Maciej Zieliński

08 Mar 2022

Modern technologies make more and more people try to raise capital in order to make their ideas a reality. The ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and STO (Security Tokens Offerings) methods which we describe below can help with this immensly! The entire acquisition process is based on digital assets, crypto tokens, blockchain technology and smart contracts.

What is Initial Coin Offering (ICO)?

Initial Coin Offering (ICO), is a method of raising capital in the form of cryptocurrency or tokens in order to finance a project. This method is very often used when finalizing blockchain startups. Initial cain offering is equivalent to initial public offering (IPO) in the cryptocurrency industry. A company that wants to raise money to create a new coin, application or service can launch ICO as a way to raise funds. A crypto token is typically created as a currency that matches the currently created ico projects. This means that a project that wants to raise funds for its own idea should create a crypto cain or a token that allows for financial settlements between project developers and investors. This is different from traditional trade markets because it is based on crypto assets and a smart contract that accounts for them.

Place for ICO

Nevetheless, there are many cryptcurrency markets and crypto exchanges which allow token sales and organizing ico projects and initial cain offerings. Interested investors may purchase a preliminary coin offer to receive a new cryptocurrency token issued by the company. These utility tokens are associated with a product or service offered by your company, or may simply represent your participation in a company or project.

How do initial coin offerings work?

When a blockchain project wants to have a sucessful ico and raise coins through that ICO, the first step of the organizers should be to determine how the project can be organized. An ICO can be organized in several different ways, including:

  • Static Price: A company can set a specific financing target or limit, which means that, every token sold in ICO has a fixed price, and the total supply of tokens is fixed.
  • Static Supply and Dynamic Price: ICO may have a static token supply and a dynamic funding goal – that means the amount of money received in the ICO determines the overall price per token.
  • Dynamic supply and static price: Some ICOs have a dynamic supply of tokens, but a fixed price, which means that the amount of funding received is determined by supply of the market.
How do ICO work?

In addition to the structure of ICO, a cryptocurrency project should normally have a white paper which is made available to potential investors through a new token web page. The project promoters use white paper to explain important information related to ICO, namely to present:

  • What is the project about
  • How many virtual tokens are kept by the founders
  • What kind of payments (and currencies) will be accepted
  • How long will the ICO campaign last
  • The demand the project will satisfy after its completion
  • How much funding is needed for the project
  • minimum entry barrier
  • what do we gain access to as part of our investment

The project should present the whitepaper as part of the ICO campaign it creates to encourage enthusiasts and sympathizers to purchase some tokens. Investors can generally use either a fiscal or digital currency, or use other financial instruments to buy new tokens. As part of the capital they have invested, investors enjoy high profitability, along with the benefits of the token, while also helping to achieve the project objective. Let us remember that if the money collected in the ICO is less than the minimum amount required by the ICO criteria, then all money can be returned to the project investors. If the funding requirements are met within a certain period of time, the money collected is spent on the project's objectives. It is worth noting that the investment on the basis of tokens or coins provides anonymous participation in the project.

Who can launch an ICO?

Currently, anyone who has access to the relevant technology can launch a new cryptocurrency (unless it is restricted by national law). Unfortunately, out of all possible ways of financing, ICO is probably one of the easiest forms which can be used to commit fraud. To avoid scams you should:

  • check who is behind a successful ico
  • obtain as much knowledge as possible regarding what a given cryptocurrency token offers
  • find out if we are dealing with a well executed digital campaign
  • obtain information regarding the investment contract
  • analyze the regulatory scrutiny of the project
  • determine whether purchasing a token grants us any ownership rights, or at least fractional ownership

Pros and cons of ICO

Online services can help you generate and acquire cryptocurrency tokens, so your business can consider launching ICO with ease. ICO managers generate tokens according to the terms of the ICO, receive them, and distribute tokens to retail investors. Let us remember that ICO is not strictly regulated by financial bodies such as the SEC, and therefore funds lost as a result of fraud or incompetence may never be recovered. The advantages of ICO are undoubtedly that a company can obtain rapid capital for the development of a project and investors can expect high return rates on their investment.

What is STO (security token offering)?

