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Victoria Kurichenko

Victoria Kurichenko

1 month ago

My Blog Is in Google's Top 10—Here's How to Compete

More on Marketing

obimy.app

obimy.app

22 days ago

How TikTok helped us grow to 6 million users

This resulted to obimy's new audience.

Hi! obimy's official account. Here, we'll teach app developers and marketers. In 2022, our downloads increased dramatically, so we'll share what we learned.

obimy is what we call a ‘senseger’. It's a new method to communicate digitally. Instead of text, obimy users connect through senses and moods. Feeling playful? Flirt with your partner, pat a pal, or dump water on a classmate. Each feeling is an interactive animation with vibration. It's a wordless app. App Store and Google Play have obimy.

We had 20,000 users in 2022. Two to five thousand of them opened the app monthly. Our DAU metric was 500.

We have 6 million users after 6 months. 500,000 individuals use obimy daily. obimy was the top lifestyle app this week in the U.S.

And TikTok helped.

TikTok fuels obimys' growth. It's why our app exploded. How and what did we learn? Our Head of Marketing, Anastasia Avramenko, knows.

our actions prior to TikTok

We wanted to achieve product-market fit through organic expansion. Quora, Reddit, Facebook Groups, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Apple Search Ads, and social media activity were tested. Nothing worked. Our CPI was sometimes $4, so unit economics didn't work.

We studied our markets and made audience hypotheses. We promoted our goods and studied our audience through social media quizzes. Our target demographic was Americans in long-distance relationships. I designed quizzes like Test the Strength of Your Relationship to better understand the user base. After each quiz, we encouraged users to download the app to enhance their connection and bridge the distance.

One of the quizzes

We got 1,000 responses for $50. This helped us comprehend the audience's grief and coping strategies (aka our rivals). I based action items on answers given. If you can't embrace a loved one, use obimy.

We also tried Facebook and Google ads. From the start, we knew it wouldn't work.

We were desperate to discover a free way to get more users.

Our journey to TikTok

TikTok is a great venue for emerging creators. It also helped reach people. Before obimy, my TikTok videos garnered 12 million views without sponsored promotion.

We had to act. TikTok was required.

Our first TikTok videos

I wasn't a TikTok user before obimy. Initially, I uploaded promotional content. Call-to-actions appear strange next to dancing challenges and my money don't jiggle jiggle. I learned TikTok. Watch TikTok for an hour was on my to-do list. What a dream job!

Our most popular movies presented the app alongside text outlining what it does. We started promoting them in Europe and the U.S. and got a 16% CTR and $1 CPI, an improvement over our previous efforts.

Somehow, we were expanding. So we came up with new hypotheses, calls to action, and content.

Four months passed, yet we saw no organic growth.

Russia attacked Ukraine.

Our app aimed to be helpful. For now, we're focusing on our Ukrainian audience. I posted sloppy TikToks illustrating how obimy can help during shelling or air raids.

In two hours, Kostia sent me our visitor count. Our servers crashed.

Initially, we had several thousand daily users. Over 200,000 users joined obimy in a week. They posted obimy videos on TikTok, drawing additional users. We've also resumed U.S. video promotion.

We gained 2,000,000 new members with less than $100 in ads, primarily in the U.S. and U.K.

TikTok helped.

The figures

We were confident we'd chosen the ideal tool for organic growth.

  • Over 45 million people have viewed our own videos plus a ton of user-generated content with the hashtag #obimy.

  • About 375 thousand people have liked all of our individual videos.

  • The number of downloads and the virality of videos are directly correlated.

Where are we now?

TikTok fuels our organic growth. We post 56 videos every week and pay to promote viral content.

We use UGC and influencers. We worked with Universal Music Italy on Eurovision. They offered to promote us through their million-follower TikTok influencers. We thought their followers would improve our audience, but it didn't matter. Integration didn't help us. Users that share obimy videos with their followers can reach several million views, which affects our download rate.

After the dust settled, we determined our key audience was 13-18-year-olds. They want to express themselves, but it's sometimes difficult. We're searching for methods to better engage with our users. We opened a Discord server to discuss anime and video games and gather app and content feedback.

