When Stripe Atlas launched a year ago, it wanted to level the playing field for entrepreneurs in emerging markets so that they could have access to the same tools as people in Silicon Valley.
Now the $9 billion payments company has realized that Atlas is something entrepreneurs throughout the United States want too.
Atlas automates the complicated process of starting a company into a filling out a short web form. Atlas then takes care of incorporating a company in Delaware, setting up a US bank account with a tax ID number, and creating a Stripe account so they can accept payments.
“We wanted to see if we could help entrepreneurs in emerging markets to be on the same playing field as Silicon Valley startups,” said Taylor Francis, the lead of the Atlas project, in an interview with Business Insider. “It’s been heartening to see that it’s working.”
The company has already helped incorporate thousands of businesses from 124 countries. And on Thursday, Stripe is officially opening Atlas to US entrepreneurs, a group that had been clamoring to use it too, says Francis.
“It’s a slightly different problem, but even in the US, the process was time consuming,” Francis said.
A company in a box
The company had designed Atlas to help entrepreneurs in foreign markets understand how to quickly set up a US based company for only $500. Normally the process would include hiring a registered agent in Delaware to physically receive the paperwork and then walking into a US bank at least once to open an account. Atlas automates all of it thanks to its already established partnerships with companies like Silicon Valley Bank, where it opens all of its bank accounts.
And there’s the upside for Stripe, the payments company that’s been powering all of this. Atlas sets up all the companies with a Stripe account so they can start receiving payments. Francis said that alone has changed how a lot of the companies do business, using an example of a business owner in Nigeria who used to receive wire payments for his software company.
While it started with a focus on emerging markets, during the course of last year, Francis heard from more and more US entrepreneurs that were looking to save the time and money by using Atlas. It’s also struck partnerships with accelerators like Y Combinator and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help speed up starting a company.
While it’s opening up to US entrepreneurs, Atlas will remain an invite-only tool for now. For one, Stripe has to screen to make sure the companies don’t fall on the list of prohibited businesses (like gambling or virtual currencies) and to help screen that the way Atlas sets up a company is the correct fit.
Atlas’ process establishes companies as Delaware C-Corp, a good business status if an entrepreneur is planning on raising venture capital and building a high-growth company, but maybe not the best if they prefer to stay solo.
It also isn’t the best option for merchant businesses like opening a restaurant or an Etsy store, although Francis is hesitant to draw the line since so many companies are hybrid across industries these days. To help assuage founder fears, the company is also launching things like forums and Q&As with tax specialists to help entrepreneurs both across the globe and now in the US navigate starting a company.
“There are entrepreneurs who have started many YC companies who have great lawyers on speed dial that have used Atlas. There are also a lot of entrepreneurs in other parts of the country who don’t have the same network,” Francis said. “I think it’s all across the spectrum.”