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Service providers with startups in mind set up shop in Mastercraft

Dan McMahon of Koley Jessen works out of the Mastercraft Advisors office in The Mastercraft building.

An alliance of four professional service providers – an intellectual property law firm, a corporate law firm, an accounting firm and a bank – have set up shop in The Mastercraft building in north downtown Omaha to cater to startups.

“The idea is to be able to engage entrepreneurs, startups and the creative community so that they have an open door where they can stop in and ask questions,” said David Milligan (below, near right), a partner at Advent IP and one of the 13 professionals who make up the alliance, called Mastercraft Advisors. Koley Jessen, Lutz & Company and First National Bank of Omaha are part of the alliance, as well.

Working out of a 430-square-foot office, which they moved into earlier this month, the professionals split one desk by rotating throughout the week. Each takes one day in the office, and they keep Friday open for whomever is available. Milligan said the atmosphere is casual and individuals that stop by shouldn’t expect to be charged, unless they agreed to a paid arrangement ahead of time.

Dusty Reynolds, the director of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, helped bring the quartet of service providers together in the The Mastercraft.

“I had CPAs and lawyers calling me and trying to take me out to lunch, breakfast or whatever it was … they were wondering how they could get involved in the community,” Reynolds (above, far right) said in a phone interview. Reynolds’ reply to the inquiries: “You’ve got to establish a relationship here.”

Through various gatherings and discussions, the four service providers that make up the alliance emerged. Reynolds said he asked others but that these four took the lead.

“I felt that maybe this whole market was being underserved,” Koley Jessen’s Eric Oxley (far left) said in a recent phone interview. “What we wanted to do was make sure that startups and entrepreneurs know that they can access sophisticated legal counsel and advisors at an affordable rate.”

Oxley said his firm is creating discounted and flat rates for entrepreneurs. Others said they have similar plans in the works.

The Advisors also have plans to hold regular “lunch and learns,” in which they’ll take turns focusing on an item beneficial to entrepreneurs. On Jan. 9, for example, Koley Jessen will lead a session titled “Understanding a Venture Capital Term Sheet.”

“That’s the real value add,” Reynolds said of the lunch and learns.

Whether it’s legal counsel on a couch or accounting lessons in a startup’s office, the Advisors hope to help startups and, in turn, get help themselves.

“A lot of people look at it as a one-way street, but really, in my mind, it’s a two-way street,” Lutz’s Scott Carrico (above, near left) said in a phone interview. “We’re not only giving some back and able to give to that community, but they’re also kind of feeding us a little bit, as well.”

He said Lutz’s younger employees will gain experience from working with Omaha’s startup community.

The Mastercraft Advisors are holding a launch party from 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday in The Mastercraft’s Living Room event space.


Credits: Top photo by Danny Schreiber. Photo of Milligan courtesy of Milligan. Photo of Reynolds courtesy of Reynolds. Photo of Oxley from koleyjessen.com. Photo of Carrico photo from lutzcpa.com.

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