Abstract

Blockchain is rapidly evolving and there is an increasing interest in the technology in both practice and academia. Recently, a blockchain use case called Initial Coin Offering (ICO) draws a lot of attention. ICO is a novel form of crowdfunding that utilizes blockchain tokens to allow for truly peer-to-peer investments. Although, more than 4.5 billion USD have been invested via ICOs, the phenomenon is poorly understood. Scientific research lacks a structured classification of ICOs to provide further insights into their characteristics. We bridge this gap by developing a taxonomy based on real-world ICO cases, related literature, and expert interviews. Further, we derive and discuss prevailing ICO archetypes. Our findings contribute to theory development in the field of ICOs by enriching the descriptive knowledge, identifying design options, deriving ICO archetypes, and laying the foundation for further research. Additionally, our research provides several benefits for practitioners. Our proposed taxonomy illustrates that there is no one-size-fits-all model of ICOs and might support the decision-making process of start-ups, investors and regulators. The proposed ICO archetypes indicate how common ICOs are designed and thus might serves as best practices. Finally, our analysis indicates that ICOs represent a valid alter-native to traditional crowdfunding approaches.

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