ETHAdvisor How to Buy Ethereum ETH Tokens
ETH Spot (Coinbase)

How To Participate in an ICO Sale
(New Token, or Altcoin, Sale)

NOTE: This guide focuses on participating in an ICO or presale from MyEtherWallet.  Any wallet can be accessed using MyEtherWallet if you know the private key or have the json file and passphrase/seed phrase.  

WARNING: 

NEVER SEND ETH FROM AN EXCHANGE (LIKE COINBASE). YOU MUST PARTICIPATE/SEND ONLY FROM A WALLET YOU OWN, LIKE MYETHERWALLET, MIST, ETC...IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE PRIVATE KEY, YOU DON’T OWN THE WALLET AND YOU WILL LOSE YOUR ETH.

About This Guide

For questions, support or more information about ICOs and ether investing, check out my site at https://www.ethadvisor.com or follow me on Twitter @ethadvisor.

This guide is not so much geared toward explaining what an ICO is in detail, but more how to actually participate, step-by-step.  As with everything you do in cryptocurrency, proceed methodically and with caution.  Triple check things before you move to the next step or before you confirm anything.  In the world of digital currency, when there’s a warning and message asking you to confirm...it is serious!  It’s not able to be compared to the confirmations you get in Windows or on your Mac, cryptocurrency related confirmation messages literally can mean thousands of dollars lost if not paying attention.

A Brief Intro To ICOs

As you probably are aware, an ICO is sort of similar to an IPO, it’s an Initial Coin Offering, in which the team behind the technology and likewise the cryptocurrency token itself, intend to raise capital for the project and get the token into use and circulation for its intended purpose.

As an investor, naturally, your intended use of the coin is to hold it and trade it in most cases, thereby generating gains in the process.  But the team behind the token is not releasing it as a mere means to raise money or get investors.  In fact, most reputable projects have already acquired funding and investors...and the token sale is really just another way to integrate with their audience, get the token into use and in the mean time bring in additional funding to fuel the project.

So there are usually “perks” for participating in an ICO, as opposed to waiting until the token is available for trade on an exchange.  These vary from project to project, and should be spelled out in the white paper or their blog.

This brings up an important point.  Before you participate in an ICO, know what you’re getting into.  Do your thorough research.  Actually read the whitepaper and ask yourself, does this sound like a solid business plan to me?  If you aren’t business savvy, have someone who is read it over and give their opinion and feedback.  You are literally investing in a business, not just a token...and if the business flops so goes the token.

You’ll notice I keep referring to “project” and “team”, these are two of the most important parts about an ICO to pay attention to...with limits.  Don’t allow yourself to excuse a poorly written business plan or red flags when researching an upcoming ICO, based on a team that simply has a reputation or big names.  While this does play into things, it’s more important how they are executing their business plan.

Every ICO is tied to a project of some sort.  If it’s not, or is simply a cookie cutter of another genuine project, start asking if it’s a shill company just to produce gains.  A failed business is often the most profitable kind and unfortunately there are a lot of people who know this and take advantage of how easy it is to use hype to create an illusion of success, and then excuse the failure with reasoning that appears sound, while walking with your money.

ICO Red Flags
Some warning signs to watch for

  1. The company doesn’t have an address in their name or a phone number listed publicly.
  2. The team is unknown previously in the space...or is not even revealed anywhere on their site.
  3. Their site is broken, links like “contact” “about” “team” don’t work or lead nowhere.
  4. They are never on their slack channel to answer questions.
  5. Their address is a “rent an office” or similar, not their actual business.  This is a little flexible as they may have recently started doing business.  But if their business start date is 2 years ago and you can’t find mention of them or their address doesn’t line up, something's not right and they are, at least, misleading you.
  6. They don’t have any sort of disclaimer stating you cannot participate if you live in the USA / it’s really easy for anyone to participate.  Again, this is a grey area, but if they are not USA based and don’t say you cannot participate if you live in the US, this is a red flag.  A legitimate ICO will make sure you understand the laws that do and do not govern them..and the US agreement is simply them stating that they do not abide by USA regulations and so are not liable if you participate as a USA citizen.  The exception is, perhaps they do allow USA participation, in which case there will probably be similar agreements in place that state you are not investing, but giving your money to support the project..etc..  Another legaleze that only a legit ICO will do.
  7. There are inconsistencies in their dates and times, things are changing regularly or in favor of them raising more money or raising their cap, etc.  These are not deal breakers and may have good reason, but those reasons should be clearly communicated to you the potential investor either via their blog, slack or email.
  8. Exchange rate is way off.  If they are overvaluing their token to be released, this is also a warning sign.  Obviously it may be out of their control due to the volatility of Ether and cryptocurrency in general, but if they come out the gate with a $2+ valuation of their token, that’s a red flag for an ICO and may prompt you looking deeper into why this is the exchange rate they chose...if they don’t have any logic behind it, I’d be reticent to invest.
  9. Team is hard to identify on social media, track record isn’t lining up, etc.  Do a simple search on the primary partners of the team and see if you can identify them easily on LinkedIn or other social sites that are relevant, and that they identify with the project outside of the project’s website.
  10. Listing Vitalik Buterin as an advisor.  On June 13, 2017, Vitalik tweeted “This is me socially precommitting that I will not be an advisor for future ICO projects.”  If an ICO lists him as an advisor, they are most likely doing so in the sense that they read his work, advised with his videos, etc, to plan or outline what they are doing.  This is misleading and a major red flag.  You can know his face plastered on their site is them trying to lure you in with a trusted name.  Run.

