Frequently Asked Questions

Branding

A lot! We'll suggest dozens - even hundreds - of possible company names, based on the short description of the business you'll provide. We'll check those names for conflicts against website registries and trademark filings. We'll even help you design a customizable logo and register your .com web domain!
Absolutely! Until you actually submit your company's organizational documents for filing at the end of the LAUNCH process, nothing is set in stone. And even after you do form your company, there are ways to change your company's name by making another filing with the Secretary of State.
Don't worry - this is a fairly common problem but can be solved!

If the name is an exact match (ignoring the legal suffix like Inc., LLC, etc.), you will need to select a different company name, but generally speaking it only needs to be slightly different from the already existing company to be approved and filed by your state of formation.

If the name is a close match to an existing company, you might be able to use the name you have selected; however, there is the chance that your filing will be rejected by the state for being too similar to the existing company's name. To reduce the chance of a rejection of your filing (and the accompanying delays), you may want to change your name to something that is clearly distinctive from the legal name of any existing company in your state of formation. Generally speaking, adding another word or using a different form of a word will be sufficient.

It means you'll need to pick a revised or different name and re-file your formation documents (don't worry, Startomatic can re-submit the filing for you!) In most cases, there is no separate fee to refile after a rejected filing.
When our name generator makes suggestions, we also check those names against every one of the more than 145 million (wow!) currently registered .com domain names. We'll show you green or yellow dots next to each of the company names we suggest. Green means that the exact company name is available as a domain name. Yellow doesn't mean you're out of luck, just that you may need to modify the domain name somewhat from your company name - for example, instead of "greenthumb.com", you might need to use "greenthumblandscapes.com".
Put simply, it's the name of a website. So target.com, nytimes.com, and redcross.org are all domain names.
Right now we only offer .com domains. At Startomatic, we aim to keep things simple. And .com names are pretty much always going to be the best choice for a business.
Yes! We'll create a "coming soon" style landing page - it takes less than five minutes!
Yes! At the domain name step in LAUNCH, you'll see an option to input your existing registered domain name.
We hate to say it, but not necessarily. Trademark law is, for lack of a better word, messy. There are a number of different ways to create a trademark, and not all trademarks are listed in the USPTO's database, which is what Startomatic searches. Our search is intended to give you a good idea of whether someone has filed for registration of a trademark that is so similar to your company's name that they could force you not to use your name in promoting your product or service. At a minimum, we recommend you also conduct basic internet searches to be sure there is no existing product or service that is using the same or a similar name to the name you want to use to market your company's product or service.
Not necessarily! There are a couple of reasons this may be ok. First, your company may be in a completely different type of industry from the company with the existing trademark, in which case, you should be in the clear. For example, the word 'Frontier' has been trademarked by a number of different companies, including an airline (Frontier Airlines), a telecom company (Frontier Communications), and an organic herb co-op (Frontier Co-op).

Second, you may not even be using your company's name to market your goods and services, but may instead have one or more brand names that you'll be using. For example, The Procter & Gamble Company (the company name), markets its disposable razors as Gillette ® (the brand name and trademark). In this scenario, there's no harm in having a company name that is identical to an existing trademark, since your use of it won't create any confusion as to the source of your goods or services.

If, on the other hand, you intend to use your company name to market your goods or services, AND those goods or services are in the same industry as the existing trademark, you probably want to go back and choose a different company name.

The short answer is that there is no way to know if the name is able to be trademarked unless and until the USPTO actually registers the trademark or servicemark. A trademark lawyer or any number of trademark service providers will, for a fee, conduct what is called a 'clearance search', during which they'll review not just the USPTO database, but all 50 states' trademark databases, private company name databases, domain name databases, Google searches, and maybe even foreign trademark databases.

These comprehensive searches can cost several thousand dollars, and even then there are no guarantees that a proposed mark can be registered without opposition. If trademark protection is going to be critical to your company's success, you should seek out an experienced trademark attorney in your area.

