Many tech startups incorporate in Delaware. Why? While its not appropriate for all startup companies, there are a number of reasons why tech startups that require significant investment to scale their business incorporate in Delaware:
1) Delaware corporate law is much more developed and streamlined compared to other states.
Because so many companies incorporate in Delaware, and because they have specialized courts that deal only with corporate disputes, there is much more “legal certainty” about how the courts will treat certain contractual and transactional issues, and it is largely seen as “business friendly.” Many of these are issues that a company won’t face until much farther down the line. But some of them affect startups straight out of the gate. Delaware largely lets companies decide minor issues for themselves. On the other hand, California likes to dictate these small issues. For example, in Delaware you can have as many directors as you want, whereas in California you have to have one for every shareholder up to three. So if you are a startup with three shareholders, you are obliged to have three directors, even if that doesn’t make any sense at all and means a lot of wasted time in getting signatures.
2) Delaware makes things easy.
The Delaware filing office is open until 8PM, and usually filings come back stamped in a day. This is huge for fast-moving capitalization transactions. California, on the other hand, takes weeks unless you pay expedite fees, and often sends filings back for minor non-conformities. Like many other California government agencies, the Division of Corporations can be very bureaucratic.
3) Delaware conforms to investor expectations.
Virtually all corporate lawyers in the US (and many around the world) are familiar with Delaware corporate law, and indeed for many of us Delaware corporate law is probably even more familiar to us than the law of the state we are in! Thus, you don’t have to worry about your investor’s lawyer not knowing the intricacies of whatever state you are in. Most California venture capitalists are reluctant to invest in California corporations, much less a corporation from Wisconsin, New Jersey or Arkansas.
Why shouldn’t you form a Delaware corporation? Cost. If you form a Delaware corporation, you also have to qualify the business in the state in which the corporation is doing business. All told, it probably costs an extra $1-2K to form a corporation in Delaware rather than the state you are in (costs of qualifying in your state + legal fees to qualify + cost of Delaware franchise tax), and you will have some additional costs going forward in terms of franchise taxes, filing and agent fees. However, I often think this is more than than made up in just the first financing transaction you go through. And it will be much more expensive to convert later if that is a route you take. But if you will not raise capital and want to keep things simple, it probably makes sense to simply incorporate in the state you are in.In short, if you are aiming to raise capital to scale your business, incorporating in Delaware is often a smart choice (though like all things there are exceptions).