ZenBusiness vs Northwest

Features, pricing, and contract terms compared

Patrick Ward Patrick Ward Follow Published: Sep 27, 2022

ZenBusiness and Northwest serve the same SMB (Small to mid-size business) segment; the key difference is that ZenBusiness is much simpler for first-time owners, while Northwest has better custom-tailored packages for experienced users. ZenBusiness offers a clearly-defined onboarding flow that helps confused buyers determine the best-match formation type and understand associated compliance services. Northwest's layout is a more comprehensive menu of options, making it the better choice for owners who know exactly what they want, and want the option to add-on compliance consulting down the road.

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4.6/5 stars

ZenBusiness guides the newbie SMB entrepreneur with products at different stages to support their business in an ongoing manner. Their business formation onboarding assumes minimal knowledge as well as customized add-ons provided for ongoing business needs, both legal and growth-related.


4.6/5 stars

Northwest is ideal for the business owner that is well-versed in the language of business formation, registered agents, bylaws, and operating agreements. Northwest is not as clear as ZenBusiness for first-time business owners, but their menu of services is more comprehensive from a legal standpoint.

Summary of key differences

Entry price$0 + state fees$39 + state fees
Standard processing time3 business days1 business day
Foreign qualification fee $49 $100

Pricing Analysis: ZenBusiness vs Northwest

ZenBusiness and Northwest are hard to split on price with ZenBusiness starting at $49 + state fees compared to $39 + state fees for Northwest. The difference comes in the renewal where ZenBusiness is higher at $199 annual registered agent fee compared to Northwest's yearly $125 fee. If you're planning on operating in multiple states, however, it's worth noting that ZenBusiness's foreign qualification fee of $49 is half of Northwest's $100 fee.

ZenBusiness pricing

The base pricing from ZenBusiness is less expensive than Northwest. However, note that pricing is impacted by state fees. For example, ZenBusiness customers setting up an LLC in Delaware will see an initial cost of $90 (package cost plus the state LLC fee). In Wyoming, the same package would cost $200 because of the higher state fee.

Northwest pricing

Northwest is the more expensive formation service offering compared with ZenBusiness. However, note that pricing is impacted by state fees. For example, Northwest customers setting up an LLC in Delaware will see an initial cost of $129 (package cost plus the state LLC fee). In Wyoming, the same package would cost $239 because of the higher state fee.

ZenBusiness vs Northwest market value analysis

Market average based on analysis of 10 formation services providers.
MetricMarket AverageZenBusinessNorthwest
Lowest package price$112 before state fees$0 + state fees$39 + state fees
Formation processing time8 business days3 business days1 business day
Registered agent annual cost$164 $49 $100

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 is able to generate tailored packages that are somewhat akin to attorney services. Northwest's onboarding is more cumbersome and can be overwhelming to the less experienced business owner, preferring to throw a smorgasbord of legal options so that the mature business owner has access to the legal documents they require, when they require them.

Formation speed

ZenBusiness, while not super fast in business formation processing, is very respectable in their speed at 3 business days for their standard service offering. Unfortunately for ZenBusiness, Northwest has them beat with the gold standard of 1 business day for formation speed, and in some instances, same day processing.

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 pricing trends 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.

Author Credentials

Patrick Ward is an expert on working with startups and new businesses. He has 8 years experience serving tech-enabled companies with staffing and growth.

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