Starting a Business in Colombia

We help our startup clients develop the right corporate and legal structure necessary to grow their business.

Langon can help you navigate the legal and regulatory requirements applicable to any startup venture in Colombia.

Our Startup Practice Group has extensive experience in the following areas of law:

Business Formation:

Registering business entities including, but not limited to, sole proprietorships (“persona natural con establecimiento de comercio”), foreign company branch entities (“sucursales de sociedades extranjeras”), “Sociedades por Acciones Simplificadas” (S.A.S), “Sociedades Anónimas” (S.A.), partnerships (“asociaciones”), and joint ventures.

Key Corporate Documents:

Drafting key corporate documentation including, but not limited to, company Bylaws/ Operating Agreements (“estatutos”), Shareholder Agreements (“Acuerdos de Accionistas”), Buy-Sell Agreements, Partnership Agreements (“Contrato de Promesa de Sociedad”) and initial board resolutions (“actas de junta directiva”).

Regulatory Approvals:

Identifying required licenses and permits applicable to your business including national, departmental and local tax filings, business licenses, and industry-specific obligations.

Hiring Employees:

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Registering a S.A.S. is often your best bet when starting a business in Colombia

Corporate Structure

At a minimum, the S.A.S. form requires a shareholder and a legal representative. A board of directors is not required. An auditor may be required depending on the size of the company or the specific industry.

Legal Representative

Unlike other countries, the title of “legal representative” is crucial in a Colombian company. A legal representative will have complete access to the company’s books and bank accounts and will be able to bind the company when signing legal agreements. Keep in mind that the legal representative should be someone who is based in Colombia as legal representatives will need to sign documentation on a regular basis. This is why many foreign investors grant legal representation status to their local legal counsel or local manager.

Corporate Flexibility

The S.A.S. form has a great deal of flexibility: (i) one person may own all the ownership interests in the S.A.S.; (ii) the same person can be sole shareholder, legal representative and manager; (iii) allows for the creation of a preferred stock structure; (iv) business may have a perpetual existence; (v) no obligation to maintain a reserve on its books (as is the case with other legal forms); (vi) no obligation to pay a minimum dividend (as is the case with other legal forms); (vii) no need to register a public deed in connection with its registration (as is the case with other legal forms); and (viii) allows for private mediation/arbitration for disputes between shareholders.

Registration Process

Registration via (i) written bylaws that are signed and notarized under Colombian law or (ii) written bylaws that are signed at the local chamber of commerce. Registration valid only after company is listed on the business registry (“Registro Mercantil”) of the local chamber of commerce.

Company Name

You will have a great deal of flexibility when choosing the name of your company, though there are certain limitations. For example, the name of your company cannot be similar to the name of another company already registered. In addition, you cannot use certain names that are considered against “the public interest.” At the end of the name you need to include “Sociedad por acciones simplificada” or the more traditional “S.A.S.”

Business Purpose

To register a S.A.S. you will need to specify at least one purpose for the company, though you can also add that it may conduct any business that is allowed under Colombian law.

Limited Liability

The S.A.S. form grants shareholders broad limited liability. Note that the corporate veil may be pierced due to actual fraud and/or failure to maintain corporate formalities.