Choosing the Right Corporate Service Provider for Your Start-up

Isaac Sammut  -  3/May/2022

Attracting and supporting start-ups to our island has always been a priority and common theme on the national agenda, perhaps even more so during the past few years. The openness of the island for start-ups has been frequently proclaimed whilst ambitious projects targeting start-ups have been continuously proposed. The unveiling of national start-up festivals, new and extended support measures and incentives, the recent airing of a national start-up show, and the pledged commitment towards creating a one-stop-shop specifically for start-ups to help ease setting up, are all bold moves to continue strengthening the Maltese start-up ecosystem.  

By no means am I trying to paint an idyllic picture or impose a utopian perception of our national ecosystem. Just like any other ecosystem, it has its flaws and can be significantly improved. However, the entrepreneurial dream does and should not solely have to be supported by the government. Serving as a jurisdiction of excellence for start-ups requires all stakeholders to contribute and play their part. 

The intricacies of the modern start-up ecosystem must be accounted for, and all stakeholders should cater for start-ups’ needs and the struggles they endure. In this light, Corporate Service Providers (CSPs) have a fundamental role to play. Maltese CSPs are often considered a backbone of the growth that Malta has enjoyed, with Malta boasting around 200 MFSA-registered CSPs.  

As part of my responsibility as Business Development Manager, it is imperative to stay abreast of what is being offered within the market, identify the gaps, and convert them into opportunities. From my experience working with start-ups, few are those CSPs that see value in offering something designed exclusively (not solely in terms of price) for start-ups, consequently not differentiating them from firms employing hundreds of people.  

Even those CSPs that claim to offer start-up packages, upon closer analysis, simply offer discounted prices of their normal service offering. In fact, most propositions stop at the incorporation stage and fail to go beyond. Whilst opening a company and structuring it correctly remains an essential function, few are those firms that go beyond that and offer the fully-fledged service in terms of accounting support, business development services, advisory services, marketing services, and financing opportunities.  

Perhaps even more importantly, it is not about the diversified advice and support most CSPs offer, but their personalised approach and understanding of the business environment required for start-ups to thrive. From a business development perspective, it is all about the network the firm may provide and the ability the firm has in connecting the start-up with the right stakeholders. Few CSPs offer that quality. 

Undeniably, the playing field has become very competitive at both international and domestic levels, with different jurisdictions and local CSPs competing with one another in terms of offering better start-up incentives and services for both local and foreign start-ups. When choosing a country to set up a company in, multiple factors are undoubtedly taken into consideration. Whilst government support measures may be fundamental, choosing a CSP that goes beyond the traditional service offering is essential.  

Your start-up’s CSP should be a calculated decision based on several factors, comprising but not limited to the values of the firm, its service portfolio and how sensitive it is to the start-up community (both in terms of price and quality), and ultimately the extended network and connections it may provide. Additional factors one may consider include the CSP’s membership in international associations, the type of events it endorses or participates in, and the key people leading the firm. 

Choosing the right CSP is an intricate decision that entails different considerations. However, it is also a decision that might shape the scalability and sustainability of your start-up – so, make sure it pays off. 

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