As we seek refuge in Tash’s Williamsburg apartment, anticipating the carnage that’s about to unfold, we look around us at the things that are probably going to cut out – the electricity, the Internet, the phone line. The Blackout of ’77 was nothing in comparison.
It’s difficult to…
Starting a coaster company, again
Back in April I wrote a post about the administrative side of starting up Coastermatic. As discussed in the comments, there were a few things I was wrong about. Being wrong and starting again is pretty much what this whole startup thing is about though, so hopefully someone out there can learn from our mistakes. In a post last week, Tom mentioned that Coastermatic is going through a bit of puberty - upgrading servers and getting all of our ducks in a row when it comes to the legal stuff. Here’s a few things we’ve learned:
1. We’re moving the LLC to Brooklyn
We first organized Coastermatic LLC in Delaware, as we thought (like many others) that we’d circumvent the publishing requirement. But, we were wrong, especially since we sell a physical product and will have to collect sales tax for our NY state customers. We could have left it in Delaware, but after doing some cost benefit analysis we figure that it’d make more sense (read: cheaper) to start an NY LLC and merge it with the existing. This makes points 1-3 of my last post moot, but so it goes. Also, you can’t just ‘move’ an LLC to NY, you have to make a new one and ‘merge’ it, which costs $200 + $60.
Want to start an LLC in NY? I found this handy guide last week.
2. The publishing requirement is a huge pain
A few people have written about this, and I know that NY Tech Meetup had a petition going to get rid of it, but its still kicking. In Kings County (Brooklyn), you can go in person or mail in 2 copies of the filing receipt for your Articles of Organization plus a self addressed stamped envelope to their office. They will then post you the names of the 2 publications you have to run an ad in. The whole thing is basically a time and money drain, and perhaps is still around only to keep these tiny newspapers alive. I think it’ll cost us around $800, money that we’d much rather spend on promotion.
To save you calling the Kings County Clerk’s office, here’s their address:
Kings County Clerk
360 Adams St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
3. Don’t bother with Legalzoom, cause this stuff is actually piss easy.
If you’re patient with it. You have to read through some silly legal jargon and sit on the phone for a while, but its not worth forking out an extra $300+ to some company for filling a tiny form for you. If you’re starting your own company, doing this stuff is a pain, but its a lot easier than figuring out work life balance or replying to a difficult customer complaint. I also came across Rachel Rodgers, she’s a lawyer (who’s killing it on the unbundling services, video + social media front) and has some good advice for startups.
4. Cloud accounting
Now that we’re a for real deal company, we have to start keeping track of expenses. It’s another task that takes us away from working on the fun parts of Coastermatic, but we’ve hooked up with an accountant and Xero, so hope that it won’t be too much of a financial and time drain.
Despite all of the above necessary evils, Coastermatic is a joy to work on. Tom and I have been lucky enough to work full time on it for the last month or so, and feel like its gaining a some traction. We’ve started to get a bit of press, and have been discovered by the Fancy community. Now go on, go buy yourself some coasters.
Code name: Internet School
About a month ago, it was suggested to Tom, Tony, and I that we put together a class similar to the Entrepreneurial Design course we took in our second semester (which inspired this blog, pandaCatAttack, and Coastermatic). I found the notion of us creating a course that people would find value in intriguing, and thought it posed an interesting challenge. After a good chat between the 3 of us about our goals and motivations for the summer, a new project - code named ‘Internet School’ - was born.
Last week we began working on the project in earnest. We’re all working full time, Tony at Betaworks, Tom and I on Coastermatic, so one of our requirements for the project is taking a very disciplined approach with the time invested into it. Considering this, we met for intensive sessions each evening and began to hack together answers to questions like: what is Internet School? what isn’t it? who is it aimed at? how will we fund it? what is the course structure? what’s the schedule? and so on.