TikTok helps us test product updates and hypotheses. Example: I once thought we might raise MAU by prompting users to add strangers as friends. Instead of asking our team to construct it, I made a TikTok urging users to share invite URLs. Users share links under every video we upload, embracing people worldwide.

Key lessons

Don't direct-sell. TikTok isn't for Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube promo videos. Conventional advertisements don't fit. Most users will swipe up and watch humorous doggos.

More product videos are better. Finally. So what?

Encourage interaction. Tagging friends in comments or making videos with the app promotes it more than any marketing spend.

Be odd and risqué. A user mistakenly sent a French kiss to their mom in one of our most popular videos.

TikTok helps test hypotheses and build your user base. It also helps develop apps. In our upcoming blog, we'll guide you through obimy's design revisions based on TikTok. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Joseph Mavericks

Joseph Mavericks

1 month ago

You Don't Have to Spend $250 on TikTok Ads Because I Did

900K impressions, 8K clicks, and $$$ orders…

Photo by Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash

I recently started dropshipping. Now that I own my business and can charge it as a business expense, it feels less like money wasted if it doesn't work. I also made t-shirts to sell. I intended to open a t-shirt store and had many designs on a hard drive. I read that Tiktok advertising had a high conversion rate and low cost because they were new. According to many, the advertising' cost/efficiency ratio would plummet and become as bad as Google or Facebook Ads. Now felt like the moment to try Tiktok marketing and dropshipping. I work in marketing for a SaaS firm and have seen how poorly ads perform. I wanted to try it alone.

I set up $250 and ran advertising for a week. Before that, I made my own products, store, and marketing. In this post, I'll show you my process and results.

Setting up the store

Dropshipping is a sort of retail business in which the manufacturer ships the product directly to the client through an online platform maintained by a seller. The seller takes orders but has no stock. The manufacturer handles all orders. This no-stock concept increases profitability and flexibility.

In my situation, I used previous t-shirt designs to make my own product. I didn't want to handle order fulfillment logistics, so I looked for a way to print my designs on demand, ship them, and handle order tracking/returns automatically. So I found Printful.

Source

I needed to connect my backend and supplier to a storefront so visitors could buy. 99% of dropshippers use Shopify, but I didn't want to master the difficult application. I wanted a one-day project. I'd previously worked with Big Cartel, so I chose them.

Source

Big Cartel doesn't collect commissions on sales, simply a monthly flat price ($9.99 to $19.99 depending on your plan).

After opening a Big Cartel account, I uploaded 21 designs and product shots, then synced each product with Printful.

Source (the store is down to 5 products because I switched back to the free plan)

Developing the ads

I mocked up my designs on cool people photographs from placeit.net, a great tool for creating product visuals when you don't have a studio, camera gear, or models to wear your t-shirts.

I opened an account on the website and had advertising visuals within 2 hours.

Source

Because my designs are simple (black design on white t-shirt), I chose happy, stylish people on plain-colored backdrops. After that, I had to develop an animated slideshow.

Because I'm a graphic designer, I chose to use Adobe Premiere to create animated Tiktok advertising.

Premiere is a fancy video editing application used for more than advertisements. Premiere is used to edit movies, not social media marketing. I wanted this experiment to be quick, so I got 3 social media ad templates from motionarray.com and threw my visuals in. All the transitions and animations were pre-made in the files, so it only took a few hours to compile. The result:

I downloaded 3 different soundtracks for the videos to determine which would convert best.

After that, I opened a Tiktok business account, uploaded my films, and inserted ad info. They went live within one hour.

The (poor) outcomes

Image by author

As a European company, I couldn't deliver ads in the US. All of my advertisements' material (title, description, and call to action) was in English, hence they continued getting rejected in Europe for countries that didn't speak English. There are a lot of them:

I lost a lot of quality traffic, but I felt that if the images were engaging, people would check out the store and buy my t-shirts. I was wrong.