STO, or Security Token offering, is increasingly important in the financial world. STO is a process in which investors introduce a cryptocurrency coin or token. Such securities or financial instruments have a monetary value and can be traded on STO cryptocurrency exchanges where the information is recorded in public blockchains This process is often seen as a hybrid approach between the initial coin offering (ICO) and the more traditional initial public offering (IPO) for shares.

ICO vs STO: what is STO?

What are security token offers?

The security token offering (STO) is in fact a public event where tokens are sold through cryptocurrency exchanges. Tokens can then be used for trade in real financial assets such as shares. STO were already used in many investment scenarios and are more enthusiasticly perceived by both mainstream and institutional investors.

What is the difference between Initial Coin Offerings and security token offerings?

How do ICO and STO compare to one another? The ICO and the security token offerings (STO) generally follow the same process. They represent the initial distribution of coines related to a particular investment mechanism. However, they differ in the characteristics of the offered token.

STO offers are supported by assets and are fully in line with the legal order. On the other hand, ICO are tool tokens that offer access to a native platform and decentralized applications. ICO tokens are primarily intended for use, not investment. In practice, this means that the entry barrier for ICO is much lower. It is therefore much more likely that they will be offered to the general public. It is much more difficult to start a STO because their ethos is to provide an investment contract while ensuring investment security. This requires much more preparatory work and compliance.

Pros and cons of STO

Here are some of the pros and cons related to STO:


  • STO are generally seen as less risky investments than ICO and IPO, as they are protected by securities laws. They are also supported by real assets, which means that it is easier for the user to assess whether the token is accurately priced.
  • Initial offers of security tokens are also cheaper because their structure allows for the removal of intermediaries such as banks and brokerage houses.
  • Smart contracts, which are a part of the STO package, also reduce the need for lawyers, making STO a more affordable option.
  • STO are available for trade 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing additional flexibility

Cons related to STO

A huge disadvantage of STO is that non-accredited investors cannot possess them. In the United States, to become an accredited investor, you must earn at least $200 000 per year or have at least $1 million in your bank account. This makes tokens much less available than traditional Blockchain offers.

STO are more expensive than utility tokens due to their regulatory requirements. In addition, unlike similar coins, they are also subject to restrictions on second hand markets.
Moreover, security tokens have a time interlock mechanism. You can only trade STO tokens between qualified investors for a pre-determined period after the STO process is initiated.


Both ICO and STO are offers that allow for quick and substantial raising of capital for new blokchain related start-ups. However, both ICO and STO have some advantages and disadvantages which can help you decide which technology you prefer to use. With ICO, access to investments is much easier and simpler than with STO. Unfortunately, STO imposes an obligation to only allow accredited investors to invest in it, which may make raising funds much more complicated. At the same time, STO ensures greater security of the collected funds. Which method is better? It depends on what is more important for us. However, both methods are very popular.

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Applying Game Theory in Token Design

Kajetan Olas

16 Apr 2024
Applying Game Theory in Token Design

Blockchain technology allows for aligning incentives among network participants by rewarding desired behaviors with tokens.
But there is more to it than simply fostering cooperation. Game theory allows for designing incentive-machines that can't be turned-off and resemble artificial life.

Emergent Optimization

Game theory provides a robust framework for analyzing strategic interactions with mathematical models, which is particularly useful in blockchain environments where multiple stakeholders interact within a set of predefined rules. By applying this framework to token systems, developers can design systems that influence the emergent behaviors of network participants. This ensures the stability and effectiveness of the ecosystem.

Bonding Curves

Bonding curves are tool used in token design to manage the relationship between price and token supply predictably. Essentially, a bonding curve is a mathematical curve that defines the price of a token based on its supply. The more tokens that are bought, the higher the price climbs, and vice versa. This model incentivizes early adoption and can help stabilize a token’s economy over time.

For example, a bonding curve could be designed to slow down price increases after certain milestones are reached, thus preventing speculative bubbles and encouraging steadier, more organic growth.

