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I am about to launch a start-up company.

Would the sentence be understood as I am intending to launch a start-up company, or I am close to launch a start-up company?

In a sentence like the ceremony was about to begin, I would understand that the ceremony was close to begin; is that the most common meaning assigned to sentences like I am about to launch a start-up company?

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The phrase "about to" implies that the action described is in the very near future - that it is on the point of happening. So, of your two alternatives,

I am close to launching a start-up company.

most closely fits the meaning.

[Note that it's "close to launching", not "close to launch" - the "to" here belongs with "close", not to the verb, which is in gerund (verbal noun) form.]

That said, most statements about one's action in the future can be interpreted as intention - if I say "I'm about to eat my dinner", and then discover that I have no food in the house and therefore can't, I'm not necessarily lying - so your other alternative is close in meaning too - but

I am intending to lanch a start-up company very soon.

would be closer still.

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    To complete this answer, I would add that if you say "I'm not about to" do something, it indicates that not only are you not ready, but that you have no intention of doing it. – Benjol Feb 8 '11 at 10:42
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I am about to do X means In a short time I will have done X.

For your examples:

The ceremony was about to begin.

In a short time, the ceremony will have begun.

The ceremony will begin in five minutes.

and

I am about to launch a start-up.

In a short time, I will have launched my start-up.

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