Better white paper standards
I’ve seen all types of white papers — the good, the bad, and the ugly. After going through loads of these documents, I have a good idea of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to white papers.
The projects that struggle to find success tend to follow a familiar pattern: An ambitious project founder creates a white paper, incorporates a load of content, ideas, graphics, and puts the paper online with a brand new website, spending money on advertising the project. Come fundraising time, this sort of approach tends to create nothing but crickets.
Many in the industry say there are no known standards, universal structure, or best practice when it comes to white papers. With this article we want to provide a framework for better white paper development so your project can answer the tough questions, stand out from the crowd and generate community interest.
What is a white paper?
The history of blockchain white papers dates back to 2008, when the pseudonymous author Satoshi Nakamoto published a document called Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System. Since then, the white paper has become the foundation of every blockchain-focused business, allowing project teams to provide a thorough description of their initiative from both a technical and non-technical standpoint.
A white paper is all at once a pitch deck, a business plan, a marketing plan, and a technical manual. But it’s worth noting, a white paper doesn’t replace these other documents, in their entirety.
Why is it important?
The fundraising process for blockchain-focused businesses is professionalizing. This means it’s becoming more and more unlikely that just any business, with just any white paper, is going to raise funding. To raise money for your project, you need a white paper that makes sense along with a workable product.
Given that other project founders in the space are pulling out all the stops and potentially competing for the same investor funds as you, it is important that you develop the foundation of your business prior to any fundraising activity.
What should be included?
A white paper can range in length depending on the type of project, it’s complexity and the amount of detail the founding team wants to go into. Do note that even a perfect white paper, complete with all the sections below, can’t prop up a bad project. This is where subjective judgement and deep industry experience comes into play with respect to your solution, to why blockchain is needed, and to how your team will execute your vision.
Below are some suggested sections and descriptions of each:
How should it look?
This is all about polish, presentation, and appealing to your audience. Depending on your industry and type of project, tailor the copy and style to target your particular readers. If you have a medical project and anticipate doctors reading your white paper, ensure it speaks to them with appropriate arguments and use of language. Similarly, if you have a movie crowdfunding marketplace that relies more on branding and marketing, ensure the language reflects this instead.
A few well-made graphics can amplify your white paper and take it to the next level. A picture can speak a thousand words, especially for the sorts of complex concepts typical in the blockchain space. Finally, ensure you have proofread your white paper many times checking for contradictory information, grammar and spelling errors.
Below are some more stylistic recommendations.
Putting it all together
If you haven’t developed a white paper before, by now you’ve likely come to realize that it can be a daunting task. However, it’s also a necessary step for both defining important aspects of your project, creating blueprints for your product and attracting investment.
It can be a challenge to strike a balance between generalist readability and technicalities tied to the your product/service architecture. If you’re able to relay information in the right way, though, the community may actually read your white paper, or support it with funds and social sharing. Once a well-written whitepaper is established, your development team can work on building the product or service, while the team in charge of business development can be in sync when speaking to investors.
If you’re only starting to write a white paper now (or know someone starting a new project), work within the framework above. Otherwise, if you need help developing your white paper get in touch.
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Thanks for reading,