Those are just a few suggestions on helping you identify red flags when researching an ICO and related project/team.  Listen to your gut as well and leave your emotion about jumping on a great ICO at the door so you can really be clear in analyzing if it’s legit.

One of the best ways to go beyond your research and reading the white paper, etc, is to get the community’s take on it...which can be tricky if there are trolls about (which there are)...but some common sense and pause can be taken to sift through the noise and get some solid feedback from others who may have more knowledge or have a deeper perspective on the whitepaper, the team, etc.

My suggestion is to frequent r/ethtrader for great feedback and discussion on any upcoming ICO.  Just remember two things...like I said before, there are trolls out there (basically people who are just looking to smear anything or have an anti-ethereum agenda, etc…) and secondly that some people are lurking intentionally to dissuade any negative (and valid) sentiments or concerns surrounding a project.  Also trolls, but with a specific job, to try to diffuse any reasonable discussion or commentary and sort of do crowd control on the subjects surrounding their ICO.

Before You Participate

The basic concept of participating in an ICO is simple: You send ether to a contract created by the team/project you’re investing in, during a crowdsale period, and they deliver to you tokens at a particular date after the sale...and generally before those tokens are available anywhere else (on exchanges).

The contract you send your ether to is setup as a “Smart Contract” and the code is visible, so you can verify things if you’re tech savvy.  The reason it’s so important that you use a wallet you own and that is ERC20 compatible, which any ethereum wallet you own will be, is the tokens you receive for investing will be delivered back to the wallet address you sent your ether from.

The number of tokens you receive for your participation/investment will be set by the team as the “exchange rate”.

Okay, let’s get into the actual steps to get involved and invest in your first ICO.  First things first, this guide is for your involvement in Ethereum-based ICOs only.  So please don’t follow these instructions for Bitcoin related ICOs.  It will not work in practice, only in principle and you’ll need to follow the specific instructions provided by that ICO if any.

Most ICOs are going to release coins that are ERC20, which for the sake of this guide simply means they can be stored in an Ethereum wallet like Mist or MEW (MyEtherWallet).  As such, ONLY USE MIST OR MEW when participating in an ICO.  This is extremely important!  There are settings many ICOs require in the transaction that you won’t be able to do from an exchange.

Prerequisite Steps & Important Notes Regarding ICOs

Before any of these steps or the actual participation in the ICO sale, I want to stress how important it is to understand the terms of the sale, the ICO itself, and watch for any last minute changes to the terms or other aspects of the sale.

A good way to stay in the loop on this stuff is to subscribe to the projects blog/site, join any slack channel or similar public forum they’ve setup, and follow them on twitter.  There may be a subreddit setup or you can simply watch r/ethtrader for updates and info.  

Reputable ICOs will communicate clearly and frequently, so it should be no problem keeping track of the details of the upcoming sale.  If the ICO is really mainstream and has a lot of publicity, participating can be more difficult, especially if there are large players wanting to buy very large sums of the new token.  As a result, very popular ICOs often burn through their cap very quickly.  The recent BAT ICO sale was over in about 1 minute from when it began...meaning the cap they placed on tokens to be sold was completely exhausted in that time.  Lots of people were very upset, did everything right, had all the prereq’ steps done and were just ready to hit confirm when the time came...and missed it regardless.

Sometimes an ICO will first have a presale. This presale is often not well publicized, so if you have your eyes on an ICO, don’t wait for the actual public crowdsale before participating.  Get on their slack or whatever means they offer to communicate and you’ll learn about any such presales in advance, so you can jump in early.

The other thing this does, is alert you to any issues with communication.  If they have Slack for example, and are never there to answer questions or are just not really present, that’s a red flag to you participating. A good team has someone online and available much of the time.

Staying in the loop on what the team is doing, how much publicity they have, how clear they are communicating, if they are changing terms a lot, can all give you insight into how things will probably go on sale day...and help you know how to proceed.

Here’s a really clean, easy for anyone to understand, example of an ICO communicating the terms of an upcoming sale (although the sale is over, you can still see the terms and basic instructions):  https://storj.io/tokensale

GAS

The next point I want to make is regarding Gas.  Every transaction on the Ethereum network requires gas. Whether a transaction is successful or not, it uses gas.

This is important to note during an ICO, especially a very popular one.  When the BAT ICO took place, there were some whales prepared by having inputted gas limits in the thousands of dollars.  Some even failed.  

When a transaction fails, the ether you’re trying to send will be returned.  But the gas won’t be. So if you set your gas high, to attempt and “cut in line” during an ICO crowdsale, make sure you set it at a level to which you can lose.

But the other point is that gas must be set to a level that the ICO team  advises, at least.  You can go higher, but not lower, or your transaction will fail.