  • 51,071 impressions on Day 1. 0 orders after 411 clicks

  • 114,053 impressions on Day 2. 1.004 clicks and no orders

  • Day 3: 987 clicks, 103,685 impressions, and 0 orders

  • 101,437 impressions on Day 4. 0 orders after 963 clicks

  • 115,053 impressions on Day 5. 1,050 clicks and no purchases

  • 125,799 impressions on day 6. 1,184 clicks, no purchases

  • 115,547 impressions on Day 7. 1,050 clicks and no purchases

  • 121,456 impressions on day 8. 1,083 clicks, no purchases

  • 47,586 impressions on Day 9. 419 Clicks. No orders

My overall conversion rate for video advertisements was 0.9%. TikTok's paid ad formats all result in strong engagement rates (ads average 3% to 12% CTR to site), therefore a 1 to 2% CTR should have been doable.

My one-week experiment yielded 8,151 ad clicks but no sales. Even if 0.1% of those clicks converted, I should have made 8 sales. Even companies with horrible web marketing would get one download or trial sign-up for every 8,151 clicks. I knew that because my advertising were in English, I had no impressions in the main EU markets (France, Spain, Italy, Germany), and that this impacted my conversion potential. I still couldn't believe my numbers.

I dug into the statistics and found that Tiktok's stats didn't match my store traffic data.

Looking more closely at the numbers

My ads were approved on April 26 but didn't appear until April 27. My store dashboard showed 440 visitors but 1,004 clicks on Tiktok. This happens often while tracking campaign results since different platforms handle comparable user activities (click, view) differently. In online marketing, residual data won't always match across tools.

My data gap was too large. Even if half of the 1,004 persons who clicked closed their browser or left before the store site loaded, I would have gained 502 visitors. The significant difference between Tiktok clicks and Big Cartel store visits made me suspicious. It happened all week:

  • Day 1: 440 store visits and 1004 ad clicks

  • Day 2: 482 store visits, 987 ad clicks

  • 3rd day: 963 hits on ads, 452 store visits

  • 443 store visits and 1,050 ad clicks on day 4.

  • Day 5: 459 store visits and 1,184 ad clicks

  • Day 6: 430 store visits and 1,050 ad clicks

  • Day 7: 409 store visits and 1,031 ad clicks

  • Day 8: 166 store visits and 418 ad clicks

The disparity wasn't related to residual data or data processing. The disparity between visits and clicks looked regular, but I couldn't explain it.

After the campaign concluded, I discovered all my creative assets (the videos) had a 0% CTR and a $0 expenditure in a separate dashboard. Whether it's a dashboard reporting issue or a budget allocation bug, online marketers shouldn't see this.

Image by author

Tiktok can present any stats they want on their dashboard, just like any other platform that runs advertisements to promote content to its users. I can't verify that 895,687 individuals saw and clicked on my ad. I invested $200 for what appears to be around 900K impressions, which is an excellent ROI. No one bought a t-shirt, even an unattractive one, out of 900K people?

Would I do it again?

Nope. Whether I didn't make sales because Tiktok inflated the dashboard numbers or because I'm horrible at producing advertising and items that sell, I’ll stick to writing content and making videos. If setting up a business and ads in a few days was all it took to make money online, everyone would do it.

Video advertisements and dropshipping aren't dead. As long as the internet exists, people will click ads and buy stuff. Converting ads and selling stuff takes a lot of work, and I want to focus on other things.

I had always wanted to try dropshipping and I’m happy I did, I just won’t stick to it because that’s not something I’m interested in getting better at.

If I want to sell t-shirts again, I'll avoid Tiktok advertisements and find another route.

Yucel F. Sahan

Yucel F. Sahan

23 hours ago

How I Created the Day's Top Product on Product Hunt

In this article, I'll describe a weekend project I started to make something. It was Product Hunt's #1 of the Day, #2 Weekly, and #4 Monthly product.

How did I make Landing Page Checklist so simple? Building and launching took 3 weeks. I worked 3 hours a day max. Weekends were busy.

