“Bitcoin Silver combines the revolutionary power of cryptocurrency with the speed of the Ethereum network to extend it’s [sic] accessibility and use value to the rest of the world.” So stutters the cover notes for one of the 300+ crypto white papers published this year. With more ICOs than there are writers qualified in the field, it’s no wonder their academic quality has plummeted. The white paper, as a pitch model, is dead. The question is: what should replace it?
Drowning in a Bukkake of White Papers
As Wikipedia explains:
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
To many blockchain startups, however, the white paper is little more than the preamble to an adult movie; an inconvenience that’s destined to be skipped. Impatient investors, looking to flip tokens for an easy 2x, don’t care about problem statements and explainers on the untapped market for cryptocurrencies – just show them the token model.
Nevertheless, the format persists as the thin veneer of respectability that even the most dubious of ICOs must come wrapped in. “Course it’s not a scam bro. Did you not read the white paper? We’re creating a revolutionary decentralized ecosystem with its own governance model, and we’re gonna bank the unbanked billions globally”.
WWSD – What Would Satoshi Do?
Words that don’t appear in Satoshi’s white paper: decentralized, revolutionary, advanced, innovative, ground-breaking, state-of-the-art. Words that appear in every half-baked ICO white paper: all of the foregoing. Satoshi Nakamoto’s paper runs to just nine pages and is a masterpiece of taut, academic writing. Compare that with the ‘white paper’ for Bitcoin Silver – which is by no means the worst offender, it should be noted.
Much merriment was derived this week after it emerged that cut-price jobs market Fiverr is offering white papers for as little as $80. A more realistic estimate from earlier this year placed the cost of authoring a crypto white paper at $2,000+. For cash-strapped startups trying to cut corners until their ICO leads them to Lambo-land, the prospect of a knock-off white paper can seem enticing. They would do well though to recall the maxim about getting what you pay for. Investors might be greedy but they’re not dumb, and the prospects of raising millions off the back of a Fiverr white paper seem fanciful.
Startups miserly enough to buy into that offer, and investors daft enough to buy into the ensuing white paper deserve everything they get – which is likely to be a worthless shitcoin that will be lucky to make Etherdelta. The white paper meme has been flogged to death, with the bona fide papers suffocated by the faux pretenders. But what are the alternatives?
Enter the Pitch Deck
A pitch deck is a presentation, typically created in Powerpoint or Prezi, that provides a business plan overview. It’s the tl;dr version of the white paper: less rambling, less typos, and less buzzwords. If your business idea is “A decentralized X” or “Y on the blockchain”, you probably don’t need a 20-page white paper. We know what smart contracts are, we know how blockchain works, and we are well-versed in the benefits of tokenization. Just give us the cliff notes and be done with it. Persevering with white papers, long after the format has ceased to be taken seriously, is both disingenuous and inefficient.
There is one exception to this suggestion: for complex crypto projects, the white paper is still the best means of outlining the concept. If you’re creating the next Chainlink, in other words, stick it in a white paper. The next already existing app to be decentralized, “Blockchain for X”, on the other hand, should be hand-written on a sheet of toilet paper and air-dropped to investors in adjoining cubicles.
The Bitcoin Silver white paper concludes:
We have an incredible team consisting of financial experts, blockchain developers, telecommunication influencers, international law experts and local business ventures…working together to revolutionalize decentralize [sic] currency for the rest of the world.
Enjoy your Cryptopia listing.
Do you think the ICO white paper should be laid to rest? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Fiverr, Bitcoin Silver, and Comedy Central.
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