❄️ Snowball: how to start a US company in 3 clicks (or so) from anywhere.

& how to create a new visual identity

Hey everybody! Long time no see.

I really hope you’re all doing great since the last time I wrote this newsletter on the 3rd of March 2021, or about 6 months ago already!

It’s been a while so let’s catch up!

What did happen in the Snowball universe?

Snowball?

If you forgot, or if you have no idea why you’re receiving this email, Behind the Curtain is basically the personal diary of Snowball. But what is Snowball you might ask yourself?

Well, today Snowball is a newsletter about personal finance, but its vision goes way beyond that. If you want to learn more about that, please read this edition of Behind the curtain.

OK, let’s get back to what happened during the past 7 months.

Quite a lot of stuff, but not as much as I would have wanted to happen.

Today, you’ll mainly learn how I briefed a design agency to get a brand new visual identity, how to easily start a company in the US, how to start (less easily) a company in France that is a subsidiary of the US company, and what will happen in the upcoming months.

Let’s split this newsletter into different parts to make it more digestible.


Summary

  1. Novelties. What are the new shiny things in the Snowball universe?

    • How to get a brand new visual identity?

    • A new way to connect with Snowball’s audience: launching the Daily Snow, a newsletter on WhatsApp.

  2. The Transparency Room: figures & data.

  3. How I started Snowball XYZ, Inc in the US in a few clicks.

  4. How I started Snowball, SAS in France in way more than a few clicks.

  5. Coming up in the next months.


Novelties. What are the new shiny things in the Snowball universe?

How to get a brand new visual identity?

If you follow Snowball, you’ve probably already seen that I’ve completely changed some part of its visual identity starting with a brand new logo :

Of course, the logomark represents a snowball, and the logotype SNOWBALL illustrates the famous compound interest effect or snowball effect with the top of the letters forming the beginning of an exponential curve.

So why did I need a brand new visual identity? First of all, because I did not really have one. I was using an open-source logo I found on Logodust + my illustrations + a pink color I liked. That’s a start, but not really a strong visual identity for a brand.

Since I want to go further than just being a newsletter, I needed to have a stronger brand, hence a stronger visual identity.

The rest of the visual identity is made of some brand new colors:

BrownWhiteIce Blue, Pink, Red, Green, and Off Pink.

…some cute new little guys:

And much more to come when the new website will be out. Stay tuned.

Since Behind the Curtain has been created to share with you the backstage of what it’s like to build a company, I’m gonna share with you the brief I sent to Lord, the agency which worked on this new visual identity. It’s in French, but I guess you can easily translate it with Deepl if needed:

Copy the brief

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments section.

Leave a comment

Second new shiny thing. A new way to connect with Snowball’s audience: launching the Daily Snow, a newsletter on WhatsApp.

On the 14th of February 2021, Karan Shah contacted me on Linkedin by sending me this message:

I actually thought about connecting with my readers either by text or through WhatsApp before, so it was the perfect timing. Well done Karan! ;)

After talking a little bit by e-mail with Karan, I decided to beta test this new medium with a dozen of Premium members of Snowball. After two weeks, the test was successful, and the feedbacks were really great. People loved to receive short, snackable news every day right in their WhatsApp inbox. If you want to read the e-mail announcing the Daily Snow, you can click here.

Today, close to 2,000 (out of 2,600) premium members are receiving the Daily Snow on their WhatsApp. 5 days a week from Monday to Friday. This is how it looks like:

How does it work exactly?

In short, it’s a broadcast list so people can reply without everybody seeing the reply. It’s not a group (that would quickly become a big mess). A solution could have been to create a group and to ban people from replying, but I wanted this experience to be close to an e-mail experience where you can reply, hence the broadcast list.

That’s where Karan and his young startup Dyspatch are helping me a lot. Indeed, broadcast lists are limited to 256 contacts, since I’m sending the Daily Snow to close to 2,000 people, it means I need about 8 broadcast lists. I could do it myself, but it could be extremely time-consuming. Instead here is the process we use with Dyspatch:

  1. People just have to fill a google form and add the number of the Daily Snow to their address book on their phone to receive it.