As an example, an ICO may have a presale and they may advise you put the gas to 400,000.  This means you set your Gas Limit to 400,000 and your Gas to whatever your wallet kicks back when you setup the transaction.  I’ll cover this difference between gas and gas limit below in the steps..just remember that when an ICO or Presale says to set your “Gas” to a particular level, they are referring to your Gas Limit...and Gas is set much higher and determined by the wallet software for you.

A final point I want to make on gas is that while you may want to go higher than what the ICO team has said to cut in line during an ICO, this isn’t as necessary during a presale, depending on when you’re getting in on the presale.  If you’re coming in at the end, setting it higher may be necessary to “squeeze in”, but usually you don’t have to worry too much about a presale and gas...besides making sure it matches what the team advised.

So when creating your budget for participating, make sure you also budget for your transaction fees, your gas price.  You can calculate gas price using this site, so you can see what the ICO required gas will cost and anything beyond that: http://ethgasstation.info/calculator.php

That same site is very useful in general to learn more about gas, how it’s calculated and what the current gas price is, etc.

TIME & DATE

Another aspect of all ICOs is the date and time they launch.  This can also be a block number.  That may sound confusing, but if there is a block number involved, the ICO team will explicitly tell you how to monitor the block numbers so you know exactly when the sale begins.  

For the most part, ICOs will start a sale at a set date and time...usually using GMT.  Don’t wait until that time to fill out your transaction.  In the steps below, when I walk you through setting up your Send for participating, I’ll be showing you how to do this and generate a Raw Transaction.  This can be done in advance...as long as you are not doing other Sends from that wallet.

To have your transaction ready to simply “broadcast” to the network when the ICO begins.  Combined with setting a strong gas price, this will get you first in line.

DATA & DETAILS

It’s crucial that you carefully follow the ICO instructions to include any and all data necessary for participating.  We’ll cover this below, and I’ll show you where to set Data for a send, because you’ll be setting this transaction up before the actual sale date/time, you’ll have time to verify and triple check everything.

When checking your details you’ll want to make sure the send to address is correct several times.  But sometimes an address is not given out until very close to the sale.  In this case, you’ll want to fill everything out besides the address and just really carefully check that you entered things correctly.

Then all you have left to do the day of the sale is enter that send-to address and generate the raw transaction to send.  

NEW WALLET

I highly recommend generating a new wallet to use with each unique ICO or Presale.  After each new wallet is created, do a test receive and send, to make sure you can both deposit and withdraw/access your new wallet, before you use it to participate.

After you have verified you can send to and access ether for your new wallet, carefully document which wallet it is and what ICO/Presale you are going to use it for.  You can then send whatever Ether you intend to use for participating in that ICO to that unique wallet and you’re ready to go.  If you need instructions on getting into Ether to begin with, or creating your first wallet, grab my “Beginners Guide” for Ether Investing over at https://www.ethadvisor.com 

AMOUNTS

Before you participate in a presale or ICO, you should have set your budget for how much you want to go in for.  An important part of calculating this amount, as I briefly mentioned, is accommodating your gas prices.  Make sure you have enough ether in your wallet from which you’ll be participating to cover the gas you intend to use.  You can either use the calculator at http://ethgasstation.info/calculator.php or simply estimate and throw the extra eth in your wallet.

Personally I prefer to do the latter, I determine a range in which I want to invest, calculate an approximate gas, and put that in not worrying too much about it beyond that.

NODE

The last thing to consider in an ICO is the node to which you’ll be connecting to participate in the sale.  With the ICO landrush these days, to participate in a crowdsale is much more challenging than it once was.  Besides having your form filled out in advance, setting your gas limit high enough, and being really on it with the time of the sale, you also need to consider the node you’re connecting to when you go to send your transaction.

In MyEtherWallet you can actually change the node to which you’re connected and even set a custom node.  Most people, when they access myetherwallet.com, are just going with the node that defaults.  And if thousands of people are trying to send a transaction at about the same time, against the same node, it’s going to struggle and may even go down.  

To avoid this when you’re prepping for an ICO, have the computer you’ll be broadcasting the transaction from, set to a different node than the default.  There are several you can choose from in the upper right of myetherwallet where it says “ETH (MyEtherWallet)” and has a little down arrow.

Just make sure the Node you choose is an “ETH” node, it will precede with ETH and the name of the Node.  You’ll also be able to see your balance (if accessing the online wallet) when you choose a correct node.

QUICK SUMMARY

Before we get into the actual steps, here’s a quick summary of the entire process to participating in an ICO.  

  1. Budget your Ether to invest including gas
  2. Generate a new myetherwallet following best security practices and send your budgeted eth to the new wallet
  3. Get ICO details like Data/Contract Address (where you’ll send your ether)/sale time or block/etc, join ICO slack, pay attention to changes, updates, etc, subscribe to any email notification list, etc
  4. Prefill the send form on myetherwallet online or offline (depending on how you setup your wallet)
  5. From online computer, prepare send form, if sending from offline wallet use “Send Offline” and make sure offline wallet has been filled out correctly and create your raw transaction.
  6. From online computer, change to a non-default node and prepare the transaction form to paste your raw transaction into for broadcast.
  7. At the ICO time/block stamp, broadcast the transaction from the online computer...if ICO contract address wasn’t shared until right before the sale, be quick but accurate inputting it into your transaction preparation form on the offline or online computer (depending how you’re doing it) and then broadcast the resulting generated transaction...again, being careful you set all the fields correctly.
  8. Check the status of your transaction using etherscan.  
  9. Keep in touch with the company, they will alert you when your tokens are sent to the address you participated from.  If they had other terms, like a different way of delivering your tokens, they’ll have shared that and you can follow up in kind.
  10. Stay engaged on slack or email to pay attention to updates, changes etc along the way.

