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Beyond the Pitch

Central Ohio Service Providers Support Entrepreneurs with $2M+ of In-kind Services

Imagine the impact if some of the region’s best accounting firms offered pro bono services to help you set up your company’s books.

Or what if your early stage business has to protect its intellectual property and a group of knowledgeable attorneys provided a block of advisory hours for free.

Or say your young business wants a social media strategy and quality web site that really speaks to customers and the branding and marketing agency that steps in to help never sends you a bill.

When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a continuous challenge to find budget in the business plan for the professional services you know your startup needs.

Attorneys, CPAs, and marketing and branding agencies, to name a few,  don’t come cheap—even when they offer special rates or terms for new businesses.

That’s why TechColumbus’ Expert Network (EN) is such a hit. EN is a cadre of expert firms that have committed more than $2 million in pro bono and discounted services to TechColumbus portfolio companies.

The Central Ohio business community believes in entrepreneurs.

Nowhere is this belief more evident than with the forty plus firms that have committed to deliver more than $2 million in pro-bono and specially priced professional services to TechColumbus’ startup clients.

In 2013, hundreds of service professionals put their expertise and resources to work for dozens of Central Ohio entrepreneurs in nearly one hundred Expert Network (EN) engagements. These engagements were valued at more than $420,000 in services. EN firms have committed another $1.2 million plus in in-kind services for 2014.

Why do service professionals and their firms participate?

“These business leaders feel very strongly about giving back to the community that helped make them successful,” says Mike McCann, TechColumbus director of strategic ventures.

“Expert Network is also a way for service providers to diversify and grow their firms,” he says. “Many folks in the program have domain discipline that is very specialized and they are looking for ways to expand their reputation and expertise to open new lines of business. Part of the intent of Expert Network is that service providers and startups create relationships that evolve into longer-term partnerships as the startup grows.”

Engagements always begin with a discussion about the business itself—where the company is with its business plan, the firm’s near-term and long-term goals, and of course a discussion about customers. From there collaboration between the entrepreneur and the professional begins to develop as they work on a strategic plan to accomplish functional goals in an efficient and effective way.

This process repeats itself whether the critical needs are in legal matters, accounting, marketing, human resources, or product development.

Another attraction for our Expert Network partners is the appeal of working directly with new high growth start-up companies.

“It’s exciting to be around entrepreneurs,” says Stephanie Butler, senior account manager at Blue Sky Creative, a full-service marketing firm. “These are unique, new innovative companies.”

Blue Sky Creative has worked with more than a dozen startups through EN.

“EN professionals like Blue Sky Creative are excited to get familiar with new businesses and have an impact that goes beyond transactional inputs and outputs,” says McCann. “In addition to their professional expertise, these are trusted business advisors, experts, and connectors.”

Expert Network is about the Central Ohio community as a whole making a great response to startup companies’ specific needs.

“Fundamentally, it gets down to how these service providers can help an entrepreneur make the company more successful by achieving specific milestones while preserving cash and other resources to focus on developing products and customers,” McCann says. “Expert Network is a great statement by hundreds of professionals in the community who want to help entrepreneurs succeed.”

For more information about Expert Network, please contact Mike McCann.

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