Starting a real business

Patrick McKenzie Startup Marketing

Starting a business is hard. Some of the difficulty is intrinsic—making products and services then convincing customers to pay for them will always be a challenge. Some of the difficulty is unnecessary—access to the infrastructure and tools for starting up an internet business is not evenly distributed.

We built Stripe Atlas to remove the barriers that prevent some entrepreneurs from participating in the global economy on an equal playing field. Many of us here at Stripe have started businesses ourselves and we remember puzzling over taxes and being confused by Terms of Service. This pain is unnecessary and we’re setting out to fix it by sharing what we’ve learned to help build and start businesses. Today, we’re publishing our first guide—on topics around incorporation and taxes—and we’ll be writing more in the future.

’Real’ businesses

In the technology industry, we often talk about “imposter syndrome”—the feeling that everyone around you knows what they’re doing and that you and you alone are just muddling along. The words that come up over and over again in our discussions with entrepreneurs are “real business.”

“If we were a ‘real’ business, we’d have a business plan, but since I don’t have an MBA, I’m just winging it.”

“In a ‘real’ business this system would be monitored, but we have higher priorities this week.”

“I might be able to get investors interested, but why would they be? I’m just a geek working on a website, far from Silicon Valley with all the ‘real’ businesses.”

This feeling is particularly common among first-time entrepreneurs, folks from underrepresented backgrounds, and entrepreneurs in regions without a deep ecosystem of successful internet companies…but it is surprisingly pervasive almost everywhere. We’re all making it up as we go along. (There is no magic elite circle of Silicon Valley whiz kids who feel like they’ve got this figured out.)

Running a business is a learnable skill

We think that bookkeeping, accounting, risk management, and the other mechanics of running a business are tools, not secrets. You can learn them. We’ve collected insight from lawyers at Orrick, accountants and tax experts at PwC, and experienced entrepreneurs to help demystify some of these subjects. Just like the tech industry has benefited tremendously from open-sourcing pieces of our collective technical infrastructure, we think that the global community of entrepreneurs will benefit from democratizing access to the technology of building and running businesses.

You can read more about bookkeeping, accounting, employment, incorporation, risk management, taxes, and contracts in the guides. If there are other subjects you’d be interested in having us cover, please drop us a line at

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