In the above summary I refer to online/offline, and hope that’s not too confusing.  The reason I’m using that language is because you may want to participate from an offline/cold wallet or an online/hot wallet.  If you’re really comfortable with your personal computer security and safety and are fairly certain you don’t put yourself at risk, you may be able to participate from a new mew wallet you set up online and without making it cold/offline.  In that case, you’d create your send and broadcast to the ICO all from a single page on myetherwallet.com.  

But if you want to be extra cautious and do it from an offline wallet, you’ll have two devices involved the whole time, you’ll use the Send Offline option on both the offline and online computer, and from the offline generate your transaction for the online computer to broadcast at the time of the sale.

I prefer the latter, because I’m super paranoid as you know if you’ve read my other guide, and that’s coming from someone who’s very careful with my online activity and comfortable with managing my online security...so just remember that although offline to online is a bit more complex and can even be nerve wracking at times (trying to make sure things were entered correctly cross device), if you do a couple tests and get things prepped in advance, it’s just as easy and much safer.

However, you can always use your participation wallet just for that sale and once the tokens are delivered AND sendable (they may not be able to be sent until later then they were delivered, so check with the project team first), you can then send them off to cold storage.  

Okay, let’s get into the actual steps and walk through the process.

Steps to ICO Participation

Once you’ve prepared your loot, have it safely sitting in a MEW wallet, you’re ready to participate in the ICO.  For each ICO you participate in, you may want to use a separate wallet, to keep things organized and limit any risk of a wallet being compromised, to the single wallet involved...not one that may contain many coins from other ICOs, etc.

For simplicity, I’ll walk you through participation using MEW only.  However, you can use your MIST or any ERC20 Capable Ethereum wallet address for these steps.  So even if you didn’t setup your wallet on MEW, you can still use MEW to participate so long as the wallet address is truly ERC20 and owned by you.  You MUST own the private key.  So Exchange wallets do NOT work.  Please NEVER use your exchange (Coinbase, Poloniex, Liqui, etc) address to try and participate in an ICO sale.

What You’ll Need

To participate in an ICO you need 7 things, and then to follow the steps carefully (which I’ll cover below):

As I’ve already touched on, how participation works is very simple, although it does sound complex.  It involves you sending the ETH you intend to invest, to the ICO contract address with some fields filled in to the specification of the ICO sale.  These specifications are provided by the team running the sale.  They will either have them on a page or share them via email or slack.

Before walking through the steps, I want to briefly explain each of these 7 items.

Your Wallet Address

This is the address you created to participate in this sale from.  It must be an ERC20 capable Ethereum wallet address to which you own the private key.  This is the wallet you would have set up in the previous section and sent the ether to that you’ll be investing in this ICO.

If you don’t have a wallet yet, and if you have no ether at all, the first thing you need is to setup an account with Coinbase or a similar exchange where you can buy Ether.  Once you buy it, it will be in your Exchange Wallet.  You don’t own your exchange wallet, so you can’t use it to participate in an ICO/Crowdsale.

So you’ll need to create a wallet you actually own.  As I said earlier, for this guide we are using a MyEtherWallet.com wallet.  Simply create your new wallet for this ICO and do a test send/receive using the new wallet, with a very small amount of Eth, like 0.01.  Once everything checks out, you’re ready to proceed.

ICO Contract Address

This is provided to you by the ICO sale team.  It’s important that you do NOT send Eth to this address before the sale begins and without the proper fields filled out, which we’ll cover in a moment.

Gas Price Limit

The gas price is also provided to you by the ICO team.  It needs to be precisely what they tell you.  As mentioned before, Gas Price is actually more accurately “Gas Limit” when filling out the form on myetherwallet.  

Gas Price

Different from the limit, the Gas Price is something you’ll get when you enter your wallet details on myetherwallet...whereas the Gas Limit is what the ICO team will give you...and they may call it Gas Price.

Nonce

The Nonce is provided by myetherwallet when you enter your wallet information.  For offline wallets, you’ll enter the offline wallet address in Step 1 of the online device and it will tell you what the nonce is, as well as the gas price.  This is the gas price, not gas limit.  So this is something you’ll need.

Data

The data is sometimes required and will be provided by the ICO team if it is.  Usually it isn’t necessary, but just make sure you are clear if it is or not.  

Step-By-Step

Following are three sections of Step-by-Steps.  The first is a crash course on getting Ether into a MyEtherWallet from a Coinbase account, so you can participate in the ICO.  It only covers creating and using an “online” myetherwallet wallet, which is generally less secure but for most people will suffice for a short term.  This means, you’ll put ether into the online mew wallet, participate in the ICO, they will send you the tokens you invested in...back to that online mew wallet...and after those tokens are able to be exchanged, you’ll be able to send them out of that online mew wallet to a more secure offline wallet.

