A recent article by bitcoin.com quoted one of the more labored white papers associated with one of the hundreds of new cryptocurrency launches over the past year: "Bitcoin silver combines the revolutionary power of cryptocurrency with the speed of the ethereum network to extend it's [sic] accessibility and use value to the rest of the world." This could be a simple case of there being too many ICOs and not enough staff writers, but some suggest that this kind of slapdash white paper speaks to a larger shift. Could the white paper, one of the more traditional models for creating pitches for new investments and products, be dead?
White Papers as "Thin Veneer of Respectability"
The bitcoin.com article suggests that white papers remain a "thin veneer of respectability" that is required for ICOs to be successful. These papers, which tend to focus on buzzwords like "decentralized," "innovative," and similar cryptocurrency-related jargon, are unlike the paper associated with the earliest and most prominent cryptocurrency around. Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the individual or group responsible for creating bitcoin, wrote a nine-page white paper in support of the original currency. By comparison, Nakamoto's white paper is clean, straightforward, and well written. Bitcoin.com calls it a "masterpiece of taut, academic writing."
What Has Happened to the White Paper?
News emerged earlier this month that Fiverr, the freelance marketplace, was offering white papers for under $100 each. It seems likely that some blockchain startups, hard pressed for cash before the ICO takes off, might look to a service such as this one for an inexpensive (and likely poor quality) white paper. Still, investors who are serious about considering a new investment in the cryptocurrency space are likely to actually spend time and energy analyzing white papers and other statements of product intent.
If the serious, professional white paper of bitcoin is becoming more scarce, what is there to replace it? A pitch deck has become the go-to form of product presentation. It tends to cut down the verbiage of a white paper, and it can be particularly useful in an area like blockchain or cryptocurrency, as investors likely already know about many of the central terms and concepts. There's no need to re-hash definitions of smart contracts, say, when there are dozens of other new companies making use of the same technology.
It may be that some projects, particularly those that are complex or focused on new areas of technology which are less broadly understood, could still benefit from a white paper. Nonetheless, the way that a startup markets itself to its potential customers seems to be changing. The question remains, however, if it will become more streamlined or simply oversimplified and sloppy.