was pitched as a platform for building decentralized applications using blockchain technology. The native token for Ethereum is Ether, which was sold during the ICO.2. Filecoin ICO: Filecoin proposed a decentralized network for digital storage where users could rent out their unused storage space and earn Filecoin tokens. In 2017, Filecoin’s ICO accrued about $257 million, making it one of the largest ICOs in the blockchain industry.3. Bancor ICO: Bancor, a blockchain protocol that allows users to convert different virtual currency tokens directly to each other, raised about $153 million in Ether in just three hours in June 2017, making it one of the largest ICOs. Despite regulatory concerns, it successfully attracted substantial investor interest.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)?

An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a fundraising method used primarily by startups in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors. It involves the sale of a new cryptocurrency token in exchange for popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum or sometimes for fiat currency.

How does an ICO work?

In an ICO, a certain amount of a newly issued cryptocurrency is sold to investors in exchange for any of legal tender or other cryptocurrencies. These coins are referred to as tokens and are similar to shares of a company sold to investors in an Initial Public Offering (IPO).

Are ICOs legal?

The legality of ICOs depends on where and to whom they are offered. Some countries have banned ICOs (like China and South Korea), while others have embraced them. It is important for potential investors to understand the regulations in their region before proceeding with an ICO investment.

Are ICOs regulated?

Regulation varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. In some places, ICOs are heavily regulated and in others, they are not regulated at all. In the US, for example, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) often treats tokens from ICOs as securities that must comply with federal laws.

What is the difference between an ICO and an IPO?

An IPO, or Initial Public Offering, refers to a company’s first sale of stock to the public. Whereas, an ICO, or Initial Coin Offering, is a form of crowdfunding using cryptocurrencies. A key difference is in regulation: IPOs are intensely regulated, whereas ICOs are often not.

Who can participate in an ICO?

In general, anyone can participate in an ICO, provided they understand the process and risk involved, and provided ICOs are legal in their jurisdiction. However, some ICOs may have a selective criteria or prefer accredited investors.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of investing in an ICO?

Advantages of an ICO can include the potential for high returns and the opportunity to have early access to a new cryptocurrency or blockchain project. Disadvantages include a high level of risk due to the speculative nature of these investments and lack of regulatory oversight, which can lead to potential scams.

How can I invest in an ICO?

To invest in an ICO, one would typically need to buy tokens with their existing cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin or Ethereum. The specific steps can vary based on the ICO. Always remember to first perform thorough research and due diligence before investing.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More