This is a pretty simple distinction, trademarks refer to physical goods (think Dyson vacuums, Iams dog food, or Canon cameras), while service marks refer to, you guessed it, services (think Uber ridesharing or Roto-Rooter, for all your plumbing needs!). For simplicity, the word 'trademark' or just 'mark' is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks. At Startomatic, we'll usually just use 'trademark' to refer to both trademarks and service marks.
Not yet. There are a number of different ways to protect your company's name as a trademark, including filing applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, various state trademark offices, or foreign countries' trademark offices. Simply using your name in commerce can also creates a type of protection called a 'common law' trademark. The Startomatic search is only intended to help you determine if the company name you've chosen has an obvious potential infringement of an existing United States trademark.
Yes! At the logo step in LAUNCH, you'll see an option to upload your logo file.
We try to keep things as simple as possible, so at the moment our logo generatrion tool allows you to change the font and color of the logo's text, but the image color is not editable. Check back with us often though, we're constantly improving our offerings!

Legal and Tax

Absolutely! After you legally form your company, there are ways to change your company's name by making another filing with the Secretary of State. Startomatic doesn't handle these flings for you (yet), but it's a fairly straightforwrd process which most states explain on their Secretary of State's websites.
Startomatic allows you to form either a limited liability company ("LLC") or a corporation. We find that these two entity types will be the best choice for at least nine out of ten new companies. Note that if you form a corporation, it can be either a c-corporation or an s-corporation (more about those options below).
We're working to add sole proprietorships and nonprofit corporations to our list of supported entities. Check back with us frequently if you need to select one of these entities!

At the moment, we do not plan to offer formation of more 'exotic' entity types, like professional corporations, general partnerships, or limited liability limited partnerships. We recommend you engage an experienced business attorney to assist you if you believe need one of these types of entities - which is not a common situation.

For most new companies, either a limited liability company ("LLC") or a corporation is the right choice. Both protect your personal assets from the business's debts and liabilities, which is the most important role of a legal entity. LLC's tend to be simpler and more flexible to manage, with fewer administrative requirements, while corporations have more well defined management and ownership structures.

Generally speaking, if you don't plan to raise money from outside investors and don't plan to do much (or any) transferring of the ownership ("equity") of the company after you form it, the LLC is the better choice. If on the other hand you plan on selling equity to investors in the future, or creating a stock option plan to incentivize employees or contractors, then a corporation is probably your best bet.

No idea which way to go? An LLC is usually a good choice for a new small business - and you can always convert it to a corporation in the future if necessary.

Still have questions? Take a look at our comprehensive blog post on this topic.

Almost always, yes. In most states, you can convert your company to a different type of legal entity either by filing articles of conversion with the state, or by merging your existing entity into a new entity of the type you want to be. Both of these processes involve some paperwork, some tax implications, and some filing fees, so if you later decide you want to change your legal entity type, we recommend you speak with an experienced business lawyer.
For these types of regulated businesses, there are regulatory bodies such as state bar associations and state medical licensing boards that place specific requirements and additional steps on professional businesses. At the moment Startomatic doesn't support formation of the entity types (typically professional corporations and professional limited liability companies) or the regulatory paperwork that is often required; however, we're always working to add new functionality so check back with us often! In the meantime, we suggest you contact an experienced business lawyer for advice.
This is a state requirement to identify your company as a corporation or an LLC.
For the vast majority of small businesses, the best state to form in is the state where you'll be primarily located and where you do the most business. If you form in a state other than the one in which you will primatilly operate, you'll have to pay separate annual fees and maybe taxes in more than one state - which is not ideal.
Both Delaware and Nevada have made a push to encourage companies to incorporate there. However, for the vast majority of businesses, there is no benefit to forming in either Delaware or Nevada. In fact, there is often extra cost to incorporating in a state other than the one where you are located. This is because you are generally required to 'qualify to do business' in each state in which you operate. This means paying filing fees and franchise taxes in more than one state.

The main exception to this recommendation is companies that intend to take outside investment from professional investors (think venture capital funds or professional angel investors). These types of investors will often prefer to invest in Delaware corporations.