The Case of Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s design incorporates game theory, most notably through its consensus mechanism of proof-of-work (PoW). Its reward function optimizes for security (hashrate) by optimizing for maximum electricity usage. Therefore, optimizing for its legitimate goal of being secure also inadvertently optimizes for corrupting natural environment. Another emergent outcome of PoW is the creation of mining pools, that increase centralization.

The Paperclip Maximizer and the dangers of blockchain economy

What’s the connection between AI from the story and decentralized economies? Blockchain-based incentive systems also can’t be turned off. This means that if we design an incentive system that optimizes towards a wrong objective, we might be unable to change it. Bitcoin critics argue that the PoW consensus mechanism optimizes toward destroying planet Earth.

Layer 2 Solutions

Layer 2 solutions are built on the understanding that the security provided by this core kernel of certainty can be used as an anchor. This anchor then supports additional economic mechanisms that operate off the blockchain, extending the utility of public blockchains like Ethereum. These mechanisms include state channels, sidechains, or plasma, each offering a way to conduct transactions off-chain while still being able to refer back to the anchored security of the main chain if necessary.

Conceptual Example of State Channels

State channels allow participants to perform numerous transactions off-chain, with the blockchain serving as a backstop in case of disputes or malfeasance.

Consider two players, Alice and Bob, who want to play a game of tic-tac-toe with stakes in Ethereum. The naive approach would be to interact directly with a smart contract for every move, which would be slow and costly. Instead, they can use a state channel for their game.

  1. Opening the Channel: They start by deploying a "Judge" smart contract on Ethereum, which holds the 1 ETH wager. The contract knows the rules of the game and the identities of the players.
  2. Playing the Game: Alice and Bob play the game off-chain by signing each move as transactions, which are exchanged directly between them but not broadcast to the blockchain. Each transaction includes a nonce to ensure moves are kept in order.
  3. Closing the Channel: When the game ends, the final state (i.e., the sequence of moves) is sent to the Judge contract, which pays out the wager to the winner after confirming both parties agree on the outcome.

A threat stronger than the execution

If Bob tries to cheat by submitting an old state where he was winning, Alice can challenge this during a dispute period by submitting a newer signed state. The Judge contract can verify the authenticity and order of these states due to the nonces, ensuring the integrity of the game. Thus, the mere threat of execution (submitting the state to the blockchain and having the fraud exposed) secures the off-chain interactions.

Game Theory in Practice

Understanding the application of game theory within blockchain and token ecosystems requires a structured approach to analyzing how stakeholders interact, defining possible actions they can take, and understanding the causal relationships within the system. This structured analysis helps in creating effective strategies that ensure the system operates as intended.

Stakeholder Analysis

Identifying Stakeholders

The first step in applying game theory effectively is identifying all relevant stakeholders within the ecosystem. This includes direct participants such as users, miners, and developers but also external entities like regulators, potential attackers, and partner organizations. Understanding who the stakeholders are and what their interests and capabilities are is crucial for predicting how they might interact within the system.

Stakeholders in blockchain development for systems engineering

Assessing Incentives and Capabilities

Each stakeholder has different motivations and resources at their disposal. For instance, miners are motivated by block rewards and transaction fees, while users seek fast, secure, and cheap transactions. Clearly defining these incentives helps in predicting how changes to the system’s rules and parameters might influence their behaviors.

Defining Action Space

Possible Actions

The action space encompasses all possible decisions or strategies stakeholders can employ in response to the ecosystem's dynamics. For example, a miner might choose to increase computational power, a user might decide to hold or sell tokens, and a developer might propose changes to the protocol.

Artonomus, Github

Constraints and Opportunities

Understanding the constraints (such as economic costs, technological limitations, and regulatory frameworks) and opportunities (such as new technological advancements or changes in market demand) within which these actions take place is vital. This helps in modeling potential strategies stakeholders might adopt.

Artonomus, Github

Causal Relationships Diagram

Mapping Interactions

Creating a diagram that represents the causal relationships between different actions and outcomes within the ecosystem can illuminate how complex interactions unfold. This diagram helps in identifying which variables influence others and how they do so, making it easier to predict the outcomes of certain actions.