You can also participate in an ICO using an offline wallet.  And in the next two step-by-steps after the crash course below, I’ll show you both methods...participating in the ICO from an online wallet and an offline wallet.

To learn how to setup an offline wallet, read my beginner's guide to ether investing at https://www.ethadvisor.com.

Final note before we get started, all the methods I walk you through are using a MyEtherWallet wallet.  However, almost any ethereum wallet that you own (meaning you have both the wallet address and the private key), will work in participating in an ICO.  The ICO crowdsale page will usually tell you what wallets are best for participating, as they may have certain requirements for their participation (like Data) that may just be easier to enter from particular wallets like myetherwallet.

And for me, myetherwallet is the easiest for people to use and the simplest, so it’s my pick...plus I love the team of developers and they are well trusted and known in the community.

If you already have a wallet, preferably myetherwallet, you can skip the crash course obviously and just jump to either the Online or Offline participation steps section, whichever applies to how you have decided to do it.

Just remember, I can’t repeat it enough, never send large amounts of ether to a wallet you haven’t first successfully tested that you have full access to withdraw your ether from.  So when you have your wallet ready to use for participating, that should include you having already sent ether to it and been able to send ether FROM it as well.

Okay, let’s get started!

Steps : Crash Course to Getting Ether & Your Own MEW Wallet

Before we cover the ICO participation steps, I thought I’d throw a quick step-by-step in here to cover getting your first ether and your own MyEtherWallet wallet.  

Please note, this is a “crash course” and only covers the very basics on getting ether from an exchange like Coinbase and setting up a wallet that you can use for participating in the ICO...but it only shows you the very basic steps and only how to setup an “online” wallet...which is more insecure and should only be used on a secure computer you absolutely trust and only for a short period of time (the duration of the ICO for example), after which the new tokens you buy, once delivered, should be transferred to a cold storage wallet.

Please read my beginner's guide to learn how to setup an offline/cold storage wallet.  Also note, you will need to wait until the token is tradable on the exchanges before you can move it out of this new wallet into a cold storage wallet.  For more on cold storage visit https://www.ethadvisor.com.

Step 1

Visit Coinbase.com and setup an account.  You may also wish to setup an account with Gemini or Kraken, or if these are not available for your country send me a DM on twitter and I’ll gladly help you find an exchange in your region.

Step 2

Buy some ether using a bank account or credit card, depending on the options available with your exchange.

Step 3

Once the ether show up in your Exchange Wallet, depending on how long it takes to verify your account and do the transaction, you’re ready to send them to your own wallet, which we will now create.

Step 4

From a very secure computer (mac or linux recommended) visit https://www.myetherwallet.com

Step 5

The first page you land on is where you will Generate a new wallet.  Using a passphrase that you can either remember easily or that you write down in a secure place, type in the passphrase or seed phrase.  It can contain spaces and anything you want and virtually be as long as you’d like.  Click the little “eye” icon next to the field to verify you typed what you think you typed.  You may want to copy and paste it into text file and print that, to make sure you did it correctly...but you will test it in a moment so this isn’t entirely necessary.

Step 6

Click “Generate Wallet” and you’ll next be prompted to “Download Keystore File”.  This is crucial to do and make sure it’s saved in a SECURE location.  You would be wise to store it on a thumbdrive that you keep in a safe.  Once you’ve downloaded it you can click “I Understand Continue” to move on.

Step 7

After you click the red Continue button, you’ll see the following which will display your Private Key.  This key should NEVER be saved on your everyday use computer and must be kept extremely secure, like your JSON file from the previous step, I’d save it to the same USB thumbdrive...and it will also be displayed on your paper wallet that you can print during this step by clicking “Print Paper Wallet”

If you don’t have a printer, you can save as a PDF and save to the same USB thumbdrive which will be stored securely.  However, in that case carefully write down the private key and the wallet address and save that paper somewhere secure.  If you were to lose the USB thumbdrive and didn’t have a paper backup of your wallet you’d never be able to access your funds.

So make sure you have digital AND paper backups of both keys (private key and wallet address)

Step 8

After you print the wallet and save the Private Key, click “Next: Save your address” and you’ll see the following screen.  Choose “Keystore File” and click “Select Wallet File”, then navigate to the location where you saved the JSON file (Keystore File) from Step 6, and Open it.  

Step 9

You’ll then see the following screen.  Enter the passphrase you used to generate your wallet to unlock and then click “Unlock”

Step 10

As long as you typed it correctly, the wallet will “unlock” and appear below this section, revealing your “Address” also known as your Public Key or Wallet Address, the Keystore File for download again, if you need to back it up to another location, and a QR code you can scan with your smartphone if you’d like to save your Wallet Address to the notes on your phone for easy access...or to scan with the Coinbase app for easy sending to your wallet.

Step 11

Back up everything and make sure you have digital and print out/written out versions of your Wallet Address, Private Key, and Keystore File...and that your Passphrase you used to generate the wallet is also written in a secure place.

Never enter your private key into an online device, including your phone.  Use the keystore file from the secure computer instead and keep the Private Key secured for later use if you end up needing to recover the wallet (like if you lose the Keystore File or forget your passphrase).

