As co-founders of Highploom, a Kansas City startup that provides a no-code platform for customer-experience management for community banks and credit unions, serial entrepreneur Hugh Khan and partner Clayton Richardson had plenty on their plates.
That sprawling to-do list didn’t include much in the way of legal services — an all-too-common oversight for early stage technology companies in the throes of product development.
“We’ve been heads-down with the product for two-and-a-half years, working with deep technology,” Richardson said as the company prepared for an early 2021 launch. “We couldn’t afford to devote the time or the capital to legal work — and probably would have found ourselves in serious trouble trying to raise money without establishing that legal framework and foundation.
“We were foregoing a lot of really important things — it just came down to time.”
He needn’t worry. As current participants in the Spencer Fane StartUp Lab, Highploom has a full suite of free legal services and strategic guidance at the ready — not to mention a committed partner that is just as invested in the burgeoning company’s success as its founders.
“There’s a sense of pride of ownership,” said Lab Co-chair Carly Duvall, who is of-counsel at the firm and oversees the program with Spencer Fane Partner Patrick McAndrews. “We get to work with a company from its infancy as it grows and develops. And honestly, we provide better legal services because of that.”
McAndrews points to his participation in Kansas City Tomorrow, a leadership program sponsored by The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, as the “catalyst” of their effort. Duvall also has participated in KC Tomorrow. Both credit Spencer Fane Chair and Managing Partner Patrick J. Whalen, an active Civic Council member, for his strong support of the two-year-old program.
Each quarter, the lab selects a new company with which to collaborate during the next three months. The lab provides foundational services, from articles of incorporation and vendor contracts to intellectual property reviews. Equally important, it also matches participants with in-house Spencer Fane experts as well as potential customers and collaborators in the broader greater Kansas City business and entrepreneurial communities.
“When Kansas City’s business community grows, our pool of prospective clients grows,” McAndrews said. “We want to build these startups into Kansas City companies that employ 100 or 150 people here, and ideally we are their law firm of choice.”
Word of the Lab’s success spread quickly beyond the firm’s home office. Efforts are in place to replicate the effort not only at Spencer Fane’s southwest Missouri location in Springfield but also in Denver and Phoenix.
“There was always an intent to grow it beyond the Kansas City market,” Duvall said.
Kansas City program graduates include inaugural participant Helix Health, web platform TravelHive and self-storage platform Biin. The 2021 cohort kicks off with Pulmonaer Analytics, which is developing a mobile app for asthma patients.
At Highploom, Khan and Richardson said they were treated as well, if not better, than the firm’s paying customers.
“It’s really a full engagement,” Khan said. “They told us they’d treat us like we had them on retainer. And it’s been just that.”