For me, the work on Internet School has been an excellent process for reflecting on the lessons of the last year and actively using skills I’ve learned through our courses and from my peers. The hours of brainstorming, writing, and iterating with Tom and Tony have lead me to think about how inspiring working with an active and capable team is. It’s incredible the way few minds can come together to coax a project out of the dark. It feels as if we’re putting a few stakes in the ground, and excavating around them. Sometimes we dig up something useful, and others we pull up and try again.
So far, Internet School has gone through a series of transformations - beginning as a few scribbles on a giant post it note, growing to a 7 week course filled with guest speakers and funded by an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, to our latest iteration: a weekend series of workshops and seminars focusing primarily on content created by the 3 of us.
In the week ahead, we’ll be pulling together the final points of our syllabus, creating a visual identity, finalizing the story we’re trying to tell, and launching a website where you’ll be able to find out more and sign up for the course.
To give you a taster, here’s where we are so far:
The best way to predict the future is to make it, and the internet offers more ways of making than ever before. No matter what the endeavour, a high level view of a world changed by new tools and networks, and a framework for how to craft and create is essential in this new era. Internet School is a weekend series of seminars and workshops designed to expose students to a inspiring collection of ideas, give them a language to articulate their own, and arm them with a practical tool-set to make those ideas tangible.
Starting a coaster company
UPDATE: Some of the stuff in this post is wrong, I’ve written a follow up post called Starting a coaster company, again. Go check it out.
About a month ago Tom announced the start of Coastermatic. Coastermatic is a service that allows Instagram users to print their photos on to stone coasters. We’ve been working on it rather intensely for the last 5 weeks and are getting pretty close to launch.
After talking about the concept and logistics with a few people who are part of the growing ecosystem of Instagram products, Tom and I decided to make Coastermatic an LLC. LLC stands for ‘Limited Liability Company’, which basically means the finances for the company are separate from our personal accounts. We’re hoping it’ll be smooth sailing for Coastermatic, but its better to be safe than sorry.
What did it take to get our coasterican ship in the water? A crash course in governmental + banking bureaucracy. I’ve spent far too much time online and on hold trying to figure this all out, so I’ve decided to detail the process here. Hopefully this post will save a people in a similar situation some time and frustration.
1. Register in Delaware
We’re based in NYC, and the process for setting up an LLC in New York is a little arduous. Namely, you need to publish a notice of the formation of your company for 6 weeks in 2 newspapers. This takes a lot of time, and money, two things that we don’t have.
2. Use Legalzoom.com and order:
- Their basic LLC package with a Tax ID ~$325
- A rush upgrade, so it takes 10 days instead of 35, ~$150
- Certificate of Good Standing for Delaware. ~$180
Legalzoom was recommended to us in our Entrepreneurial Design class. They were fine to work with, and have helpful staff. Note that the Certificate of Good Standing is really important. We missed this part, and are now stuck waiting for it.
3. Authority to do business in NY
Before you can open a bank account in NY, you need a Certificate Under Seal in NY state. This is confusingly also referred to as a Certificate of Good Standing or Certificate of Existence. This certificate means you’ve told NY and the IRS that you intend to do business here, so they can tax you for it.
This costs around $250, and to get it you’ll need:
- Certificate of Good Standing from the home state of your LLC, Delaware for us
- Application for Authority - Form 1361
- Credit/Debit Card Payment - Form 1515
Fax it all through to the Department of State, Division of Corporations. Their uninformative page on the topic is here and includes the fax number.
4. Opening a bank account
Once your business shows up in the Corporation and Business Entity Database you’re good to go. Find a bank where you can speak to someone in person. I tried to set up an account online, then via phone + email. Both attempts were completely useless. Do this one IRL and it’s much easier.
5. Hook up your accounts and launch!
We’re set back a bit since we didn’t do everything in this order, but we should be ready to roll in a week or so. We’re using Stripe for our online orders, integrating with them has been a dream. It’s so nice to be able to style out our own payment form.
Be on the look out this week for Episode 1 of Coastervision, a video series about the possibilities of coasters. Also, join our signup list, where we’ll be sending a special treat along with our launch announcement.