It's sort of a long story, so scroll to the bottom of the page to see what tools I utilized to create Landing Page Checklist :x ‍

As a matter of fact, it all started with the startups-investments blog; Startup Bulletin, that I started writing in 2018. No, don’t worry, I won’t be going that far behind. The twitter account where I shared the blog posts of this newsletter was inactive for a looong time. I was holding this Twitter account since 2009, I couldn’t bear to destroy it. At the same time, I was thinking how to evaluate this account.

So I looked for a weekend assignment.

Weekend undertaking: Generate business names

Barash and I established a weekend effort to stay current. Building things helped us learn faster.

Simple. Startup Name Generator The utility generated random startup names. After market research for SEO purposes, we dubbed it Business Name Generator.

Backend developer Barash dislikes frontend work. He told me to write frontend code. Chakra UI and Tailwind CSS were recommended.

It was the first time I have heard about Tailwind CSS.

Before this project, I made mobile-web app designs in Sketch and shared them via Zeplin. I can read HTML-CSS or React code, but not write it. I didn't believe myself but followed Barash's advice.

My home page wasn't responsive when I started. Here it was:)

And then... Product Hunt had something I needed. Me-only! A website builder that gives you clean Tailwind CSS code and pre-made web components (like Elementor). Incredible.

I bought it right away because it was so easy to use. Best part: It's not just index.html. It includes all needed files. Like

  • postcss.config.js

  • README.md

  • package.json

  • among other things, tailwind.config.js

This is for non-techies.

Tailwind.build; which is Shuffle now, allows you to create and export projects for free (with limited features). You can try it by visiting their website.

After downloading the project, you can edit the text and graphics in Visual Studio (or another text editor). This HTML file can be hosted whenever.

Github is an easy way to host a landing page.

  1. your project via Shuffle for export

  2. your website's content, edit

  3. Create a Gitlab, Github, or Bitbucket account.

  4. to Github, upload your project folder.

  5. Integrate Vercel with your Github account (or another platform below)

  6. Allow them to guide you in steps.

Finally. If you push your code to Github using Github Desktop, you'll do it quickly and easily.

Speaking of; here are some hosting and serverless backend services for web applications and static websites for you host your landing pages for FREE!

I host landingpage.fyi on Vercel but all is fine. You can choose any platform below with peace in mind.

  • Vercel

  • Render

  • Netlify

After connecting your project/repo to Vercel, you don’t have to do anything on Vercel. Vercel updates your live website when you update Github Desktop. Wow!

Tails came out while I was using tailwind.build. Although it's prettier, tailwind.build is more mobile-friendly. I couldn't resist their lovely parts. Tails :)

Tails have several well-designed parts. Some components looked awful on mobile, but this bug helped me understand Tailwind CSS.

Unlike Shuffle, Tails does not include files when you export such as config.js, main.js, README.md. It just gives you the HTML code. Suffle.dev is a bit ahead in this regard and with mobile-friendly blocks if you ask me. Of course, I took advantage of both.

creativebusinessnames.co is inactive, but I'll leave a deployment link :)

Adam Wathan's YouTube videos and Tailwind's official literature helped me, but I couldn't have done it without Tails and Shuffle. These tools helped me make landing pages. I shouldn't have started over.

So began my Tailwind CSS adventure. I didn't build landingpage. I didn't plan it to be this long; sorry.

I learnt a lot while I was playing around with Shuffle and Tails Builders.

Long story short I built landingpage.fyi with the help of these tools;

Learning, building, and distribution

That's all. A few things:

The Outcome

.fyi Domain: Why?

I'm often asked this.

I don't know, but I wanted to include the landing page term. Popular TLDs are gone. I saw my alternatives. brief and catchy.

CSS Tailwind Resources

I'll share project resources like Tails and Shuffle.

Thanks for reading my blog's first post. Please share if you like it.

You might also like

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart

19 days ago

Has anyone noticed what an absolute shitshow LinkedIn is?

After viewing its insanity, I had to leave this platform.

Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

I joined LinkedIn recently. That's how I aim to increase my readership and gain recognition. LinkedIn's premise appealed to me: a Facebook-like platform for professional networking.

I don't use Facebook since it's full of propaganda. It seems like a professional, apolitical space, right?

