Introducing the Verified Experts of Extra Crunch

TechCrunch is launching something a little different today. We’re going to help startup founders find the best outside experts to work with — so you can build a better company, faster.

From lawyers to accountants to executive coaches and a dozen more categories, the mesh network of service providers in Silicon Valley and other startup ecosystems is a vital part of how companies succeed.

But many early-stage founders don’t even know that this sort of help exists. Or maybe, you think you don’t need help yet. Or maybe, you know you need help — you just aren’t finding the right people through your own network.

Starting today, with our coverage of startup lawyers and startup law, we are beginning a long-term effort to solve these problems. It’s part of Extra Crunch, our new membership program that we launched last week.

Here’s what’s coming today, and beyond.

The verified experts

The core offering is an evergreen series of profiles of the people who founders love to work with. Based off of the word-of-mouth networks that already make startup hubs function in real life, we are conducting surveys of TechCrunch founder-readers to hear who their favorites are.

Since we began our first survey, about startup lawyers, in late December, we’ve gotten more than 1700 responses from company leaders around the country and the world. This a blueprint for how we plan to approach the other categories.

Here’s our process for determining who to cover, once an expert is nominated:

  • Does the total volume of feedback show that the recommenders have spent considerable time with the expert, on work that is directly relevant to technology startups?
  • Does the depth and enthusiasm of the feedback show that the expert is delivering in a way that makes a real difference to the companies?
  • We then verify the feedback with each recommender, independently research the expert to affirm their credibility (any lawyer in the US needs to be licensed in a state, for example), and finally, conduct a phone interview with the expert.

The product we’re launching today is, to begin with, a series of profiles that includes the founder recommendations and our interview. We’re starting the rollout with our first verified expert, a seasoned Silicon Valley attorney named Cynthia Hess who has been working with all sizes of startups for two decades. Go check out the article here. We have dozens more that we’ll be publishing in the coming weeks — but that’s just the start.

We’re going to provide interfaces that help you search through the many lawyers and other experts we profile, so you can find the people who are right for your company.

We’ll also begin rolling out more surveys in the weeks and months to come. If you share a recommendation about an expert who we decide to cover, we’ll provide you with a PDF copy of the published article (if you’re not an Extra Crunch subscriber) and a discount to subscribe (if you want to become one). Remember, when you provide a survey response, you can choose to stay anonymous, or you can provide your personal and company details for others to see.

We plan to leave each survey open indefinitely, to collect as much feedback as possible. We’ll use any new input to add to existing profiles or to decide who to interview next.

Because technology is swiftly evolving alongside service provider roles, we’ll also be covering software products as they are used to provide services. Even the most traditional law firms, for example, have recently started using document automation to help startups get through paperwork faster and cheaper. More on all that soon.

The expert context

In addition to the service providers themselves, we’re going to provide authoritative coverage of each service provider topic.

If you’re an early-stage founder, you should have some idea that there are a bunch of legal matters that you need to figure out. You can spend many hours digging through pages of search results, trying to piece together the right combination of free articles from law firms, investors or various types of vendors.

Or you can read our extensive guides, formatted as checklists so you know what you need to get done. As the first installment of that, take a look at our 5,000 word article covering the basics of corporate law for startups; we’ll be publishing a full series on startup legal matters in the coming weeks.

To go along with this topical coverage, we’re also providing guides about how to work with the experts, as professional counterparts. This often-overlooked aspect of building a company is crucial to getting the value you need from any expert. Go check out our guide on how and why to work with a startup lawyer, as a first example of this type of article.

We’ll also be publishing regular guest articles by legal experts, providing our own coverage of law-related startup issues, making updates to our guides as needed, and liberally linking to the other great resources out there.

We’ll take a similar approach for other service providers, as we roll those out over the coming year.

What’s next

Overall, our coverage of verified experts will form the how-to portion of Extra Crunch. As part of our overall goal of democratizing understanding of company-building around the world, it also includes a few other components.

One is the EC-1, which we launched last week with a 20,000 word case study of Patreon, the crowdfunding platform. This package of articles, which we plan to publish roughly every month, is intended to help startup founders and other practitioners understand the inner workings of what makes late-stage companies successful.

Another component is community. First, we’re beginning regular conference calls about all topics that we cover, including top companies, major issues in the startup world, and the latest from the verified experts. Second, TechCrunch Disrupt and other events are already a popular way for startups to meet each other and learn from the best. So, we’re providing significant event discounts to our members, and we’re working on a series of smaller meetups around Extra Crunch that we’ll have more to share about soon.

By becoming a member, you support our work developing these resources for any startup. You can find more details about Extra Crunch here.

And finally, a big thanks to everyone who has been immersed in this project so far, including Yvonne Leow (its editorial-product manager), Daniel McKenzie (the lawyer-founder author of many articles you’ll be reading), Henry Pickavet (the Editorial Director at TechCrunch, who ties it all together) and Danny Crichton (the executive editor of Extra Crunch, who also came up with this concept).

Have any questions, comments, criticisms or other thoughts — or want to get involved somehow? Email me at eldon@techrunch.com.

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