How to incorporate a startup

For founders embarking on the journey of forming a company, understanding the nuances of incorporation is pivotal. This guide outlines the corporate structure and discusses two methods for incorporating your startup, supported by relevant statistics and data.

Incorporating a startup

Understanding Corporations: A Closer Look

Corporate law, a fundamental pillar of the business world, governs the formation, operation, and regulation of corporations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of legal frameworks and practices, ensuring that corporations function within the ambit of the law while balancing the interests of various stakeholders. This overview explores the critical elements of corporate law, including the board of directors, officers, stockholders, corporate governance, consents, meeting minutes, foundational documents, and regulatory compliance.

Stockholders: As the owners, stockholders invest capital and have voting rights on major decisions. They provide the necessary capital for growth and have a vested interest in the company’s success.

Board of Directors: The Board of Directors, typically one of two of the co-founders, are appointed by the stockholders of the company and have fiduciary duties. These individuals are at the helm of corporate governance, making key strategic decisions and ensuring legal and ethical compliance. They are pivotal in shaping the corporate culture and setting long-term strategies for growth.

Corporate Officers: Typically at least a CEO (but can also include a CTO, CFO, or COO) is appointed by the Board of Directors and manages day-to-day operations and implements board strategies. Officers are crucial in executing the vision of the board and maintaining operational efficiency.

Board and Stockholder Consents and Meeting Minutes: Board and stockholder consents are formal approvals for specific corporate actions. Meeting minutes are official records of the proceedings and resolutions adopted in board and stockholder meetings, serving as legal records and documentation of the decisions made.  In the eyes of the law, important actions like issuing new shares and fundraising are invalid unless properly agreed to in a properly drafted board consent.  This means that having a good lawyer is critical, as is keeping a system for maintaining legal documents.

Foundational Documents: Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws set the internal management rules of the corporation. These documents are the legal bedrock of the company, outlining the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.
Vital for legal compliance, they include board and stockholder consent and meeting minutes. Accurate and timely documentation is key to maintaining transparency and meeting legal requirements.

State and Government Registrations:
Corporations are required to comply with various state and federal regulations. This includes registering with state authorities, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, and adhering to reporting requirements. Compliance with these regulations is essential for legal operation and avoiding penalties.

Two Ways to Incorporate Your Startup

Two common approaches for incorporating a startup are using an online legal service like Cooley Go (Clerky, or Stripe Atlas) or hiring a traditional law firm. Each option comes with its unique set of advantages and considerations.

Cooley Go: A Digital Approach

Cooley Go, an online platform provided by the law firm Cooley LLP, offers a range of legal document templates and tools tailored for startups.

Ease of Use: It’s designed for founders who need quick and easy access to legal documents.

Cost-Effective: Free templates make it a budget-friendly option for new startups.

Standard Legal Documents: Reliable and crafted by experienced attorneys, suitable for standard incorporation needs.

Limitations: While Cooley Go is efficient and cost-effective, it may not address all the unique legal needs of a startup. The platform offers limited customization, and there may be scenarios where a startup’s specific circumstances require more tailored legal advice and documentation.

Traditional Law Firms: Customized Legal Services

Engaging a traditional law firm for incorporation involves working directly with legal professionals who provide personalized services. This approach includes:

Customized Legal Advice:
Law firms provide customized advice for your startup’s specific needs. This includes navigating complex legal situations that may be unique to your business model or industry.

Comprehensive Services: Offering a wide range of services beyond incorporation. This can include everything from intellectual property protection to employment law and regulatory compliance. Traditional law firms offer a broader range of services beyond basic incorporation. This includes assistance with intellectual property protection, employment law issues, complex shareholder agreements, and future financing rounds.

Building Relationships: Working with a law firm allows startups to build ongoing relationships with legal advisors who become familiar with the company’s business and can provide continued support as the startup grows.

Cost Considerations: The main drawback of hiring a law firm is the cost. Legal fees can be significant, especially for startups with limited initial capital. However, the investment can be worthwhile for startups with complex legal needs or those planning rapid growth and substantial fundraising.

Navigating Legal Complexities

Incorporation is only the beginning of a startup’s legal journey. As your business grows, so do the complexities of legal compliance and documentation. Aerial’s AI helps startups lower legal fees, manage legal complexity, and prevent legal landmines that can derail fundraising and acquisitions.

Saving founders time, money, and headaches

Aerial streamlines your startup’s document management with AI. Without the need for manual data entry or sorting, our platform organizes your documents automatically, ensuring they’re always investor-ready and prepared for due diligence. This efficiency saves founders time, allowing you to focus on what matters most.


Incorporation is a significant step in your startup’s journey, laying the groundwork for future success. Whether through digital platforms like Cooley Go or traditional law firms, it’s essential to choose a method that aligns with your startup’s unique needs. Post-incorporation, platforms like Aerial can be instrumental in managing the ongoing legal complexities, allowing you to focus on growing your business.

Explore more about startup incorporation and legal management at Aerial.