I expected people to:

  • be more formal and respectful than on Facebook.

  • Talk about the inclusiveness of the workplace. Studies consistently demonstrate that inclusive, progressive workplaces outperform those that adhere to established practices.

  • Talk about business in their industry. Yep. I wanted to read articles with advice on how to write better and reach a wider audience.

Oh, sh*t. I hadn't anticipated that.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

After posting and reading about inclusivity and pro-choice, I was startled by how many professionals acted unprofessionally. I've seen:

  • Men have approached me in the DMs in a really aggressive manner. Yikes. huge yikes Not at all professional.

  • I've heard pro-choice women referred to as infant killers by many people. If I were the CEO of a company and I witnessed one of my employees acting that poorly, I would immediately fire them.

  • Many posts are anti-LGBTQIA+, as I've noticed. a lot, like, a lot. Some are subtly stating that the world doesn't need to know, while others are openly making fun of transgender persons like myself.

  • Several medical professionals were posting explicitly racist comments. Even if you are as white as a sheet like me, you should be alarmed by this. Who's to guarantee a patient who is black won't unintentionally die?

  • I won't even get into how many men in STEM I observed pushing for the exclusion of women from their fields. I shouldn't be surprised considering the majority of those men I've encountered have a passionate dislike for women, but goddamn, dude.

Many people appear entirely too at ease displaying their bigotry on their professional profiles.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

As a white female, I'm always shocked by people's open hostility. Professional environments are very important.

I don't know if this is still true (people seem too politicized to care), but if I heard many of these statements in person, I'd suppose they feel ashamed. Really.

Are you not ashamed of being so mean? Are you so weak that competing with others terrifies you? Isn't this embarrassing?

LinkedIn isn't great at censoring offensive comments. These people aren't getting warnings. So they were safe while others were unsafe.

The CEO in me would want to know if I had placed a bigot on my staff.

Photo by Romain V on Unsplash

I always wondered if people's employers knew about their online behavior. If they know how horrible they appear, they don't care.

As a manager, I was picky about hiring. Obviously. In most industries, it costs $1,000 or more to hire a full-time employee, so be sure it pays off.

Companies that embrace diversity and tolerance (and are intolerant of intolerance) are more profitable, likely to recruit top personnel, and successful.

People avoid businesses that alienate them. That's why I don't eat at Chic-Fil-A and why folks avoid MyPillow. Being inclusive is good business.

CEOs are harmed by online bigots. Image is an issue. If you're a business owner, you can fire staff who don't help you.

On the one hand, I'm delighted it makes it simpler to identify those with whom not to do business.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong. I'm glad I know who to avoid when hiring, getting references, or searching for a job. When people are bad, it saves me time.

What's up with professionalism?

Really. I need to know. I've crossed the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, but never on a professional platform. I got in trouble for not wearing bras even though it's not part of my gender expression.

If I behaved like that at my last two office jobs, my supervisors would have fired me immediately. Some of the behavior I've seen is so outrageous, I can't believe these people have employment. Some are even leaders.

Like…how? Is hatred now normalized?

Please pay attention whether you're seeking for a job or even simply a side gig.

Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash

Do not add to the tragedy that LinkedIn comments can be, or at least don't make uninformed comments. Even if you weren't banned, the site may still bite you.

Recruiters can and do look at your activity. Your writing goes on your résumé. The wrong comment might lose you a job.

Recruiters and CEOs might reject candidates whose principles contradict with their corporate culture. Bigotry will get you banned from many companies, especially if others report you.

If you want a high-paying job, avoid being a LinkedIn asshole. People care even if you think no one does. Before speaking, ponder. Is this how you want to be perceived?

Better advice:

If your politics might turn off an employer, stop posting about them online and ask yourself why you hold such objectionable ideas.

Stephen Moore

Stephen Moore

2 months ago

Web 2 + Web 3 = Web 5.

Monkey jpegs and shitcoins have tarnished Web3's reputation. Let’s move on.

Web3 was called "the internet's future."

Well, 'crypto bros' shouted about it loudly.

