The history of ICOs: From early projects to modern-day token sales

5 minutes

Oki Takao
27/08/2023 12:00 AM

    1. Introduction

    The concept of fundraising through token sales revolutionized the way projects raised capital. ICOs presented a unique opportunity for both investors and startups to participate in the growing blockchain ecosystem.

    2. The genesis of ICOs

    The concept of ICOs dates back to 2013 when Mastercoin (now Omni Layer) conducted the first-ever token sale. Mastercoin's successful initiative laid the foundation for the future of ICOs.

    3. The rise of Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens

    Ethereum's launch in 2015 introduced the concept of smart contracts, enabling the creation of custom tokens. ERC-20 tokens, based on Ethereum's standard, became the basis for most ICOs.

    4. ICO boom and regulatory challenges

    The year 2017 witnessed an ICO boom, with numerous projects raising substantial amounts. However, the lack of regulatory oversight led to concerns about scams and fraudulent projects.

    5. The tokenization trend

    ICOs introduced the concept of tokenization, transforming various industries beyond finance. Real estate, art, and even intellectual property were tokenized to increase accessibility.

    6. Evolution of ICO models

    ICOs evolved from a simple fundraising mechanism to more sophisticated models, including the creation of utility tokens, security tokens, and hybrid tokens.

    7. The emergence of Security Token Offerings (STOs)

    STOs emerged as a response to regulatory concerns surrounding ICOs. Security tokens, backed by real-world assets, aimed to provide a compliant alternative.

    8. The role of ICOs in blockchain innovation

    ICOs fueled innovation by providing a means for funding early-stage blockchain projects. Many groundbreaking protocols and platforms gained traction through ICOs.

    9. Challenges and scams

    The lack of regulation in the early days led to a surge in scams and fraudulent projects. This tarnished the reputation of ICOs and prompted the need for regulatory intervention.

    10. Regulatory response and compliance

    Governments and regulatory bodies worldwide responded to the ICO craze by introducing guidelines and regulations. This paved the way for more transparent and compliant token sales.

    11. ICOs in the modern era

    The ICO landscape transformed in response to regulatory changes and market demands. Projects now focus on quality, compliance, and investor protection.

    12. The future of token sales

    As the cryptocurrency space matures, ICOs continue to evolve. Security token offerings (STOs), initial exchange offerings (IEOs), and decentralized finance (DeFi) projects are reshaping the token sale landscape.


    The history of ICOs reflects the rapid evolution of blockchain technology and the challenges associated with innovative fundraising methods. While ICOs had their share of controversies, they also paved the way for advancements in tokenization and blockchain innovation.


    An Initial Coin Offering (ICO) is a fundraising method where blockchain projects issue tokens to the public in exchange for capital.
    The first ICO was conducted by Mastercoin (now Omni Layer) in 2013.
    An ERC-20 token is a type of token standard on the Ethereum blockchain that defines a set of rules for creating and managing tokens.
    Early ICOs faced challenges such as regulatory uncertainties, scams, and fraudulent projects.
    ICOs have evolved into various forms, including STOs, IEOs, and DeFi projects. The future lies in compliant and innovative token sale models.

    🚀 ToTheMoonScore