Finding honest information about initial coin offerings can be hard to do. You need a source that’s produced by an experienced team and has not been compromised by financial conflicts of interest. But there are research firms who believe educating investors is about more than making a buck.
This list of ICO research firms can help you get started.
Note: This overview is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Rather, it is intended to provide a starting point for further research. If you’d like to add information to this article, please reach out to us via email or in the comment section below.
While initial coin offerings have been around for years, they really took off in 2017. Despite the crypto sell-off earlier this year, the rate of ICO launches hasn’t eased up with 2018 already setting new records in crypto fundraising.
Unfortunately, that “easy” money can make the ICO industry a risky place for investors. Scam artists launch fake ICOs, rake in a bunch of cash and then leave behind worthless tokens. More commonly, incompetent project teams lack the talent to make their new business a success — and they may not even have a realistic business model.
Navigating this landscape requires an understanding of both business fundamentals and blockchain technology — something many investors lack. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the information you need to make a smart choice of ICO to back. There’s an entire industry of ICO analysts offering to help you learn.
What follows is a list of firms that offer free information and analysis of ICO projects. They seem to be free of the major conflicts-of-interest that plague many ICO listing services. However, not all of them are perfectly transparent about their leadership teams or their revenue sources.
As with everything in crypto-land, nobody can tell you where to invest. You need to do your own thinking before making your decisions.
Coinschedule is an ICO listing service in the United Kingdom that makes its revenue from providing marketing services to ICO projects. Alex Buelau founded the company as a side project in 2016. With the surge in new offerings in 2017, Buelau turned Coinschedule into a going concern with a staff of 15 people. Today, the company receives more than 20 applications from new ICO projects every day.
Coinschedule worked with scientists at the University of Oxford to develop its ICORank algorithm for evaluating ICO projects. The algorithm evaluates the quality and completeness of the information the project provides in its application. It also factors in the results of a Know-Your-Customer investigation Coinschedule conducts for each project. The resulting Trust Score gives potential investors a feel for a project’s trustworthiness.
The listing has a search feature that lets you filter by Trust Score, by blockchain or by category.
Unfortunately, Coinschedule does not fully disclose how it makes its money. Besides paying for their listings, ICO projects can pay for more prominent placement on the Coinschedule site. Projects that buy into Gold or Silver status get displayed at the top of the Live Token Sales & ICOs list.
- Alex Buelau, founder and CEO: Buelau had built a successful career in the medical device industry before discovering cryptocurrency. In 2017, he went all-in to develop Coinschedule.
ConcourseQ is a community-developed ICO research firm. Crypto enthusiasts and professional analysts dig into each project’s details, leadership and backers to identify strengths and weaknesses. Over-blown marketing claims, weak leadership and technical teams and limited details about the project’s technology are just some of the factors that could get flagged by the analysts.
ConcourseQ does not provide a score or rating for the projects it reviews, leaving it to investors to draw their own conclusions from the analysis. In addition, the community provides ways for people to learn about developments in the ICO industry with its curated feed Layer2 and Medium blog.
However, there is not much transparency about the site, its organizers or the people producing the analysis. Besides paying for server costs, ConcourseQ pays certain analysts, called Qfellows, a $350 monthly stipend. Yet, ConcourseQ does not disclose its revenue sources.
- Scott Lewis, co-founder: Lewis had a 9-year career as an equities trader in New York before founding ConcourseQ.
- Roni Davelman, co-founder: Davelman is a software developer and the technical lead on several Concourse projects.
ICO Alert is a listing service or, as they call it, a “discovery platform.” The ICO research firm started out as a personal project of the co-founders, brothers Rob and Mike Finch, who needed an easy way to track ICOs. Now the company has a dozen employees and more than 1 million users.
ICO Alert’s staff publishes reports on ICO projects to its blog as well as daily analysis of the crypto market. The ICO Alert podcast recaps the week’s news. With registration, you can get access to the detailed reports ICO Alert produces.
However, ICO Alert is not fully transparent about its business model. There is no description of what ICO projects have paid or how those payments affect placement on the ICO Alert listings. ICO Alert does provide additional services for ICO projects through a network of partner firms.
- Michael Finch, co-founder and COO: Finch was the co-owner of a Pittsburgh-based brewery before getting into crypto.
- Zach Quesada, VP of business development: Quesada is a former Lacrosse coach.
- Josh Bryant, VP of data management: Bryant has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer
ICO Transparency Monitor
ICO Transparency Monitor provides a “transparency benchmark” that investors and others can use to evaluate ICO projects.
An algorithm evaluates ICO projects purely based on what’s available on the Ethereum ledger. By evaluating code directly, the algorithm can tell whether an ICO’s smart contracts are truly self-executing. Analysis of token generation lets the algorithm evaluate how the project handles its money.
Rather than use a scoring system, the ICO Transparency Monitor simply assigns a label of “transparent”, “transparent with issues” or “non-transparent”. Investors can read the detailed analysis for more information.
Any ICO project can add themselves to the listing by sending a pull-request through GitHub. ICO Transparency Monitor does not charge placement fees or offer marketing programs.
Neufund, an equity fundraising platform, developed and operate the ICO Transparency Monitor as a free service to give back to the community. By doing so, the company said in its announcement “we will be doing our small part in exposing scams faster, helping investors direct their funds to honorable players, and just overall accelerating the maturation of this community that has treated us so well.”
- Zoe Adamovicz, co-founder and CEO of Neufund: Adamovicz is a serial entrepreneur who founded several technology companies in Berlin before co-founding Neufund.
- Marcin Rudolf, co-founder and CTO of Neufund: Rudolf is a software developer and entrepreneur whose focus was on mobile applications before getting into blockchain-based solutions.
Picolo Research is the independent research arm of Astronaut Capital, a crypto asset management platform. The firm’s research encompasses a broader range than other companies in this list by including blockchain startups in addition to ICOs.
Picolo analysts use ICO-provided documents as well as interviews with the project team in their analysis. As company founder Matthew Dibb outlined in a blog post, the purpose of the interview is not to get a marketing pitch from the ICO team. Rather, the interview is meant to “bring to surface any ‘red flags’ that would stop us from spending time on the subsequent phases of research and due diligence.”
The detailed reports, available through the Picolo Research website, provide a 5-star rating as well as a buy/spec buy/neutral/avoid/risky recommendation.
Picolo Research provides consulting services for blockchain startups and ICO projects.
- Matthew Dibb, founder: Dibb built a career in equities trading, market analysis and venture capital before founding Picolo Research. He is also the CEO of asset management platform Astronaut.
Smith + Crown
Founded in 2013, Smith + Crown is a research firm that specializes in the blockchain industry. The company maintains a listing of ICO projects. A shorter, curated list of ICO projects meet a set of minimum criteria but are not necessarily safe for investors.
The firm publishes most of its research to the Smith + Crown website without requiring registration. Analysts do a deep-dive into a project, its founders and backers. Going beyond the facts, the reports focus in on any issues that should concern potential investors.
Smith + Crown decides which ICO projects it researches and does not charge for placement on its listing or for other marketing services. The firm does, however, provide research and advisory services to ICO projects. Smith + Crown analysts disclose any business relationship the firm has with an ICO project being reviewed.
- Brian Lio, CEO: Lio has a wide-ranging career in software development, video production and product design. He is also a partner at product design firm Bright Iron Group.
- Matt Chwierut, research director: A social policy and economic development expert, Chwierut is also a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future.