As quickly as it arrived to be the next internet, it appears to be dead. It's had scandals, turbulence, and crashes galore:

  • Web 3.0's cryptocurrencies have crashed. Bitcoin's all-time high was $66,935. This month, Ethereum fell from $2130 to $1117. Six months ago, the cryptocurrency market peaked at $3 trillion. Worst is likely ahead.

  • Gas fees make even the simplest Web3 blockchain transactions unsustainable.

  • Terra, Luna, and other dollar pegs collapsed, hurting crypto markets. Celsius, a crypto lender backed by VCs and Canada's second-largest pension fund, and Binance, a crypto marketplace, have withheld money and coins. They're near collapse.

  • NFT sales are falling rapidly and losing public interest.

Web3 has few real-world uses, like most crypto/blockchain technologies. Web3's image has been tarnished by monkey profile pictures and shitcoins while failing to become decentralized (the whole concept is controlled by VCs).

The damage seems irreparable, leaving Web3 in the gutter.

Step forward our new saviour — Web5

Fear not though, as hero awaits to drag us out of the Web3 hellscape. Jack Dorsey revealed his plan to save the internet quickly.

Dorsey has long criticized Web3, believing that VC capital and silicon valley insiders have created a centralized platform. In a tweet that upset believers and VCs (he was promptly blocked by Marc Andreessen), Dorsey argued, "You don't own "Web3." VCs and LPs do. Their incentives prevent it. It's a centralized organization with a new name.

Dorsey announced Web5 on June 10 in a very Elon-like manner. Block's TBD unit will work on the project (formerly Square).

Web5's pitch is that users will control their own data and identity. Bitcoin-based. Sound familiar? The presentation pack's official definition emphasizes decentralization. Web5 is a decentralized web platform that enables developers to write decentralized web apps using decentralized identifiers, verifiable credentials, and decentralized web nodes, returning ownership and control over identity and data to individuals.

Web5 would be permission-less, open, and token-less. What that means for Earth is anyone's guess. Identity. Ownership. Blockchains. Bitcoin. Different.

Web4 appears to have been skipped, forever destined to wish it could have shown the world what it could have been. (It was probably crap.) As this iteration combines Web2 and Web3, simple math and common sense add up to 5. Or something.

Dorsey and his team have had this idea simmering for a while. Daniel Buchner, a member of Block's Decentralized Identity team, said, "We're finishing up Web5's technical components."

Web5 could be the project that decentralizes the internet. It must be useful to users and convince everyone to drop the countless Web3 projects, products, services, coins, blockchains, and websites being developed as I write this.

Web5 may be too late for Dorsey and the incoming flood of creators.

Web6 is planned!

The next months and years will be hectic and less stable than the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. 

  • Web1 was around 1991-2004.

  • Web2 ran from 2004 to 2021. (though the Web3 term was first used in 2014, it only really gained traction years later.)

  • Web3 lasted a year.

  • Web4 is dead.

Silicon Valley billionaires are turning it into a startup-style race, each disrupting the next iteration until they crack it. Or destroy it completely.

Web5 won't last either.

Vitalik

Vitalik

5 months ago

Fairness alternatives to selling below market clearing prices (or community sentiment, or fun)

When a seller has a limited supply of an item in high (or uncertain and possibly high) demand, they frequently set a price far below what "the market will bear." As a result, the item sells out quickly, with lucky buyers being those who tried to buy first. This has happened in the Ethereum ecosystem, particularly with NFT sales and token sales/ICOs. But this phenomenon is much older; concerts and restaurants frequently make similar choices, resulting in fast sell-outs or long lines.

Why do sellers do this? Economists have long wondered. A seller should sell at the market-clearing price if the amount buyers are willing to buy exactly equals the amount the seller has to sell. If the seller is unsure of the market-clearing price, they should sell at auction and let the market decide. So, if you want to sell something below market value, don't do it. It will hurt your sales and it will hurt your customers. The competitions created by non-price-based allocation mechanisms can sometimes have negative externalities that harm third parties, as we will see.

However, the prevalence of below-market-clearing pricing suggests that sellers do it for good reason. And indeed, as decades of research into this topic has shown, there often are. So, is it possible to achieve the same goals with less unfairness, inefficiency, and harm?