The Private Key and Wallet Address are a pair, so make sure you store them securely together so you know they are for the same wallet.

Step 12

Now send a small test to this new wallet address.  The easiest way is to send from Coinbase using the smartphone app which has a QR scanner built into the “Send To” field when you go to send.  Simply scan the QR image on your MEW wallet from Step 10, the one for “Your Address”, not Private key.  Only send 0.01 or something similar for your test in case something goes wrong.

See the following sample screenshots from the Coinbase App:

To begin tap the paper airplane icon from within your ETH Wallet

Next enter the small test amount of ETH you’ll send to your new MEW wallet and tap SEND

Next tap the QR icon to scan your new MEW QR of your Wallet Address

Next, scan the code and verify it matches once scanned...sometimes the Coinbase QR scanner glitches, so verify it’s correct!  If it won’t scan properly you can type it in, but again, triple check that it’s correct before you proceed

Next, after you verify it’s correct, tap Send to complete

Step 13

Now you’ll want to verify the test send arrived at your new wallet.  To do this, browse to https://www.etherscan.io from your mobile device or a secure computer and in the search box enter your new MEW wallet address.  NOT THE PRIVATE KEY...search for the Wallet Address.

If it worked, you’ll see your new balance and the transaction...it may still be pending and it may take a few minutes to show up, so don’t panic if it’s not there instantly, it will look similar to this:

Step 14

Now you’ll want to do a test send FROM your new MEW wallet.  You can send right back to your Coinbase or Exchange wallet for testing, but keep in mind that some exchanges have a limit on the Ether you can send before it shows up...sending 0.01 ether to Coinbase is fine as of this guide being published.

First, you’ll go back to the secure computer you have MEW wallet opened with your new wallet and go to https://www.myetherwallet.com then click the menu option “Send Ether & Tokens”, choose “Keystore File” as the option and click “Select Wallet File”

Step 15

Enter your passphrase you used to Generate the wallet and then click “Unlock”

Step 16

Now you’ll have some new fields to enter your transaction info for this send.  You’ll be sending to another ether wallet you either own or access, like Coinbase (you don’t own a coinbase wallet, only access it fyi), so you’ll enter your Coinbase wallet address in the field that says “To Address”.  Enter the amount in the field that says “Amount To Send”.  You can find your ETH Wallet address within your Coinbase account by accessing your ETH Wallet, it will be in the same format as your mew wallet, with a leading 0x etc.  

Step 17

Make sure you entered your Coinbase or other address correctly in the To Address field and once you’re ready to test sending from your new MEW address, click “Generate Transaction”...then click the “Send Transaction” button that appears.  

Step 18

You’ll see an alert pop up similar to the following, at this point I like to again verify that the Send To address is correct and the one for the account I’m sending to (in this case your Coinbase account) and make sure the amount is correct, etc..then once you confirm, click “Yes, I am sure! Make Transaction.”

Step 19

If it succeeded you’ll see a green box at the bottom of the window with a Transaction ID you can click, to track the progress.

Make sure the transaction goes through and arrives in your Coinbase account safe and sound.  If all went well, you’re setup with a new MEW address to be used for your ICO Crowdsale!

Again, this was a crash course and shows you how to setup a less secure “online” wallet, for the most secure best practices please refer to my beginners guide to ether investing at https://www.ethadvisor.com

Steps : ONLINE ICO Participation (using MEW)

This is very similar to sending ether to any wallet from your myetherwallet (mew) address.  The exceptions will be, as we’ve touched on earlier, gas limit and Data if required.  

Hardware/Software Required

Step 1

Navigate to myetherwallet.com and choose a different Node if you want to try differentiating it up, from the upper right drop down where you’ll see something like “ETH (MyEtherWallet)” and a down arrow.  The node needs to be an ETH node, such as ETH (Etherscan.io).  

Step 2

Make sure you see the blue bar appear on the bottom of the window, indicating you are connected to the node. If it takes longer to connect with that node, you can always switch back to the ETH (MyEtherWallet) node.  Again, this isn’t a critical step, but can help in that the node usage will be spread out from the default setting most users will go with, which can give you a little edge in the potential of getting ahead in line.

Step 3

From the menu, choose “Send Ether & Tokens”

Step 4

Unlock your wallet using the Keystore File option (preferred and most secure). You’ll need to click Select Wallet File and use the passphrase you used to generate this wallet, to unlock the wallet.

Step 5

You’ll then have a nice little form and be able to see your wallet balance.  If your balance is not showing, you may need to change your node again.  Once that responds well will show your balance quickly and accurately.

