Beyond the Pitch

Expert Network (En) Helps Startup Companies Bootstrap to Breakeven

In the last twelve months, TechColumbus engaged clients have benefited from nearly a half-million worth of expert services from more than 235 engagements with local and regional experts.

It’s terrific that community-minded firms commit pro bono services to TechColumbus, which we can then extend to our clients. When an entrepreneur is bootstrapping a startup, receiving legal assistance or market development advice without receiving a bill is invaluable.

And the really good news is that engaged TechColumbus clients have the opportunity to participate in nearly a million dollars more in EN services in 2014.

A number of leading Central Ohio firms and individual service providers have been part of the Expert Network from the beginning.

Partner Alex Brown from Bricker & Eckler, an Ohio-based law firm serving diverse businesses through multiple specialties, helped us design how law firms would be engaged. Alex chairs Bricker’s Technology practice group, so he really understands the challenges that our client entrepreneurs face. Alex has been one of EN’s most engaged participants.

“It’s not lost on us that startups need good professional guidance early on,” Alex says. “They have significant legal needs. We want things done correctly without burdening them with professional service fees. This is the right thing to do.”

The hours that Bricker & Eckler attorneys invest in Expert Network demonstrate the firm’s ongoing commitment to the technology innovators of our region. In this context, Expert Network presents the entrepreneur with the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with attorneys, CPAs, and other service providers that they can continue to rely on as the company advances.

We asked Alex to tell us from his experience how entrepreneurs can benefit most from working with service providers who participate in the Expert Network.

“This project is designed to allow the entrepreneurs to kick our tires for free. We want clients to trust and work with us, and hopefully the engagement continues as the company grows,” says Alex.

“The entrepreneur should treat these services as if he or she were paying for it out of their own pocket,” he says. “There’s a tendency to treat free services as being of lower value. Treat the engagement as seriously as if it were not free, as if you were paying full rates. Keep a record of what the services would have cost, and later, look back at it. That will help contextualize the fees when services later become billable.”

As companies continue meeting milestones along the entrepreneur’s path and begin to pay their own way, their EN experiences can evolve into trusted ongoing relationships with attorneys, accountants, and marketing professionals.

Everyone who works with entrepreneurial businesses understands that not all startups are going to succeed or even survive.

“We get it that not all companies are going to be winners,” Alex says, “but even if a company has to close shop, with Expert Network, it can be without the debt of legal fees so the entrepreneur can start something new.”

The commitment of the Expert Network service providers says a lot about the collaborative nature of Central Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and the support that is available to entrepreneurs.

For more information about Expert Network or to get started as a TechColumbus engaged client, contact us.

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