The When to Incorporate Decision-Matrix

By Incorporation

In a recent post, I detailed some incorporation-related points of interest if I launched my own startup. The post presumed I made the decision to push forward with the incorporation of my startup. But how do you know when the time is right to incorporate your startup?

Advice Varies

There’s a wide range of counsel on this topic. Most lawyers will say you should have incorporated “Yesterday!” while some non-lawyers will say that you can wait until your first round of funding because “Google did it.” There’s no right or wrong answer on this one, but you probably did not need to incorporate yesterday nor should you wait until your first round to do so.

My advice to you is simply: Don’t incorporate a hobby. Incorporate when you are serious about making your startup a business.

But for those of you who prefer the quantitative, I put together the following decision matrix:

When to Incorporate Decision-Matrix

Answer the following questions and tally up your total score.

(1) Does your startup have more than 1 founder?

Yes –> 10 points
No –> 0 points

(2) Are you (and/or one of your co-founders) working on your startup full-time?

Yes –> 5 points
No –> 0 points

(3) Will your startup take longer than one year to exit?

Yes –> 5 points
No –> 0 points
Maybe –> 3 points

(4) Is your startup hiring developers or designers?

Yes –> 7 points
No –> 0 points

(5) Is your startup granting stock options or other equity compensation?

Yes –> 7 points
No –> 0 points

(6) Is your startup high-risk for a lawsuit?

Yes –> 10 points
No –> 2 points
Maybe –> 7 points

(7) Is your startup seeking seed or venture capital?

Yes –> 6 points
No –> 0 points
Maybe –> 3 points

(8) Is your startup signing contracts with third-party companies for business services (not for IP creation or development)?

Yes –> 4 points
No –> 0 points

The Results:

24 points or less: Save your $$$ on incorporation and spend it on an iPad.
25 points or more: Incorporate now (iPad version 2 will be better, anyways)

Feel free to suggest a revised/additional questions or weight to the matrix. Of course, this is meant to be more of a “fun” exercise for entrepreneurs rather than an absolute guide.


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