ICO vs. IPO: What Is The Difference?

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The big difference between IPO and ICO

If you’ve ever been assigned to source for capital for a company or you’ve listened so much to the stories of young start-ups, you would realize that one of the toughest thing to do id to raise capital. The advancement in technology has grossly reduced the toils that were once associated with raising capital and has made it quite attractive with the introduction of Initial Public Offer (IPO) and Initial Coin offer (ICO)

Both serve as an attractive way for increasing the financial gearing of the company, however, there are other methods of facilitating investment apart from the two.

The difference between the two

Modern trading platforms and markets like the cryptocurrency market has provided two means of encouraging owners to invest what they have in a business. These methods are IPO and ICO. The question then is; how do you differentiate between the two?

Financial investment can be two ways as far as crypto trading is concerned. You could with choose to invest in old companies that are offering IPO or you could settle for young companies that are offering ICOs. But before you choose, one, there are some distinctions and similarities that you should be on the lookout for.

When trying to distinguish between the two terminologies, the distinction that was given by Cointelegraph seems to be the most appropriate. It says that the major difference between them is that while IPO is associated with a stable and long-standing company, ICO is associated with a new business that is just starting out. As a result, an investment in ICO is always riskier than an investment in IPO.

The Company that has been around for a long time probably has a consistent track record when compared to the new and upcoming company. As a result, there are certain doors that the Start-up company cannot knock on when compared to the other company.


The regulations

Unlike IPO, ICOs are not mandated by any kind of law or legal requirements to issue a form of legal document for each and any of their transaction. Although some try to communicate their tasks and goals through the use of white paper, it is not required by a prescriptive code. The decision to make such information available is decided on by the company and no one else.

Conversely, IPOs are required by a prescriptive code to issue out a prospectus. A prospectus is a document that is used to invite the public to subscribe to the shares of a company and it usually includes details of the offer and the obligations of the different parties that are involved.

Instructions, regulations, and Credibility

Unlike ICOs, IPO companies are mandated to register with the appropriate legal authority beforehand. This is because it is a trade that involves a lot of investors and huge cash. As a result of the strict regulations, investors often feel more confident about IPOs than they are of ICOs.

ICOs are formed on a chain of innovations and blockchain technology. This way, the currencies are liquid and at the same time, volatile. Since there is no legal body to control the activities of ICOs, the process of raising finances often goes unchecked. For this reason, many agencies like the US SEC have tried their best to monitor how well project managers utilize funds and identify unscrupulous ones.

The waiting period

Since both concepts are different, it is only logical that the time frame for processing them varies. IPOs take about six months from the time of initial approval to final presentation. This is because of the lengthy legal process that is involved.

The ICO, on the other hand, depends solely on the kind of task that needs to be performed and time. The absence of lengthy legal requirement and processes ensures that the ICO process is shorter and less complicated than IPOs. The decision of time and fund collection depends solely on the effort and system that is implemented by the task leader. For example, Basic Attention Token (BAT) was an ICO that managed to raise about $36 million in just 30 seconds.

Calculating the return on investment of IPO and ICO

We established earlier that IPO and ICO vary in processes and waiting period. Additionally, their return on investment also varies. ICOs are built on trust. The task leaders provide tokens for the public and assure them that the tokens will appreciate.

The appropriate time to launch an IPO and ICO

It is important to stress that only an existent company can issue an IPO. The IPO provides the much-needed liquidity for investors and business owners and ultimately increase their capital. ICOs are issued by new companies in an attempt to get financing that will set their companies on its feet. Since ICOs provide investment option for start-ups that ICOs do not, it is best to launch it when the management is about to release the company.


Comparing the owners of IPO and ICO

The final comparison that we will examine is the ownership of both business strategies. The IPOs are partly owned by investors. It gives them a say and a stake in the operation of the company. As a result, they enjoy certain privileges from holding such position such as the right to vote, and dividends. These rights vary to the number of shares that each investor own in the company.

ICOs investors do not have any stake in the company. Anybody can purchase tokens with the expectation that the price will go higher. This, however, is not an equivalent of control.

Everything in a nutshell

Although both methods have their differences and similarities, the most important thing to note is that they are both instruments for raising capital. ICOs are efficient ways that industries operating in the crypto sectors use to raise capital, however, its lack of guidelines leaves a lot to be desired. The can change in the nearest future and we might see an extension of the service to other departments outside the crypto sector.

Final Words

ICOs have demonstrated its effectiveness when it comes to raising financing, however, the absence of guidelines casts a shadow of doubt on the entire operation. This is a fact that the organizations that are involved in the crypto sector have come to terms with, perhaps, will force them to work on a better structure.

Who owns an IPO vs. ICO?

Another location of a significant distinction between ICOs and IPOs is business ownership. IPO gives financiers a stake in the company. As investors, the investors have voting rights that are proportional to the number of shares one owns. Moreover, they could likewise get dividends. ICOs, nevertheless, do not give the investors a stake in the company. Individuals buy ICO tokens in the hope that they will sell them when their rates appreciate. Becoming a token holder does not offer one control on the business’s management.


ICOs and IPOs supply services with a method of raising capital. The former have proved to be effective in helping services to raise money, lack of excellent guideline has led to uncertainty in a sector. ICOs have been typical amongst organizations within the Crypto sector; perhaps this choice will be offered to other organizations with proper guidelines in the future.

I’m a freelance writer and full-time curious person. My main interests are philosophy, politics, art, culture, science, and how they’re all interlinked. When I’m not writing, I’m fronting a band, producing records, and making videos. I’m also currently working on launching a YouTube channel that will focus on culture and politics. I think blockchain technology is fascinating because of the huge potential it has to revolutionise not only the financial sector, but society as a whole.