Here is an infographic (see below) I received from interested reader Steve Rogen, which follows up on a critique of Bitcoin I published back in 2014). He pointed me to a blogpost by Dinar Durham (a Financial Tech startup) explaining the concept of an initial coin offering (ICO).
An ICO is a way for a new crypto-currency to distribute its coinage across a broader number of users than the more standard Bitcoin approach, and eliminates severe favoritism towards early adopters. The infographic itself demonstrates the process of public offering for a new coin.
According to Dinar Durham's blogpost, ICOs have a mixed track record of success; while some are successful, others are not. However, they are becoming more popular as the number of altcoin types increases.