Artonomus, Github

Analyzing Impact

By examining the causal relationships, developers and system designers can identify critical leverage points where small changes could have significant impacts. This analysis is crucial for enhancing system stability and ensuring its efficiency.

Feedback Loops

Understanding feedback loops within a blockchain ecosystem is critical as they can significantly amplify or mitigate the effects of changes within the system. These loops can reinforce or counteract trends, leading to rapid growth or decline.

Reinforcing Loops

Reinforcing loops are feedback mechanisms that amplify the effects of a trend or action. For example, increased adoption of a blockchain platform can lead to more developers creating applications on it, which in turn leads to further adoption. This positive feedback loop can drive rapid growth and success.

Death Spiral

Conversely, a death spiral is a type of reinforcing loop that leads to negative outcomes. An example might be the increasing cost of transaction fees leading to decreased usage of the blockchain, which reduces the incentive for miners to secure the network, further decreasing system performance and user adoption. Identifying potential death spirals early is crucial for maintaining the ecosystem's health.

The Death Spiral: How Terra's Algorithmic Stablecoin Came Crashing Down
the-death-spiral-how-terras-algorithmic-stablecoin-came-crashing-down/, Forbes


The fundamental advantage of token-based systems is being able to reward desired behavior. To capitalize on that possibility, token engineers put careful attention into optimization and designing incentives for long-term growth.


  1. What does game theory contribute to blockchain token design?
    • Game theory optimizes blockchain ecosystems by structuring incentives that reward desired behavior.
  2. How do bonding curves apply game theory to improve token economics?
    • Bonding curves set token pricing that adjusts with supply changes, strategically incentivizing early purchases and penalizing speculation.
  3. What benefits do Layer 2 solutions provide in the context of game theory?
    • Layer 2 solutions leverage game theory, by creating systems where the threat of reporting fraudulent behavior ensures honest participation.

Token Engineering Process

Kajetan Olas

13 Apr 2024
Token Engineering Process

Token Engineering is an emerging field that addresses the systematic design and engineering of blockchain-based tokens. It applies rigorous mathematical methods from the Complex Systems Engineering discipline to tokenomics design.

In this article, we will walk through the Token Engineering Process and break it down into three key stages. Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase.

Discovery Phase of Token Engineering Process

The first stage of the token engineering process is the Discovery Phase. It focuses on constructing high-level business plans, defining objectives, and identifying problems to be solved. That phase is also the time when token engineers first define key stakeholders in the project.

Defining the Problem

This may seem counterintuitive. Why would we start with the problem when designing tokenomics? Shouldn’t we start with more down-to-earth matters like token supply? The answer is No. Tokens are a medium for creating and exchanging value within a project’s ecosystem. Since crypto projects draw their value from solving problems that can’t be solved through TradFi mechanisms, their tokenomics should reflect that. 

The industry standard, developed by McKinsey & Co. and adapted to token engineering purposes by Outlier Ventures, is structuring the problem through a logic tree, following MECE.
MECE stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive. Mutually Exclusive means that problems in the tree should not overlap. Collectively Exhaustive means that the tree should cover all issues.

In practice, the “Problem” should be replaced by a whole problem statement worksheet. The same will hold for some of the boxes.
A commonly used tool for designing these kinds of diagrams is the Miro whiteboard.

Identifying Stakeholders and Value Flows in Token Engineering

This part is about identifying all relevant actors in the ecosystem and how value flows between them. To illustrate what we mean let’s consider an example of NFT marketplace. In its case, relevant actors might be sellers, buyers, NFT creators, and a marketplace owner. Possible value flow when conducting a transaction might be: buyer gets rid of his tokens, seller gets some of them, marketplace owner gets some of them as fees, and NFT creators get some of them as royalties.

