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Stripe opens Atlas toolkit to help navigate a very common complexity

(ENTREPRENEUR) Starting a business is no easy task so Stripe has created a tool kit to help.

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atlas stripe

Organized chaos

Setting up a business is daunting. The process is complicated, time-consuming and resource draining. To take advantage of this chaos, Stripe, the Silicon Valley based payments processor company, launched Atlas a year ago to help international businesses get incorporated within the U.S.

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Little did they know that the demand within the U.S. would explode as well!

Business model

Their original premise was brilliant: focus on international clients, and automate starting a business for them.

Shrink a trail of paperwork into a short web application.

Provide on the spot financial, legal and operational tools. Get a foreign business incorporated ASAP, hassle free.

The move proved wildly popular right away.

Within a short year, thousands of businesses got incorporation through the Atlas program spanning 124 countries.

“We wanted to see if we could help entrepreneurs in emerging markets to be on the same playing field as Silicon Valley startups. It’s been heartening to see that it’s working,” said Taylor Francis, Atlas project lead.

Business is boomin’

But then came the real unexpected surprise—growing demand from businesses within the country. Stripe could not ignore it anymore.

The $9 billion startup announced last week that it was expanding its Atlas program to U.S. based companies.

“It’s a slightly different problem, but even in the US, the process was time consuming,” acknowledged Francis.

For a mere $500 fee, Atlas now guarantees incorporation as a Delaware C Corp., a business bank account with Silicon Valley Bank, and registry with the IRS. The company has also collaborated with Orrick for legal corporations, PricewaterhouseCoopers for tax guidance, and Amazon Web Services for cloud services.

To make things more user-friendly, Stripe has also recently added new features for Atlas users, like how-to guides, templates, and online forums for exchanging tips.

Stripe looks poised to expand its reach

Current members can use the Atlas to invite new clients to join the feature. Additionally, Stripe expanded its partnership program to include crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

It is important, however, to note three things:

First, being a Atlas customer does not require you to sign up for Stripe.

Secondly, Atlas remains an invite-only tool, for several reasons. Stripe wants close oversight of businesses that are being set up in order to weed out illegitimate ones, for example, those engaging in gambling or virtual currencies.

There is also no hiding that Stripe wants to attract more international clients who would use their payment APIs.

However, mostly, Stripe wants to focus on high-growth start-ups, like small businesses or solo entrepreneurs. Francis put it this way, “If you’re starting a new yoga studio, that’s probably not the right corporate structure for you.”

Thirdly, it may be important to note that Stripe Atlas may not be necessarily the best fit for you, even if you qualify and invited to join. Delaware has a long history of offering attractive business law, coupled with business-friendly state courts, and customers being lured by its no sales tax policy. That is why Atlas, by default, offers a Delaware base.

Whether you’re in Delaware or Denver, if you’re looking to start a business this tool is a good starting point.

#Atlas

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Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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Business Entrepreneur

What’s the secret to startup productivity? Here are 5 quick tips

(PRODUCTIVITY) There’s no concrete formula for startup success. However, if you study what successful startups are doing, you’ll notice that they almost all emphasize productivity. The question is, do you?

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startup productivity

At the heart of any efficient business is a productive set of processes, people, and systems. For startups with limited resources, maximizing productivity isn’t optional – it’s mandatory.

Here are some specific ways you can nudge your startup forward and increase productivity on a day-by-day basis:

1. Organize your thoughts.

“The more thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, the harder it is to concentrate on what’s in front of you,” entrepreneur Kristina Proffitt believes. “Every thought or idea that you don’t write down works like a plug, stopping your creativity from flowing freely. That’s why it’s so important to write everything down?—?even the bad ideas.”

If you’re old school, you may want to keep a legal pad or notebook on you at all times. If you’d prefer to go digital, an app like Evernote or Trello will allow you to jot down notes on any device and access them at any time.