Selling at below market-clearing prices has large inefficiencies and negative externalities

An item that is sold at market value or at an auction allows someone who really wants it to pay the high price or bid high in the auction. So, if a seller sells an item below market value, some people will get it and others won't. But the mechanism deciding who gets the item isn't random, and it's not always well correlated with participant desire. It's not always about being the fastest at clicking buttons. Sometimes it means waking up at 2 a.m. (but 11 p.m. or even 2 p.m. elsewhere). Sometimes it's just a "auction by other means" that's more chaotic, less efficient, and has far more negative externalities.

There are many examples of this in the Ethereum ecosystem. Let's start with the 2017 ICO craze. For example, an ICO project would set the price of the token and a hard maximum for how many tokens they are willing to sell, and the sale would start automatically at some point in time. The sale ends when the cap is reached.

So what? In practice, these sales often ended in 30 seconds or less. Everyone would start sending transactions in as soon as (or just before) the sale started, offering higher and higher fees to encourage miners to include their transaction first. Instead of the token seller receiving revenue, miners receive it, and the sale prices out all other applications on-chain.

The most expensive transaction in the BAT sale set a fee of 580,000 gwei, paying a fee of $6,600 to get included in the sale.

Many ICOs after that tried various strategies to avoid these gas price auctions; one ICO notably had a smart contract that checked the transaction's gasprice and rejected it if it exceeded 50 gwei. But that didn't solve the issue. Buyers hoping to game the system sent many transactions hoping one would get through. An auction by another name, clogging the chain even more.

ICOs have recently lost popularity, but NFTs and NFT sales have risen in popularity. But the NFT space didn't learn from 2017; they do fixed-quantity sales just like ICOs (eg. see the mint function on lines 97-108 of this contract here). So what?

That's not the worst; some NFT sales have caused gas price spikes of up to 2000 gwei.

High gas prices from users fighting to get in first by sending higher and higher transaction fees. An auction renamed, pricing out all other applications on-chain for 15 minutes.

So why do sellers sometimes sell below market price?

Selling below market value is nothing new, and many articles, papers, and podcasts have written (and sometimes bitterly complained) about the unwillingness to use auctions or set prices to market-clearing levels.

Many of the arguments are the same for both blockchain (NFTs and ICOs) and non-blockchain examples (popular restaurants and concerts). Fairness and the desire not to exclude the poor, lose fans or create tension by being perceived as greedy are major concerns. The 1986 paper by Kahneman, Knetsch, and Thaler explains how fairness and greed can influence these decisions. I recall that the desire to avoid perceptions of greed was also a major factor in discouraging the use of auction-like mechanisms in 2017.

Aside from fairness concerns, there is the argument that selling out and long lines create a sense of popularity and prestige, making the product more appealing to others. Long lines should have the same effect as high prices in a rational actor model, but this is not the case in reality. This applies to ICOs and NFTs as well as restaurants. Aside from increasing marketing value, some people find the game of grabbing a limited set of opportunities first before everyone else is quite entertaining.

But there are some blockchain-specific factors. One argument for selling ICO tokens below market value (and one that persuaded the OmiseGo team to adopt their capped sale strategy) is community dynamics. The first rule of community sentiment management is to encourage price increases. People are happy if they are "in the green." If the price drops below what the community members paid, they are unhappy and start calling you a scammer, possibly causing a social media cascade where everyone calls you a scammer.

This effect can only be avoided by pricing low enough that post-launch market prices will almost certainly be higher. But how do you do this without creating a rush for the gates that leads to an auction?

Interesting solutions

It's 2021. We have a blockchain. The blockchain is home to a powerful decentralized finance ecosystem, as well as a rapidly expanding set of non-financial tools. The blockchain also allows us to reset social norms. Where decades of economists yelling about "efficiency" failed, blockchains may be able to legitimize new uses of mechanism design. If we could use our more advanced tools to create an approach that more directly solves the problems, with fewer side effects, wouldn't that be better than fiddling with a coarse-grained one-dimensional strategy space of selling at market price versus below market price?