  2. On the content creation side, I create a note every day on the Notes app on my mac where I save the news I’ll talk about in the Daily Snow of the following day. For instance:

  1. In the morning, usually, before 10:30/11 am, I write the Daily Snow which is also linked to a Linktree people can check if they want to dig further some news.

  2. Before 11 am, I send an email named “The Daily Snow Schedule” to Dyspatch with the day, time, and content of today’s Daily Snow:

  3. At 11:30 am, Dyspatch sends the Daily Snow to all the subscribers.

  4. If people reply to the Daily Snow, I receive a notification by email and I can see + reply to their messages right inside a Gsheet:

That’s it! We’re still in the early stage so not everything is perfect, but I love what Dyspatch is doing, and I’m sure there’s a bright future for the content sent on messaging apps like WhatsApp. I really hope Dyspatch will build something even better! I like what they’re doing so much that I’ll be ready to invest some of my money in their venture.

People are really loving the Daily Snow, so I’m planning to release a lighter, and free version of it in order to increase acquisition. Stay tuned.


The Transparency Room: figures & data.

Now it’s time to share some figures and data with you.

  • 📊 The 15k total email list milestone has been reached at the end of July 2021.

  • 💰 The €160,000 of gross annualized revenue has been reached mid-July 2021. It represents + 40k euros since March 2021 or + 33 %. My €250k goal by end of the year is still reachable.

  • 🍹 As you can see, the growth is always slower during the summer. That’s exactly what happened in 2020 and again in 2021. If the growth starts to accelerate in September, it’ll definitely be a pattern.

  • 📈 The open rate for the free version of Snowball is around 50 % on average, but it really depends on the topic. It oscillates between 40 % and 75 % in general.

  • 📈 The open rate for the Premium version of Snowball is still high, and around 70% all the time.

  • 📉 The churn rate is still way below 2%.


How I started the company Snowball XYZ, Inc in the US in a few clicks.

If you’re an avid reader of Behind the Curtain, you probably already know that I’m planning to allow anybody in the world, and especially the Snowball community, to invest in Snowball easily. How? By using the amazing product built by Fairmint:

In order to use their product, the company has to be a US-based company. Since I also need to have a French company, I’ve decided to first start a US company called Snowball XYZ, Inc. then to start a French company named Snowball with Snowball XYZ being the main shareholder with myself (the individual Yoann Lopez).

How do you easily start a company in the US? Pretty easy with Stripe Atlas.

When they say that it takes 10 minutes to start a company with them, they’re not lying at all! It’s really the time it took me to fill out everything. A few days later, Snowball XYZ, Inc was incorporated in Delaware (why Snowball XYZ? Because your company can’t have the exact same name as another one, and Snowball was already taken).

Stripe Atlas costs only $500 and the experience is amazing. After a few days I received this document:

After that, and before being able to start the French company (more about that later), I needed to open a Bank Account in the US, and in order to do so, you need the EIN number or Employer Identification Number. Because of the “Covid situation”, the US administration has been slowed down quite a bit, and it took me more than 2 months to get this number. Once I got it, I opened a bank account in a few more clicks with Mercury Bank.

Once everything was OK on the US side, it was time to create the company on the FR side. A different, and more complicated story…


How I started Snowball SAS in France in way more than a few clicks.

Unfortunately, there’s not a Stripe Atlas to start a company in France. Sure, you can use services like Numbr to effortlessly start a SASU (basically a one-person company designed for freelancers) or Legalstart to start other companies like an SAS (the french equivalent of an LLC), but the problem was that my configuration was slightly more complex.

Let’s rewind a little bit.

Why do I need to create a french company in the first place? Well, I got my AMF certification in order to turn Snowball into a CIF or Conseiller en Investissement Financier (Financial Investment Advisor) that will allow me to add more features to the product (more about that in future editions).

But this french company needed to be linked to the US entity. Therefore, the setup was a bit more complex than starting a regular SAS. Here’s what I did exactly.

