As I've mentioned here before, one of the differences between "Europe" and the US is just how cheap it is to start a company in the US. Before we go any further, I'll take a moment to add the standard "yes, I know that Europe is not one country" disclaimer, and specify that I'm mostly talking about continental Europe. Starting a company in the UK or Ireland isn't nearly as bad.
In Oregon, I spent $55 to create DedaSys LLC. If I'd created it with one or more partners, I would have spent something on a lawyer in order to create a solid agreement, but that is of course a voluntary expenditure that we would pay for because it provided us with some value. In Italy, it costs thousands of Euros just to get started with a company; before you've made any money at all. And, while there are gradual improvements, it's still a bureaucratic process that pretty much must involve at least an accountant and a notary public. And you have to involve the very arbitrary number of 10,000 euros of capital in the company, supposedly there as a guarantee for the people you're doing business with. But 10,000 is not nearly enough to cover some kinds of problems you might cause, and way more than, say, a web startup with a couple of guys and their laptops need. My friend Salvatore says it's possible to sort of "get around" sinking the full 10K into your company, but in any case, the principal of "caveat emptor" is a more sensible one. At most, make a transparency requirement so that people dealing with companies can tell exactly how much reserves they have.
During a recent bout of cold/flu, compliments of our daughter's nursery school, when I had some extra time on my hands, I decided to do something about this, however much it may be pissing into the wind. I set up a site:
http://www.srlfacile.org (warning: Italian only)
As well as a Google Group, and petition for people to sign, in an attempt to make a little bit of noise about the problem, here in Italy.
While it's likely that the actual bureaucratic mechanisms are more smoothly oiled in other European countries, I have my doubts as to whether the actual amount of paperwork can compete with the very minimal page or two required by many US states. And in any case, the costs are still quite high, and while we all have different levels on the idea of the role of government, and ideal levels of taxation, I think we can agree that it's sensible to levy taxes only after a company has begun to make money!
So – how about it? Anyone want to create sister initiatives in other countries in Europe where things aren't as simple and easy as they should be? Anyone care to tell of how this problem has been fixed elsewhere? I've heard tell that in Germany, there is now a simpler/cheaper way to create limited liability companies.