User experience & onboarding
Onboarding for ZenBusiness is more complex than average, and they require new customers to complete a chat interview before showing their pricing. This is good for non-standard LLC and C-Corp setups, since it better accounts for additional fees. The price shown has fewer hidden fees than the industry norm.
Onboarding for Northwest is more cumbersome than other products in the industry. Avoiding the simplified chat flows, ubiquitous of Silicon Valley SaaS, Northwest makes you comb through an exhaustive list of services that at first glance can be intimidating. The plus side of their onboarding is Northwest makes it very easy to open a free account without being charged for a service, so at least you won't be paying any money up front while you figure out exactly the product you need.
ZenBusiness' customized packages are generated seamlessly via a swift onboarding flow that is easy to follow. While pricing is not as transparent upfront, compared to Northwest, ZenBusiness can generate custom-tailored packages more akin to attorney services. Northwest's onboarding is more cumbersome and can be overwhelming to the less experienced business owner, but is welcomed by more experienced owners who want to by standalone items or create complex custom tax structures.
Both ZenBusiness and Northwest offer turnaround time around 3 days once you account for state filing wait times. We wouldn't use wait time measurements to choose between these two providers since they are similar and ultimately driven by state processing times.
ZenBusiness promises a maximum of three days for most standard formations, placing it in the low-mid range for processing times among formation services. ZenBusiness commonly matches one-day services, but doesn't advertise it heavily because state processing systems can delay some formation types.
Northwest's one business day processing time has become the gold-standard for business formation. With state processing times varying, the industry has adopted a mentality of processing applicants as swiftly as possible to help them form businesses quickly. Northwest's standardization of the application flow, while restrictive to unique circumstances, helps them achieve this speed in processing times.
Are they worth the cost?
ZenBusiness is targeted at traditional SMB and Bootstrapped Startups. Their messaging is focused on business owners who have standard SMB businesses that can be started with family and friends funding or personal savings rather than requiring investment from outside sources such as VCs, Private Equity or Wall Street. If your business concept falls into a quintessential SMB that will require a handful of employees but isn't likely to scale, ZenBusiness is targeted at you.
Northwest is more focused on established SMB and Bootstrapped Startups given its messaging heavily leans on the Registered Agent angle. This positioning towards an industry term assumes a certain level of knowledge from the prospect, rather than guiding first-time founders or solopreneurs through a flow of starting their business and all the services they may require. In that respect, Northwest is more direct - displaying clearly the service they provide and how they do it well for Businesses.
The NanoGlobals editor's rating for ZenBusiness is based on a mix of their strong marks for smooth onboarding and package flexibility. Although their pricing trends moderate–high compared with similar services, part of this is because they are transparent about add-on costs. They feature fewer hidden fees than the industry norm, and we like that they don't vary the recurring fees.
NanoGlobals editor's rating for Northwest reflects its standing as a solid middle of the pack option for business formation. Their lightning fast processing times have become the mark to which other services must match and their pricing is fair compared to the high-end. Points are deducted for their slightly confusing onboarding flow which creates a high propensity to choose non-applicable products. If you know exactly what service you need for your business, Northwest can be a great option but if you're at all unsure, Northwest isn't likely to make it easy to find the product right for you.