by Joe Marshall on March 13th, 2020
Stripe Atlas, for the uninitiated, is a sort of business-in-a-box setup solution offered by Stripe.
Intended for startups and "internet businesses", Stripe allows you to incorporate as either a C Corp or an LLC, setup a Stripe dashboard, open a business checking account, and perform routine starting-a-business-chores like assigning any pre-existing IP to the business, or formally designating ownership shares - all from a central dashboard inside your Stripe account. It costs $500 and the entire process takes about two weeks. It also includes some goodies like $5,000 in AWS credits - or $100,000 in GCP credits (public cloud economics in a single sentence!).
The initial signup was a series of forms asking for progressively more personal information. For all four of us we provided:
As part of the process, no matter how many people will be involved in the company, you need to choose one principal representative to forward all this information to Stripe, along with responses to a couple of short (< 250 characters) questions about the nature of your business - what type of business is it, what goods/services you provide, etc) so choose someone organized! David, our chosen sacrifice, was great about hounding us each individually to provide the required information and we got everything submitted the same day that he started the information-gathering process.
When I was navigating to the Atlas page in our Stripe Dashboard something curious happened. The banner at the top that says "We receved your application on X" had gone away and a CTA exhorting me to submit was displayed. We contacted Stripe and they admitted there were some issues on their end. We quickly resubmitted our documentation.
One of the funnest parts - on the sixth day we signed all our documentation incorporating our LLC ("Cake Industries"). We verified our ownership percentages, assigned all the existing IP to the company, and just generally put a ring on it.
When you sign up for Stripe Atlas, you can elect to also open a checking account with Azlo, a popular Silicon Valley bank. One neat part of choosing this option is that as soon as your bank account opens your Stripe account is immediately able to accept payments. There's no two-day or more verification period like when you usually add a bank to a Stripe account.
For us this worked out perfectly. We had already developed the entire application using the test keys from one of our personal Stripe accounts (mine) so we had all the logic. When we added the live keys for our new Atlas Stripe account we could create users at signup and subscribe them to a plan like before, but when a customer tried to submit a payment they got a generic error message about our account not being configured.
This allowed us to soft-launch the application to friends and family, allowing them to sign up but locking everyone into our free Sandbox tier. If someone else tried to sign up and pay us, that admittedly would suck but we weren't worried excessively.
Admittedly not as fun as "being able to accept payments" as a milestone, receiving our Employer Identification Number and getting our tax ducks in a row was nevertheless a big moment. We were even more offical!
For us, a bootstrapped, four-person SAAS business, Stripe Atlas was a killer. Being able to pay for a simple plug-and-play option to start an LLC (important for us since LLCs make much more tax sense for small businesses than C Corps) consolidated a million different small tasks into a friendly process and UI - all under the aegis of a company we obviously trusted so deeply that we had already made the decision to rely on them for payment processing.
On top of that, considering that we have already secured $1,000 of the promised $5,000 in AWS credits, we've already paid for the $500 cost of the application twice over.
And we didn't just get the one-time shot of the setup and incorporation of a new company. Going with Stripe Atlas in the future gives us:
That last one is actually available to everyone and if you're at all entreprenurially-minded you should check them out.
Stripe Atlas was a great deal for us and we're grateful to Stripe for offering these services. It probably doesn't make them an incredible amount of money. But it does earn them a great deal of developer goodwill.
At least from us!