Begin with the goals. We'll try to cover ICOs, NFTs, and conference tickets (really a type of NFT) all at the same time.

1. Fairness: don't completely exclude low-income people from participation; give them a chance. The goal of token sales is to avoid high initial wealth concentration and have a larger and more diverse initial token holder community.

2. Don’t create races: Avoid situations where many people rush to do the same thing and only a few get in (this is the type of situation that leads to the horrible auctions-by-another-name that we saw above).

3. Don't require precise market knowledge: the mechanism should work even if the seller has no idea how much demand exists.

4. Fun: The process of participating in the sale should be fun and game-like, but not frustrating.

5. Give buyers positive expected returns: in the case of a token (or an NFT), buyers should expect price increases rather than decreases. This requires selling below market value.
Let's start with (1). From Ethereum's perspective, there is a simple solution. Use a tool designed for the job: proof of personhood protocols! Here's one quick idea:

Mechanism 1 Each participant (verified by ID) can buy up to ‘’X’’ tokens at price P, with the option to buy more at an auction.

With the per-person mechanism, buyers can get positive expected returns for the portion sold through the per-person mechanism, and the auction part does not require sellers to understand demand levels. Is it race-free? The number of participants buying through the per-person pool appears to be high. But what if the per-person pool isn't big enough to accommodate everyone?

Make the per-person allocation amount dynamic.

Mechanism 2 Each participant can deposit up to X tokens into a smart contract to declare interest. Last but not least, each buyer receives min(X, N / buyers) tokens, where N is the total sold through the per-person pool (some other amount can also be sold by auction). The buyer gets their deposit back if it exceeds the amount needed to buy their allocation.
No longer is there a race condition based on the number of buyers per person. No matter how high the demand, it's always better to join sooner rather than later.

Here's another idea if you like clever game mechanics with fancy quadratic formulas.

Mechanism 3 Each participant can buy X units at a price P X 2 up to a maximum of C tokens per buyer. C starts low and gradually increases until enough units are sold.

The quantity allocated to each buyer is theoretically optimal, though post-sale transfers will degrade this optimality over time. Mechanisms 2 and 3 appear to meet all of the above objectives. They're not perfect, but they're good starting points.

One more issue. For fixed and limited supply NFTs, the equilibrium purchased quantity per participant may be fractional (in mechanism 2, number of buyers > N, and in mechanism 3, setting C = 1 may already lead to over-subscription). With fractional sales, you can offer lottery tickets: if there are N items available, you have a chance of N/number of buyers of getting the item, otherwise you get a refund. For a conference, groups could bundle their lottery tickets to guarantee a win or a loss. The certainty of getting the item can be auctioned.

The bottom tier of "sponsorships" can be used to sell conference tickets at market rate. You may end up with a sponsor board full of people's faces, but is that okay? After all, John Lilic was on EthCC's sponsor board!

Simply put, if you want to be reliably fair to people, you need an input that explicitly measures people. Authentication protocols do this (and if desired can be combined with zero knowledge proofs to ensure privacy). So we should combine the efficiency of market and auction-based pricing with the equality of proof of personhood mechanics.

Answers to possible questions

Q: Won't people who don't care about your project buy the item and immediately resell it?

A: Not at first. Meta-games take time to appear in practice. If they do, making them untradeable for a while may help mitigate the damage. Using your face to claim that your previous account was hacked and that your identity, including everything in it, should be moved to another account works because proof-of-personhood identities are untradeable.

Q: What if I want to make my item available to a specific community?

A: Instead of ID, use proof of participation tokens linked to community events. Another option, also serving egalitarian and gamification purposes, is to encrypt items within publicly available puzzle solutions.

Q: How do we know they'll accept? Strange new mechanisms have previously been resisted.

A: Having economists write screeds about how they "should" accept a new mechanism that they find strange is difficult (or even "equity"). However, abrupt changes in context effectively reset people's expectations. So the blockchain space is the best place to try this. You could wait for the "metaverse", but it's possible that the best version will run on Ethereum anyway, so start now.