Alex Fatuliaj
July 25, 2023
Crypto Discussions

Do projects still sell their tokens to the public? Yes. Then they’re conducting an ICO. We can get more granular and specify where that ICO is happening, such as on a DEX or a CEX, but it’s still an ICO.


An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is the crypto version of an IPO – Initial Public Offering, where a company starts selling its stock to the public via an exchange.

There are two key differences between an IPO and ICO. Firstly, an ICO doesn’t create new tokens, it just sells a particular allocation (static or dynamic) to the public. Secondly, and more crucially, in an ICO a project can sell tokens directly to consumers, because the regulators haven’t caught up in time with the industry.

This is what the 2017-2018 ICO mania was predicated on. It meant that the vast majority of these projects were scams because anyone could (and anyone did) create a token, market it, and sell it. The regulators in America, Europe, Asia, and pretty much everywhere else cracked down on ICOs pretty quickly, but not before the damage was done.

So, someone in the industry had to step up and become the mediator. And who better than actual exchanges.

Thus, we moved from ICOs to IEOs.

ICOs to IEOs

But what is an IEO? It’s Initial Exchange Offering, a more granular and literal approach to the terminology.

The first ever IEO was Adab, April 2019. Simply put, the exchanges involved acted in the same way as a traditional stock exchange would in an IPO.

But, just like an IPO, IEOs required a decent chunk of regulatory barriers to be hopped over due to the regulations that exchanges, and by extension the projects doing an IEO, had to abide by.

So, someone in the industry had to innovate.


Raven Protocol decided they would be the ones to pave the road for the future. The first ever IDO was Raven Protocol, June 2019 on Binance DEX (a DEX on the Binance chain).

The way they conducted the IDO was by utilising smart contracts that allow KYC’d* investors to lock their funds in a pool, and once the TGE (token generation event) happens shortly after, the investors will get the tokens distributed to them, and the team collects the funds.

*The wallet addresses requested during the KYC process are whitelisted to allow for IDO participation. The requirement for KYC is to be at least somewhat on the right side of the regulations.

The industry does often get this wrong, however. People claim that IDOs are “listing your tokens on an exchange” but that’s not the case. People also claim that launchpads conduct IDOs or IEOs, but that’s not the case (launchpads are just fancy consultants -

So, who is still conducting ICOs?


Everyone. To be pedantic, or rather specific, every initial token sale to the public is an ICO by sheer definition. IDOs, IEOs, and all the other IOs are ICOs by definition, because the things they’re offering for sale for the first time to the public are cryptocurrency coins.

A project or entity can clarify for the sake of accuracy or to distance oneself from the regulators that they’re actually conducting an IDO or IEO, but fundamentally all of it falls under the ICO umbrella.

So, to avoid further confusion, I created the following definitions table.

ICO: Initial Coin Offering – the sale of cryptocurrency tokens for the first time to the public.

IDO: Initial DEX Offering – an ICO that takes place on a decentralised exchange via the use of smart contracts as escrow, just prior to the TGE.

IEO: Initial Exchange Offering – an ICO that takes place on a centralised exchange.

Launchpad: a consulting agency that helps projects conduct their ICOs via exchanges (centralised and decentralised) or by facilitating the escrow itself.

Public Sale: a synonym for ICO.

ICOs have a bad rep due to their history. But this isn’t a company we can rebrand from FTX to GTX, or Facebook to Meta. It’s an acronymised term.

For instance, the Federal Reserve launched “FedNow”, a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Instead of calling it a CBDC because of the negative connotations, they called it FedNow. That’s like rebranding ICO to Public Launch – fair enough. But rebranding ICO to IDO or IEO and pretending ICOs don’t happen doesn’t make sense. That’s like rebranding CBDC to DC without the CB.

Furthermore, just because we replaced the letter C with the letters D and E isn’t the reason the regulators stopped coming. They stopped coming because they stopped the massive scam era, not because they think that now we’re not conducting cryptocurrency IPOs.

We’re in for a bumpy ride once they finally catch up and the same regulation hits crypto. Let’s at least be mature about our terminology.

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