The first step, as I said earlier was to set up the US entity + US bank account.

The second step was to write the French company's statutes (les statuts). In order to do so, I asked my good friend Edern, who’s a lawyer, and always ready to give a hand. Together we wrote those statutes:

If you want to check them out, just click here.

One question you might ask yourself: why such a high capital social (10 000€) since you can start a company with much less? Just because I needed to pay Lord for the new brand identity very soon.

Once the statutes were ready, I needed to be able to easily deposit the share capital (capital social), and that’s where everything got complicated. Indeed, since the French company needed to be a subsidiary of the US company, the US company had to be a shareholder, therefore the US company had to deposit a part of the capital from the US bank account to the French bank account. I had to find a bank that would allow me to do that. First I tried Qonto since it’s super easy to deposit your capital with them, but they did not allow US entities to deposit the capital… I had to find a traditional bank…😅… Ouch!

Fortunately, I can’t remember how exactly, but I talked to Anh-Tho, my friend who almost became my co-founder and who was the VP growth at Qonto, and she told me she could maybe ask some of her ex-colleagues to do an exception…

And yes, I was super lucky because they said yes and made an exception for my case!

I started the process on Qonto’s website which was super easy (just uploading my french and US statutes and some other documents) + wiring the money from Snowball XYZ account in the US + my personal account to a dedicated account in order to deposit the capital.

I initiated the wire payment from my US account, and 1 or 2 days later, the money was on Qonto’s bank account.

Once the money was on their account I had to publish to an accredited newspaper the fact that I was starting this new company. I chose L’itinérant, which is not only the cheapest option but also a newspaper distributed by homeless people which uses its revenues to help them.

Once this was done, and the capital received by Qonto, I could file everything with the french administration in order to receive my Kbis, and to be officially the president, and founder of Snowball SAS. 🥳

All of that took me basically 3 to 4 months, and even more if you take into account the fact that it took me about two months to get my EIN number in the US!

The foundations are (almost) ready, so what’s coming next?


Coming up in the next months.

  • At the moment, my priority is to get accreditation from the French administration to be a CIF (Conseiller en Investissement Financier). The next step to get it is to file an application with a certified organization that will accept (or not) this application. I’m doing this with the Compagnie des CGP. Cost: around 1,000 euros.

  • In the meantime, I’ve hired a lawyer in the US called Yel, who’s gonna help me to set up everything with Fairmint in order to allow anybody in the world to invest in Snowball. Cost: in between 4,000 and 7,000 dollars. Hopefully, this will be live by the end of the year.

  • I’m still working with Lord to build Snowball outside of Substack in order to turn it into something bigger than just a newsletter. They’re currently designing a new website, some new email templates, etc.

  • I’m also writing not a pitch deck, but a pitch memo on Notion, in order to tell people why investing in Snowball could be a good idea. I’m gonna start to reach out to potential angel investors really soon. By the way, if you’re interested, just reply to this e-mail, and don’t worry, I’ll share that memo with y’all really soon.

  • This memo will also detail what the next version of Snowball will look like. In short: content + professional advisory + ways to buy stocks and crypto more intelligently, more transparently, and more aligned with investors’ own interests than on eToro, Robinhood, or other brokers.

  • I need to finish the book I’m writing in partnership with Eyrolles by the end of September. The book called “L’effet Snowball” or “The Snowball Effect” in English will be out by February 2022, and you’ll be able to buy it on Amazon, at La Fnac, at Gibert, etc.

  • In September, LiveMentor will also release a personal finance “masterclass” I recorded with them. If you want to know when it’s out, just subscribe to the waiting list here (it’ll be in French though). Disclaimer: I won’t receive any commission on the sales. I just received a one-time payment of €2,500 to prepare and record everything.

That’s it for this edition, it was quite dense, I’ll try to send the next one really soon to make it more digestible than this one.

As usual, do not hesitate to comment or reply to this e-mail if you have any questions or remarks.

Cheers.

Yoann ❤️.