Incentive Mechanisms Canvas

The last part of what we consider to be in the Discovery Phase is filling the Incentive Mechanisms Canvas. After successfully identifying value flows in the previous stage, token engineers search for frictions to desired behaviors and point out the undesired behaviors. For example, friction to activity on an NFT marketplace might be respecting royalty fees by marketplace owners since it reduces value flowing to the seller.

source: https://www.canva.com/design/DAFDTNKsIJs/8Ky9EoJJI7p98qKLIu2XNw/view#7

Design Phase of Token Engineering Process

The second stage of the Token Engineering Process is the Design Phase in which you make use of high-level descriptions from the previous step to come up with a specific design of the project. This will include everything that can be usually found in crypto whitepapers (e.g. governance mechanisms, incentive mechanisms, token supply, etc). After finishing the design, token engineers should represent the whole value flow and transactional logic on detailed visual diagrams. These diagrams will be a basis for creating mathematical models in the Deployment Phase. 

Token Engineering Artonomous Design Diagram
Artonomous design diagram, source: Artonomous GitHub

Objective Function

Every crypto project has some objective. The objective can consist of many goals, such as decentralization or token price. The objective function is a mathematical function assigning weights to different factors that influence the main objective in the order of their importance. This function will be a reference for machine learning algorithms in the next steps. They will try to find quantitative parameters (e.g. network fees) that maximize the output of this function.
Modified Metcalfe’s Law can serve as an inspiration during that step. It’s a framework for valuing crypto projects, but we believe that after adjustments it can also be used in this context.

Deployment Phase of Token Engineering Process

The Deployment Phase is final, but also the most demanding step in the process. It involves the implementation of machine learning algorithms that test our assumptions and optimize quantitative parameters. Token Engineering draws from Nassim Taleb’s concept of Antifragility and extensively uses feedback loops to make a system that gains from arising shocks.

Agent-based Modelling 

In agent-based modeling, we describe a set of behaviors and goals displayed by each agent participating in the system (this is why previous steps focused so much on describing stakeholders). Each agent is controlled by an autonomous AI and continuously optimizes his strategy. He learns from his experience and can mimic the behavior of other agents if he finds it effective (Reinforced Learning). This approach allows for mimicking real users, who adapt their strategies with time. An example adaptive agent would be a cryptocurrency trader, who changes his trading strategy in response to experiencing a loss of money.

Monte Carlo Simulations

Token Engineers use the Monte Carlo method to simulate the consequences of various possible interactions while taking into account the probability of their occurrence. By running a large number of simulations it’s possible to stress-test the project in multiple scenarios and identify emergent risks.

Testnet Deployment

If possible, it's highly beneficial for projects to extend the testing phase even further by letting real users use the network. Idea is the same as in agent-based testing - continuous optimization based on provided metrics. Furthermore, in case the project considers airdropping its tokens, giving them to early users is a great strategy. Even though part of the activity will be disingenuine and airdrop-oriented, such strategy still works better than most.

Time Duration

Token engineering process may take from as little as 2 weeks to as much as 5 months. It depends on the project category (Layer 1 protocol will require more time, than a simple DApp), and security requirements. For example, a bank issuing its digital token will have a very low risk tolerance.

Required Skills for Token Engineering

Token engineering is a multidisciplinary field and requires a great amount of specialized knowledge. Key knowledge areas are:

  • Systems Engineering
  • Machine Learning
  • Market Research
  • Capital Markets
  • Current trends in Web3
  • Blockchain Engineering
  • Statistics


The token engineering process consists of 3 steps: Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase. It’s utilized mostly by established blockchain projects, and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Even though it’s a very resource-consuming process, we believe it’s worth it. Projects that went through scrupulous design and testing before launch are much more likely to receive VC funding and be in the 10% of crypto projects that survive the bear market. Going through that process also has a symbolic meaning - it shows that the project is long-term oriented.

If you're looking to create a robust tokenomics model and go through institutional-grade testing please reach out to contact@nextrope.com. Our team is ready to help you with the token engineering process and ensure your project’s resilience in the long term.


What does token engineering process look like?

  • Token engineering process is conducted in a 3-step methodical fashion. This includes Discovery Phase, Design Phase, and Deployment Phase. Each of these stages should be tailored to the specific needs of a project.

Is token engineering meant only for big projects?

  • We recommend that even small projects go through a simplified design and optimization process. This increases community's trust and makes sure that the tokenomics doesn't have any obvious flaws.

How long does the token engineering process take?

  • It depends on the project and may range from 2 weeks to 5 months.