The most important considertion is that the number of shares issued should reflect the relative ownership of each shareholder. Less important, but helpfully, the number of shares issued should keep the math simple and avoid needing to issue fractions of a share - for example, you wouldn't want to issue 10 total shares, because a 1% owner would have to be issued one-tenth of a share, which is problematic - ans that's why we don't allow it in Startomatic.

We recommend issuing a total of about 100,000 shares to the corporation's founders. This keeps the math simple. There are exceptions to this recommendation in several states - Delaware and Virgina amonng them, but we'll tell you all about that in LAUNCH if you plan to form in one of those states.

Authorized shares is the maximum total number of shares that the corporation could issue without amending its formation document. Issued shares is the number of shares actually issued to shareholders. You can change the number of authorized shares in the Advanced Options tab.

Ownership of a corporation is based on issued shares. For example, in a corporation with 200,000 authorized shares, 90,000 shares issued Shareholder A and 10,000 shares issued to Shareholder B, the ownership of the company is 90% Shareholder A and 10% Shareholder B. The remaining 100,000 authorized (but not issued) shares are irrelevant for ownership purposes unless and until they are issued to an existing or new shareholder.

Yes, a corporation's Board of Directors can issue shares to new shareholders on terms and for consideration (value) that is fair to the corporation and its existing shareholders.
Yes, but first you would need to amend your company's organizational documents. For this, you would want to first consult with an experienced business lawyer.
Legally, yes, in most cases. However, to encourage simplicity, Startomatic does not currently support this type of ownership structure for either corporations or LLCs.
Yes, the LLC's managers (which you'll designate in a later step) can issue membership interests to new members on terms and for consideration (value) that is fair to the corporation and its existing members.
Yes, but first you would need to amend your company's organizational documents. For this, you would want to first consult with an experienced business lawyer.
Corporations have a very specific management structure, laid out in more detail in the corporation's Bylaws, which Startomatic will create for you and you can review before finalizing your company. A corporation's shareholders (owners)elect its directors. The directors control the major decisions of the company, such as appointing the President and other officers, setting overall corporate strategy and budget, and other significant decisions.

The officers appointed by the Board of Directors (usually a President and a Secretary, and sometimes also a CEO, Treasurer and one or more Vice Presidents), manage the day-to-day operations of the corporation, including signing agreements, opening bank accounts, and hiring employees. A corporation is generally required to have at least a President and a Secretary, and we recommend that these roles be held by two different people.

An LLC is managed by it Managers, who fill the roles similar to those of both directors and officers of a corporation. Managers are elected by the LLC's members (owners), and control both the major decisions of the company, including overall business strategy and budget, and the day-to-day operations like hiring employees, opening bank accounts, and signing contracts.

There are certain major company actions - such as admiting new members, taking on unusually large expenditures or debts, and amending the company's organizational documents, which require the approval of the members. These items are laid out in the company's Operating Agreement (similar to Bylaws and a shareholders' agreement in a corporation), which Startomatic will create automatically based on your particular situation.