Step 6

Per the ICO, enter the required gas in the “Gas Limit” field.  For this example we’ll say the ICO team said you need at least 400,000 as your Gas.  Again, you can do more, just not less...and it goes in the Gas Limit field as an integer (no comma) as seen here:

Step 7

Per the ICO, enter the Contract Address in the “To Address” field
If the ICO Team has not provided this yet, you’ll have to leave it blank for now and wait for them to provide this address.  You cannot proceed with the transaction until they provide this, so just fill everything else out and leave the page up until you have that contract address to input here, as seen in this example:

Step 8

Per the ICO, if there is a “Data” value you must enter, you’ll need to expand the “+Advanced: Add Data” section and enter that data in the field provided as seen in the example (if the team doesn’t provide Data, you don’t need to expand this section):

Step 9

Enter the amount of Ether you want to send to invest in the ICO.  Your wallet should contain this amount, PLUS the amount of ether required to cover the Gas Limit set.  Use the gas calculator to see what this would be at http://ethgasstation.info/calculator.php

Step 10

Verify everything is entered correctly!  The fields should have blue outlines, my examples show red because I didn’t enter real data or contract addresses.

Step 11

Verify everything is entered correctly!!

Step 12

Verify everything is entered correctly!!!  Seriously, do this 3 times.  Read every character and compare it, EVEN IF YOU COPIED/PASTED THE VALUES.  Still triple check them and if you didn’t copy/paste them, DO THAT INSTEAD.  You don’t want to f*ck this up.

Step 13

Once everything is verified, click “Generate Transaction” and you’ll then see a new button appear called “Send Transaction”...DO NOT CLICK IT UNTIL THE SALE IS LIVE.

Sending early will, hopefully, result in a failed transaction.  You’ll lose the gas fee, but (again hopefully) if it fails you’ll get your ether back.  But don’t do that.  Just make sure you understand very clearly and have verified with the team on Slack the precise time, for your time zone, when the sale begins.

Step 14

A minute before the sale, open a new tab or window and navigate to myetherwallet.com, and select the node you intend to use...verify that you get the blue bar along the bottom.  Just to make sure the node you’ll be using is still up.

Step 15

At the time of the sale, click “Send Transaction” and then you’ll have a popup box, where you’ll need to confirm, at this box click “Yes, I am sure! Make Transaction.”

Step 16

A green box will appear along the bottom of the screen...unless you entered the wrong gas limit or if there is another error...like the ICO hit its limit within 24 seconds (like the BAT sale did)...in which case you’ll see an error and can either correct it (if you set the wrong gas limit) or you may have to accept the fate of the ICO running out instantly.

Step 17

Track your transaction by clicking the “View TX” link in the green box...this will open https://etherscan.io where you can see the transaction pending and maybe even complete.  The pending status will look like this:

Step 18

Once the transaction has completed you’ll see the status on https://etherscan.io change to something similar to the following, at which point you can view either your wallet or the contract address using the links on the status page, and see your transaction leaving in your wallet, and arriving in the contract address.

After about 40 block confirmations, it’s golden and you can just sit back and have a glass of champagne or beer!  You did it!

Stay in touch with the team and check your email for any notifications regarding your participation.  Some ICO don’t really engage with email related to your wallet, which I prefer because I like being anonymous, but if they do that can also be helpful as they may send a receipt, etc.

If anything goes wrong, make sure you capture the transaction ID when it shows up, whether it fails or succeeds, so you have a way of directing the team to your issue and they can better help you.  

Steps : OFFLINE ICO Participation (using MEW)

Recommended: Read the Online Participation intro first.

Not entirely dissimilar to online participation, Offline ICO participation uses MyEtherWallet and a similar form.  The difference is, you’re using two devices...one offline and the other online.  The online device will be used to generate your base “gas price” (remember this is different from Gas Limit, which is what the ICO team provides you) and the nonce.  The online device is then used to actually “broadcast” or send, your transaction to the ICO SmartContract for participation.  

Your offline device, on the other hand, is used to “unlock” your wallet and where you’ll enter the details like amount of ether to send, gas price limit provided by the ICO team, any data field necessary, and of course the actual address to which you’ll be sending your ether...or the contract address.

So for this step-by-step, it’s assumed you have a paper or cold wallet that you’ve already setup and tested and know funds can be accessed from when you want. To learn more about how to setup a cold wallet/paper wallet, check out my beginners guide to ether investing.

Let’s get to the steps.

Step 1

Send the ether you will be investing, plus enough ether to cover gas (use the gas calculator if necessary or just throw some extra ether in to be safe), to the cold wallet address, from Coinbase or wherever you’re funding it from.

Step 2

Verify the funds are in your cold wallet using your online device, visiting https://www.etherscan.io and entering the cold wallet address (the one that begins with 0x) into the search.

Step 3

On your offline device, you should have access to the MyEtherWallet source files.  If not, you can download the Zip here: https://github.com/kvhnuke/etherwallet/releases/latest , then unzip from your offline device and open the “index.html” file using Mozilla Firefox.

Step 4

On your online device, navigate to https://www.myetherwallet.com and on both devices, go to the menu option “Send Offline”.  I recommend using a mobile device, like a smartphone, as your online device as you’ll see later it makes things easier.

