The Wagoner Firm is committed to supporting the growth and development of young companies and startups. Here’s how the firm is giving back by assisting teams participating in the StartFast Venture Accelerator.
New York is a thriving hub of entrepreneurial activity. The State of New York provides many incentives for entrepreneurs such as tax breaks, but it’s the private sector that has banned together to offer more financial support, training and connections to business providers that cater to young companies. The Wagoner Firm has joined in this effort, helping to create an ecosystem that supports the growth of companies by offering mentorship to business owners and entrepreneurial students.
The Wagoner Firm was established by Matthew Wagoner and Eric Leander under the philosophy that law firms must adapt from traditional business models in order to appropriately and successfully represent entrepreneurs, startups, and emerging growth companies. Matt and Eric believe that traditional law firms fail to acknowledge the actual needs and changing expectations of entrepreneurs when it comes to legal counsel. This is why they created the In House Counsel Experience, which provides startups with legal advice and practical business counsel. This trademarked service has been shaped by the team’s experience with, and passion for, entrepreneurship. “Our interest in helping startups extends beyond the firm. That’s why Eric and I are involved with several programs that support young companies,” said Matt.
One of these programs is the StartFast Venture Accelerator, in which Matt and Eric are mentors. Based in Syracuse, NY at Le Moyne’s Madden School of Business, the managing directors of StartFast select 5-7 software, mobile, or internet companies each year to participate in a three month intensive program. The goal is to have the companies scale as quickly as possible and prepare them for follow on investments. StartFast program director, James Shomar, says the accelerator plays an important part in New York’s thriving startup ecosystem. The program aims to not only train next generation founders, but connect these young companies to a network of experienced entrepreneurs and world-class mentors who can make industry connections and help founders attract the attention of investors.
“If a company requires venture funding to really reach its potential, then there are certain expectations in terms of market traction and investor readiness that are difficult to achieve outside of an accelerator,” said James. “StartFast founders are given a tremendous opportunity with respect to coaching and mentorship, which make the startups more attractive to investors.”
A natural challenge for most young companies is overcoming all the skill gaps that exist. Shomar says StartFast provides startups with a network of mentors and industry professionals to rely upon, which he believes is paramount for so many hurdles companies face starting out, and reduces the risk involved in making a startup investment. With the help of these mentors, James trusts that otherwise ordinary tasks necessary to grow a business, such as incorporation, HR, taxes, etc, would become insurmountable.
“Eric and Matt are pivotal to the network of mentors and industry professionals that StartFast companies rely upon. Sound legal advice is crucial to the success of any business especially during challenging times. They have legal expertise as well as a keen understanding of entrepreneurship that makes them uniquely suited to working with our young companies,” said James.
StartFast selected five companies to participate in its 2017 summer accelerator program. Three of these companies are focused on mobile applications; two are Internet-based companies.
The 2017 StartFast teams are:
- Mirage 3-D, a 3-D body scanning app;
- RepHike, a website that bridges relationships between brands and university students;
- Hubble, an interactive, location-based Q&A app;
- Escala 11, a daily Brazilian fantasy soccer website; and
- TeachMe, an app aimed to help people perfect their craft through sequential learning and practice, and rounding out the group.
We got a chance to speak with Jennifer Hogan, CEO of TeachMe. TeachMe is an app that allows dance studios to post videos of their classes giving students a streamlined resource to be able to practice on their own in between studio sessions. The team was drawn to StartFast because they “Wanted a program that was focused on making progress, as [they] are driven to get things accomplished,” said Jennifer, who found through some research that StartFast was notorious for doing just that!
StartFast provides lectures from mentors along with opportunities for additional follow-up mentoring sessions. TeachMe went to Eric’s lecture on legal entities. “It was great. Eric didn’t just tell us the basic definitions in legal terms. He broke it down and ensured that everyone in the room really understood what the various entities are, and what goes into preserving your entity,” said Jennifer. “He also provided insight on things to start thinking about when presenting, when talking to people about investments, and the future of our companies,” she added.
“Working with early stage entrepreneurs and small businesses is fulfilling,” said Eric Leander, who heads up the Corporate and Securities, Emerging Ventures, and Venture Capital practices at The Wagoner Firm. “The energy and creativity of tech entrepreneurs is ‘infectious’ for the lack of a better word – it rubs off on you, and that’s a good thing. It’s rewarding on both personal and professional levels to know that we’re actually helping people build something. That’s why we do what we do,” he added.
TeachMe also had some follow up questions for Eric about the differences between an LLC and C-Corp. Currently an LLC in Delaware, the startup founders are interested in converting to a C-Corp. Jennifer said Eric helped explain what constitutes ‘doing business’ in New York. “He was very helpful in clarifying questions that we had, and we felt that he had an amazing ability to explain complex legal concepts in terms that were understandable to non-lawyers, which is extremely valuable.”
Jennifer believes her team is learning a lot from the StartFast accelerator program. “There are a lot of things that do not go according to plan and there are a lot of situations where you have to adapt and overcome. It has been exciting to work on our company now that are we’re out of school, and StartFast motivates us everyday with their network, demand, and other teams involved in the program,” said Jennifer.
Beyond StartFast, Matt and Eric are involved with helping other entrepreneurship programs in Upstate New York. Eric holds office hours at the New York BizLab, a Schenectady-based incubator, where he mentors the startups in residence there. Matt and Eric are advisors at IgniteU NY, a resource center for entrepreneurs that has an incubator and accelerator. They are also advisors for the Tech Valley Center of Gravity, an incubator and makerspace in Downtown Troy, which includes participating as a TVCOG’s Spectrum Service Provider. This program connects companies operating in the Center of Gravity to the The Wagoner Firm when they are in need of legal guidance. And Matt and Eric are advisors of Spark Saratoga, a new incubator in Saratoga Springs. They regularly hold office hours at Saratoga CoWorks as part of their commitment to helping young companies become the next BIG THING.
Have a legal questions about your startup for Matt or Eric? Email them at iNFO@TheWagonerFirm.com to schedule a brainstorming session.