I Waited 4 Years to Register My Company In the United States. Here’s Why…

My first truly profitable internet business started when I was in college in New York City. I was bored and drowned myself into building something cool, it turned out to be a business that I loved. Everything else before 2012 was just hobbies.

I have always been fascinated with the US legal, tax and corporate systems. They’re detailed and enforceable, you are protected by the law and smart people can structure it in certain ways to come out with an edge. Since 2009 when I was in high school, I’d watched videos and did research on how to form a company, the differences between a S corporation, a C corporation, and an LLC, hoping that one day I could have a business of my own.

U.S. law is very strict about what you can and cannot do while in the U.S. on any particular type of visa. As an international student, with no Social Security Number, the legal hurdles you I would encountered if I register a company back then would outweight the benefits. So I didn’t register that business as a company. I was able to bootstrap the business without investors into profitability ’til the day I sold it. I always prefer to call that venture an internet business because I didn’t know any mainstream startup terms back then. All I did was researching as much as I can from Google, YouTube, E-books, basically everything I could find and implement it the best I could. It turned out good enough for an international student who didn’t know shit back then.

Although I didn’t register it as a company, I considered it a business and operate it as well as I could. I sold the business as my personal internet property, instead of selling it as a company. During that time, every once in a while, there were thoughts of if I had registered a business, what would change. That type of thoughts followed me ‘til this day.

I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you are an US person, then there is no reason not to forming a company. If you are not an US person, hustle and find ways.

How about my current startup?

I built Minecraftly with a dream to have a real time Minecraft server so huge that it can scale to host millions of players playing at the same time. For the MMO gaming industry, scaling while still keeping the unified experience is extremely difficult. For a procedural generation game like Minecraft, it’s even more difficult to achieve. I want to be the one who breaks that boundary and make the impossible submit to my will.

I wanted to make it legitimate, an officially registered company, that provides a really useful product. For an international student, it isn’t easy, so I gotta find ways.

Incorporating is just an easy part

After selling the previous business, I went back to Vietnam and operate Minecraftly out of here. Because it’s much cheaper than NYC, and I don’t want to burn that much living in NYC when I didn’t really make it big.

I was about to incorporate Minecraftly in the US. The thing is, incorporating a company while living outside of the US didn’t work so well. Incorporating is just one part of establishing a startup legal infrastructure. There are two important things for me to consider such as:

  • Opening a bank account. Unfortunately, because I was in Vietnam instead of the US, getting a business bank account is much harder. I tried contacting some attorneys before but they couldn’t help with that. Attorneys usually only help with the incorporating part, not the bank account part.
  • Choosing a trusted registered agent that doesn’t screw you over. I hate the service and upsell that most registered agents and virtual address company put on their product. I have made used of a virtual address company in the US for 2 years and it sucked, they’d try to suck every little amount of money out of customers, and I usually give them eggs for doing that.

Because of that, I held off registering the company until a truly interesting option is available.

Stripe came to the rescue

You know Stripe, the unicorn startup in the payment processing space, they offered a very interesting program called Stripe Atlas. The program helps international entrepreneur incorporate their company in the US, with standard C-corporation. Stripe affiliates with a registered agent company so I don’t have to worry about being screwed over, and they even help me open a business back account. (how fucking cool is that)

I applied to Stripe Atlas in February, with little thoughts that they would accept me into their private beta program. All I could control was to present what I do as clear as possible and made sure that my interest and value in Stripe Atlas was clear. I woke up on my bed a few weeks ago with an email in my inbox saying that I was accepted into their private beta program. I screamed “Fuck Yeah” a few times before I went to eat my daily Vietnamese Pho for breakfast.

Since then, Stripe team has been very helpful in helping me out. I’m glad to at least achieve the first part of my journey, officially.

It’s a journey of 4 years and 10 days of waiting. I have no regrets. ;)

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