Spray-and-Pray – Historical Analysis

Spray-and-Pray – Historical Analysis


After the interest that was aroused by our article on the the popular Spray-and-Pray strategy among ICO investors, several of you reached out to ask us if there was any evidence to support it.

That was a fairly pertinent question, we felt, and deserves some analysis. So, we figured, can we go back and compile a comprehensive list of all previous ICOs and see where they stand today?

There are a couple of caveats to the question above which we figure need highlighting:

  • ICOs are still a very recent phenomenon – the first wave of ICO’s began sometime around June/July 2016.
  • Any ICO needs to be given time to develop its business model and really should be judged over a time span of years as opposed to months.

“Yes, OK,” you say, “but is it possible in any case to have an idea of how past ICOs have performed so far?”

Our reply is that, if we have to go down this route, we will do so only for those ICOs that have had a least more than a few months to develop their business. For that reason, we are going to restrict our analysis to those ICOs which came to market in 2016 only.

Not a Comprehensive List

Due to the absence of any regulatory framework, there are no official lists anywhere of all of the ICOs that emerged in 2016. We did, however, manage to dig up around 22 of these by scraping various ICO-related sites.

Whilst we do not assert that this list of 22 is a comprehensive list of tokens that emerged on the back of ICOs which date from 2016, we are nonetheless very confident that these are a representative sample of all of the ICOs which occurred around that period. Here they are.

  • Ark
  • Bitgirls
  • BlockCDN
  • BlockPay
  • DarkSilk
  • Decent
  • DeClouds
  • ETWin
  • FirstBlood
  • Golem
  • Hong Coin
  • Impulse
  • Incent
  • InChain
  • Kibo
  • Lykke
  • Metaverse
  • nexus
  • SingularDTV
  • slice
  • Synerero
  • Tao Network

Initial Assumptions

We then proceeded to check this list against the full list of Cryptos / Tokens which appear on CoinMarketCap. If we did not see the token name appear on CoinMarketCap, we then wrote off the ICO as a failure.

As it happens, this may not strictly be the case but, given that CoinMarketCap has near-comprehensive coverage of the token universe [there are 876 tokens listed on the site as of writing], we figured that this was a reasonable assumption to make since each of these ICOs have had just over nine months now to register with one of the exchanges that provide their feeds to CoinMarketCap.

If this assumption is incorrect, this merely biases our eventual results downwards. So we are at least not in a position where we could potentially be overstating the Spray-and-Pray strategy.


Our next step was to perform a webscrape on the CoinMarketCap website. Alternatively, you way want to use the CoinMarketCap API if you would like to replicate the results. We compared the earliest price listed for each of the above listed coins with its corresponding latest price.

We should point out here that we are working from another assumption – namely that the first listed price is equal or approximately equal to the ICO sale price of the coin.

We know that isn’t always the case. But given that the initial ICO sale price has been observed to fall as well as rise in value when relating its initial pricing on the exchanges against the token sale value, we will assume here that i) the initial prices on the exchange are reasonably approximate in most cases, and that ii) in cases where this isn’t so, the behaviour should tend to balance out (i.e. rises and falls that are not quite so approximate tend to cancel each other out over the long run).

Investment Strategy

Now that we have listed out our assumptions as well as our methodology for sourcing price performance, we now turn to the actual investment strategy which is simply this:

  • For every ICO that emerged in 2016, we invest one dollar.

As a result, our total investment in 2016 into our full list of ICOs was $22. So the question now is – what is the value of my investment today? We provide the answer below but, before we do so, here are a few observations in relation to the original list of 22.


Of our list of 22 ICOs, 10 have failed outright – and we lost our $1 investment in each of those cases. These ten generally disappeared into the wilderness.

Of the 12 which remain, three still appear to be in operation (or at least continue to be traded) with prices that have fallen below our original $1 investment.

That means that, of our original $22 dollar investment, we have lost – so far – just over $12 dollars. Let’s make that a round twelve. So the question now becomes, how did the other $10 perform? That, on the other hand, is where it gets very interesting indeed. Here are the full results:

graph results spray and pray

The first column lists the ICO name, the second lists the current value (as of September 30th) of the initial $1 investment in the ICO. The final result is that, for an initial $22 investment, your current holdings stand at $203.43 – which in excess of an 800% return on your original investment.

But, but, but…

In other words, this seems to present some kind of confirmation that the Spray-and-Pray strategy – i.e. the strategy according to which you thin out your investments across a series of ICOs in the hope that you bag the big one – results in a small number of huge returns which compensate for the losses or meagre returns of the majority.

But it needs to be remembered:

  1. Past ICO general performance cannot be assumed to be an indicator of future performance – particularly now in 2017 where it seems that we are being flooded with opportunistic token issues which are likely going to inflate the number of dud token investments
  2. There is a big question mark in the above in relation to the assumption that the first listed prices on CoinMarketCap can be assumed to bear approximate resemblance to the cost of tokens during ICO pre-sale / sale periods.

On the other hand, the above strategy begins from an all-in approach – i.e. any and all ICOs were game for an initial one dollar investment. Naturally, in real life, you would avoid this approach. Applying due diligence and grounded research, it seems like that one would be able to reduce the number of dud investments that one invests in.

Any investment should be seen as a long-term commitment. In that scenario, the results rendered above are likely to be much, much different down the line – but whether that will be for better or worse is, at this stage, anyone’s guess.


If you work from the principle that you are happy to invest only money that you are prepared to lose (yes, we constantly re-iterate that point and do so for very good reason), then there is an argument here for saying that a combination of Spray-and-Pray over a range of intelligently selected ICO investments could be a worthwhile pursuit.