2. Try a coworking office layout.

Believe it or not, your startup’s office environment has a direct impact on productivity. In particular, you’ll discover that the layout of the office is critically significant. Try experimenting with different styles, but you may find that a coworking layout is ideal.

“Directly inspired by an open office layout, a coworking layout also eliminates walls or boundaries, but is much larger and often shared among multiple companies,” Novel Coworking explains. “The coworking space may feature couches, shared desks, private or dedicated desks, or high counters. Coworking has the added benefit of encouraging cross-company communication and networking.”

3. Permit flexible scheduling.

The 9-to-5 schedule is no longer efficient or cost-effective. Research shows that people function differently and reach their peak productivity at different times throughout the day. If you want to maximize productivity for each of your employees, you should allow for flexible scheduling.

With flexible scheduling, you give your employees the ability to choose their hours. While some may prefer the 9-to-5 time slot, others might prefer 6-to-2 or 12-to-8. Allow your employees to set their hours (within reason) for a few months and see if you notice a positive impact on productivity. Most of the time, there’s a pretty significant boost.

4. Cut back on email.

There’s a fine line between over-communicating and not communicating enough. In startups, there’s a tendency to lean towards the first one. And while it may seem like a sound practice to communicate as much information as possible, it actually bogs down your team and inhibits creativity and innovative thinking.

Try implementing smart email practices within your company. Encourage people to only CC relevant parties and to pick up the phone when there’s something important to discuss. You may also transition to an app like Slack to cut down on the distractions.

5. Encourage physical activity

In pursuit of productivity, many people try to put in as many hours as they possibly can. But there isn’t a direct correlation between time and productivity. In fact, sometimes there’s a negative relationship.

Too much time hunched in front of a computer doesn’t do anyone any good. Encourage your team to get physical activity in the middle of the day. They’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

The goal is to optimize your business.

Running a successful business requires an intimate understanding of how your business functions at its core. But even more important than processes and technology are the people you have on your team. It’s people who make decisions, execute, and build relationships with people and partners in the industry.

And if you want to get the most out of your people, you must learn to maximize productivity and efficiency.

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Business Entrepreneur

Top 11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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work from home productivity

Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants

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Viral tweet explains why expertise costs more

(BUSINESS) A viral tweet has given ample inspiration for people to explain their pricing and justify it to others, and themselves.

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viral tweet on expertise

A recent tweet by Davy Greenberg took the Internet by storm earlier last week, garnering over 42,000 re-tweets and over 135,000 likes:

Davy’s comment strikes a universal nerve because it clearly illustrates the value of expertise. Every profession has an invisible but crucial amount of skill and knowledge that its members accrue over time. Often these insights are hard-won lessons that come from having to figure out how to resolve a problem or fix a past mistake.

In an incredible over-simplification, look at it like this: Imagine that in your office, one of your printers doesn’t work. This is “common knowledge” among your established employees and they have each, at some point in the last year or so, changed their printer preferences so that they use a different, viable machine.

If you were to put a new hire into the same office with the same technology, they probably would waste at least half an our (or more!) trying to figure out why they couldn’t print with that machine, if none of their colleagues imparted that knowledge.

If the learning curve over something as basic as how to print can affect your workflow, imagine what the learning curve must be for more complex, specialized skills.

The point that Davy expresses is similar to a common problem in creative work: many people believe that because the field that you work in is related to an activity that some may do for a hobby (writing, graphic design, and so on), then your skills and talent are not “work” in the traditional sense. Thus, the assumption goes, you are not a professional who deserves to get paid professional wages.

As in any profession, the lower the fee—the lower of quality that you can expect.

Work that you expect done for free? Yikes. Just don’t even ask. “Exposure” is not worth anybody’s time and resources.

I tend to think about fair rates as a promise to a client that I respect their time as much as I want them to respect my own—they won’t have to have somebody re-do a task or service if they are willing to compensate me for my expertise.

Davy’s concise point is a good reminder that true value isn’t always visible in a work process, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If you think someone’s rates are too high, you’re free to look elsewhere. But caveat emptor.

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