When is a new company “real”?

Sending a two-line email to my accountant — actually not even my accountant, at this point in the story the extent of our relationship is that we’ve chatted on the phone for half an hour and exchanged a couple of brief emails — I feel like a bit of a fraud. “Company Formation”, really?

Paperwork ensues! Lots of digital signatures, to become a customer of my new accountant’s firm, to file (digital) paperwork with the Companies Registration Office. A mysterious parcel arrives in the post, with a little gadget shaped a little like a stapler: our official Company Seal. Five minutes later, most pieces of paper in our kitchen now feature an embossed “Rigr AI Limited”: our kids are convinced that business is just the best game ever, and I — a little doubting voice inside me tells me that I’m playing make-believe just as much as our kids are. I stamp the share certificates I printed myself (on thick and gorgeous paper stock) and file them. So businessy!

Sure, we’ve got a legally registered company, we have mysterious new legal obligations as Directors — but no investor/employee/customer/product, or bank account. We do have a domain name (bought just before we filed to register the company, a friend was late to this part, ended up paying $650,000 for his .com) — but no actual website.

A business bank account was the next step: mixing business and personal funds in the same account is a very, very bad idea, this was a clear necessity, but I still felt weird applying and filling in little details like “expected revenue for the first 12 months”. No investors/customers, am I doing business, or playing at it?

It still didn’t feel real when I hired Employee №1 — the saintly Duc Le — but when I woke up on his first day at work, I experienced a most unexpected sensation — relief! At last, I’m not alone in this company, work can still happen even when I personally am not doing it. A month later, running our first payroll felt fantastic. Still… as I introduced myself to an expanding circle of people as “Ed Dixon, Principle at Rigr AI”, I felt like a pretender — such a tiny company, so embarrassingly new!

The “we are real now” moment arrived when Rigr AI’s first invoice was paid and Rigr AI made that transition from “weird and expensive hobby” to “actual self-sustaining business”. This is still a very, very young company, I have so much to learn, but this is a real company now.

Of course, the goalposts move! We have services revenue, we are cashflow-positive, that is a wonderful thing, but shipping actual product — isn’t that what real software companies do? To be continued…

#AI guy, Principal/Founder @ Rigr AI, co-author of ‘Demystifying AI for the Enterprise’.