On Incorporating a Hacker Space

by on Sep.17, 2008, under Running a Hacker Space

There are a ton of things to keep straight when starting up a hacker space.  Just look at the design patterns document – so many things they talk about are the initial stages, not the day-to-day running of things.

We spent a lot of time getting things like a net connection, insurance, two-factor door authentication, and a monitored alarm system set up.  But in the end, incorporation was about the most stressful thing to get going, and we’re not through the process yet.

Obligatory not-a-lawyer preface:  I’m not a lawyer, I was simply raised by a pack of them.  I can read forms and websites, but this should in no way constitute legal advice.  Do your own research and consult a good lawyer – it will save you hassle in the long run.  If this post kicks your puppy or causes your hacker space to burst into flames, please complain elsewhere.

Incorporating a non-profit in Ontario isn’t a huge deal, or particularly expensive.  It’s $155 and a 4-page form, plus a corporate name search (NUANS search), which costs around $35.  We expedited ours for $100 to get 7-day service, and it ended up taking 4 business days – way awesome compared to 6 weeks for the normal fee.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has a really excellent guide to incorporating non-profits up on their site.  Read the whole thing.  The form you need to fill out is in the appendix.

The one thing I wish the guide had been clearer on is that for a non-charity non-profit, which is what we are, you don’t need to have your corporate objects approved.  That’s just for charities.  Phew, we don’t have to pretend we’re a club….

But wait, we kinda did.  They didn’t like our name!  HackLab Toronto Inc.  Sounds too for-profit, apparently.  So it’s HackLab Toronto Club Inc.  Which is way too wordy for my tastes, but I really don’t care enough to be concerned.  So yeah, make sure your name sounds non-profitey in a way that is consistent with your corporate objects, which you will learn all about when you read the handbook.

Here’s what we ended up coming up with.  It’s suitably vague-yet-specific, but in retrospect I can see how the person doing the filing thought we should have “club” in our name.  These are the “objects for which the corporation is incorporated” to use the official Ministry lingo:

Hacker Club: The establishment and operation of a social club for individuals interested in computer security, technology, electronics, and related topics for the purpose of:

* providing facilities and equipment for the pleasure and accommodation of members and guests;

* sharing information and knowledge for the mutual benefit of the members;

* organizing technical, educational, and social events;

* promoting awareness of privacy and digital rights issues affecting members and civil society;

and such other complementary purposes not inconsistent with these objects.

For the special provisions, we just left it at the default which comes pre-printed on the form.  You should consult a lawyer to see if that’s what you need to do to.

I got the NUANS search done here, and they took about 18 hours to get it back to me.  Make sure you get a full NUANS, not just a pre-search.  Also, you can do pre-searches for free on the federal NUANS site – just let your session time out if you use up your 8 free ones.

The other board members and I are working on our Bylaws, which for Ontario corporations are not approved by any government agency, just kept internally.  Ontario corporations are kinda great that way.

Tomorrow I’m going by the office to pick up our Letters Patent, and then we’re all set to get a bank account, which is pretty much our last step in becoming all official and stuff. Except registering for PST / GST… but more on that later.



3 Comments for this entry

  • the_goat

    That’s a nicely done up summary – thank you! Canadian specific content is always much appreciated.

  • Alex

    This is really exciting. I have been a big fan of NYC resistor since it’s inception. I’m not skilled at the slightest when it comes to programming or circuitry, but I really want to learn. I can’t wait to check it out.

  • DotNM

    FYI, the federal NUANS site allows you to purchase a full NUANS report for $20. This report is downloadable in PDF format immediately after payment. I have used it a few times for setting up a few (federal) corporations. P.S. I also work for a bank, so if you need anything (contacts, etc.), let me know.

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