Step 5

You’ll notice that on the offline and online devices, the myetherwallet “Send Offline” page looks the same and has Steps, each indicating which device to use for that step.  Step 1 is your Online Device.  Enter the Wallet Address of the cold wallet you’re sending ether from, the one you’re using to participate in this ICO with, then click “Generate Information”

Step 6

On your offline device, you’ll need to enter the values that were generated…”Gas Price” and “Nonce”, into the same fields for “Step 2: Generate Transaction (Offline Computer)” as seen in the following example...note, the Gas Limit will be changed later using the value from the ICO:

Step 7

Now, still on your offline device, you need to input the Contract Address provided to you by the ICO team for participating.  This may not be released to you right away, as soon as you have it, you’ll want to put it in the field on the offline computer, under “Step 2: Generate Transaction (Offline Computer)” titled “To Address” as seen in the following example:

NOTE: The Contract Address has an icon associated with it as you can see on the far right...you can enter the contract address into https://www.etherscan.io on an online device, to verify this matches after you enter it on your offline computer...but what I highly recommend is that you copy the Contract Address from the ICO team when they provide it, paste it into a text file, save that file to a USB device and open that file from your offline computer, copy/paste it into this field on the offline device.  Use a new/never used usb thumbdrive for this transfer to avoid the risk of viruses being carried over, but trying to type the contract address is arguably more risky...so copy and paste, save to the thumbdrive, copy and paste on the offline device.

Step 8

Now enter the amount of ether you are investing, which is how much you’ll send to the ICO crowdsale.  By now you should have done your calculations on the exchange rate of Ether to the Token, etc.  

Step 9

Next, enter the Gas amount given to you by the ICO team into the “Gas Limit” field on the Offline computer.  In the following example we enter 400,000 (without the comma).  Remember you can go up on this value, but not below what the team gave you as the value.  Going up on gas will help your transaction go through faster, but will also cost you so make sure you have the Ether in your wallet to cover what you put here:

Step 10

Finally, if the ICO team provided a value to put in the Data field, enter it on the offline computer in the last field titled “Data” as seen here:

Step 11

VERIFY EVERYTHING THREE TIMES BEFORE YOU DO THIS STEP

On the Offline device, you’ll then have a section still under “Step 2: Generate Transaction (Offline Computer)”, where you will need to unlock your wallet.  You may use the Keystore File (safest) or Private Key etc to unlock….and you’ll then have a button called “Generate Transaction”, click this and a QR Code will appear on the Offline Device.

Unlock Your Wallet:

Generate Transaction:

Step 12

This is where your mobile device comes in handy, open the QR Reader app or install one, and use it to read this QR code.  Don’t worry, it’s just the raw transaction and does not expose your Private Key.  Copy the resulting code from the QR Reader on your mobile device.

Step 13

On the online/mobile device still, return to the browser where you have opened myetherwallet.com, and scroll to the bottom of the same “Send Offline” page you’re on.  You’ll see “Step 3: Send / Publish Transaction (Online Computer)” and a text box called “Signed Transaction”.  Paste the QR scanned code into that box.

Step 14

You’re ready to send the transaction to the ICO Contract Address.  Do NOT send until the ICO has begun, or your gas fee will be used and your transaction returned to you.  Also, before you send, open another tab on your device and browse to myetherwallet.com to make sure you get the blue bar along the bottom, verifying the Node you’re connected to is online and ready to receive the transaction.

If you want, you can even save this transaction code from scanning the QR, for later...in other words, you can get the transaction all ready to just fire off on the date/time of the ICO.  Then when the time comes, open myetherwallet.com, go to “Send Offline”, scroll to the bottom and paste the transaction code from that QR scan you did, into the “Signed Transaction” text field and hit Send Transaction.

Step 15

When you hit “Send Transaction” you’ll be prompted with a warning like the following, verifying you have everything correct.

Please do verify it carefully again!  Then when everything looks good, hit “Yes, I am sure! Make transaction.” and it will fire off.

A green box will appear along the bottom of the screen...unless you entered the wrong gas limit or if there is another error...like the ICO hit its limit within 24 seconds (like the BAT sale did)...in which case you’ll see an error and can either correct it (if you set the wrong gas limit) or you may have to accept the fate of the ICO running out instantly.

Step 16

Track your transaction by clicking the “View TX” link in the green box...this will open https://etherscan.io where you can see the transaction pending and maybe even complete.  The pending status will look like this:

Step 17

Once the transaction has completed you’ll see the status on https://etherscan.io change to something similar to the following, at which point you can view either your wallet or the contract address using the links on the status page, and see your transaction leaving in your wallet, and arriving in the contract address.

After about 40 block confirmations, it’s golden and you can just sit back and have a glass of champagne or beer!  You did it!

Stay in touch with the team and check your email for any notifications regarding your participation.  Some ICO don’t really engage with email related to your wallet, which I prefer because I like being anonymous, but if they do that can also be helpful as they may send a receipt, etc.

If anything goes wrong, make sure you capture the transaction ID when it shows up, whether it fails or succeeds, so you have a way of directing the team to your issue and they can better help you.  

Closing Remarks

This guide is a work in progress and I’ll keep making updates and improvements.  In addition, I’m always adding new guides, updates and helpful info at https://www.ethadvisor.com and am open to feedback, suggestions and any questions or clarification you may need.  You can reach me via reddit or twitter.

Thanks for reading and hope this guide helped you out!

Donations and tips are appreciated!

This guide and all future guides, video walkthroughs, tutorials, etc are all free to access and share. Any donations received just help me continue to keep things updated, make improvements, do more guides and ultimately spend more time doing this work to help the community.  Thank You!

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