A typical board of directors for a small business has between one and five members. You may find it helpful to have an odd number of directors, to avoid a board deadlock (tie vote). Directors are often - but not always - also shareholders and officers of the corporation.
President / CEO - Both positions carry the same responsibility - they are the officer with ultimate authority over day-to-day activities. If there are both a President and a CEO, the CEO has the higher authority.
Vice President - Fulfills the responsibility of the President and/or CEO in their absence.
Secretary - Maintains the corporate and shareholder records. If there is no appointed Treasurer, the Secretary is also responsible for financial records and reports.
Treasurer - Maintains the company's finances and financial records.
A registered agent is an individual or company located in the company's state who is responsible for receiveing regular notices from the state (such as annual report filoing notices and tax information) as well as legal paperwork (like lawsuits and more routine stuff). A registered agent must have an address at which someone is available during business hours to receive documents, and must forward documents to the company.
Generally, any person or company with an address in the state of the corporation's formation at which someone is available in person during all normal business hours.
If you don't mind a little extra paperwork and you have an address at which someone is generally available to receive notices during regular business hours, you can serve as your own registered agent and save yourself the annual fee for hiring a professional registered agent, which is $99 per year through Startomatic. Keep in mind that the address of a registered agent is publically available through the Secretary of State of your state of formation.
A typical small business LLC has between one and five Managers. You may find it helpful to have an odd number of Managers, to avoid a deadlock (tie vote) among the Managers.
Managers have ultimate authority over day-to-day activities of the company, including hiring employees, negotiating and entering into contracts, and maintaining the corporate and financial records.
An employer identification number ('EIN'), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, is used by the IRS to identify a business entity. Think of it like a Social Security Number, but for businesses.
Probably, yes. Your company is required to get an EIN if it is either taxed as a corporation or a partnership (which generally is the case for all corporations and LLCs with more than one owner), or falls into a number of other categories (see the IRS website on this topic, "https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/do-you-need-an-ein") for a full list. Basically, it's free and fast, so you should probably get one unless you're sure you don't need one.
No! The IRS issues EINs for free, and unlike some other websites we won't name (hint it rhymes with BeagleGroom), Startomatic's flat fee covers the entire LAUNCH process, including the EIN application process.
Corporations (and LLCs, although this is less common), You may need (or want) to make one of these tax-related elections. We'll take a closer look at this later, in the 'Tax Stuff' step.
Most Startomatic companies will be eligible. There are a number of limitations on S-corporations; for example, they must have no more than 100 shareholders, all of whom must be individuals (i.e., not corporations, LLCs, or other entities), and none of whom may be nonresident aliens.For more details, visit "https://www.irs.gov/instructions/i2553" to review the IRS's Instructions for Form 2553.
Usually, yes. The deadline for a newly-formed company to make an S-election can vary, but is typically 75 days after the company is formed. You can also make an S-election for a later fiscal year. If you need more details, visit "https://www.irs.gov/instructions/i2553".
Pass-through taxation means that the company itself pays no federal income tax. Instead, profits are taxable to the owners of the company, and are reported on their personal tax returns. This is in contrast to the typical taxation of a traditional corporation (a so-called 'C-corporation'), which pays federal income taxes on its income, and then the shareholders pay federal tax on distributions received from the corporation (often called 'double taxation').
In certain circumstances, an S-election can lower the LLC's owners' self-employment tax bill. This is somewhat complex and has limitations, however, so we recommend you speak with a qualified tax professional if you think you may want to make an S-election for your LLC.
In LAUNCH, next to each document you'll find a short description of what it is for, but a read through of each document is your best bet for understanding how they create the governance structure for your company. Don't worry, we're using industry standard terms and provisions in all of these documents, and they are custom tailored to the requirements of your state of formation.
In most cases, yes. While amendment of the charter would require owners' approval and a filing with the Secretary of State, most of the other documents can be amended with the approval of the directors/managers and/or owners.

Online Presence

Yes - it's easy to change any element of this website after the company is formed.
Not yet - but it's coming soon! In the meantime, you can use Startomatic to create a placeholder to get your name out there, or you can create an awesome website with the builder of your choice and publish it to your domain. Just email us to ask how.
You can create up to ten company mailboxes, including company lists (like "help@yourcompany.com").
It depends - some companies base the majority of their marketing on connecting with customers through social media; for others, it's just a 'nice to have', and some companies do great without any social media presence at all. Don't worry, if you decide not to set up these accounts but change your mind later. you can always use Startomatic to set them up in the future.
Not yet, but we're always adding functionality so be sure to check back in with us often!
Google My Business is a free tool that helps small businesses create and manage their Google listings (think hours of operation, website link etc.), which appear when customers search for a business on Google Search or Google Maps. Having a profile set up on Google My Business helps you get found and creates customer confidence that you're a 'real' business.
Google Search Console is a free Google service that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your website's presence in Google Search results.

Startomatic is not a law firm. Consult an attorney if you have any legal questions. Disclaimer details