Lawyers, Accountants, and Insurance Brokers I Trust for a Startup

I am often asked about which service providers I use at Mezmeriz and would recommend for other startup companies. Therefore, I have compiled my official list of the people and firms that I use and trust. Even though we're based in Ithaca, New York, I've found that not every service provider needs to be local. Furthermore, I think most of this list is applicable for startups in New England and on the east coast of the USA.

Corporate Insurance

I have been with the husband and wife led team at McManamey & McManamey for over ten years and three companies. They are based in Virginia, but do a bang-up job regardless of where you are. They now do the corporate insurance for a number of Cornell and Ithaca startups and treat you well regardless of size. They'll take good care, do all the heavy lifting of the complicated stuff, and do it at a fair price.

Legal: Corporate & Patent

We have been with the firm of Choate Hall & Stewart for a number of years. However, I would really say that we're with the firm that employs David Rickerby. I have had a number of different lawyers from small boutique firms as well as from Washington DC and Silicon Valley's elite firms. I have found that it's really about the relationship and quality of your main contact and how well they manage the people at the firm who are working on your issues. David is a great contracts and licensing guy, but he's also a great manager of corporate, HR, and patent attorneys. On an hourly basis, these guys can be expensive. The message I tell aspiring entrepreneurs is that a cheap lawyer per hour will often turn into an expensive invoice, whereas closely working with an expensive lawyer per hour results in much lower invoices.

Accounting: Bookkeeping

I use Intuit Quickbooks Online. It's a good solution for it's accessibility and universal familiarity. It's accessible because you can get to it through any browser, and that it really nice when traveling or when you need to allow access to your accountants. Its universal familiarity means that when you need to upgrade to a fancier accounting system, or have your books reviewed and audited by an outside firm, the process doesn't involve everyone relearning a brand new system.

For the actually data input and record keeping I have a contract bookkeeper, Leslie, who comes in a few times a month. I have a big box-o-bills that she sorts through, and then makes sure all the new data gets entered, checks get cut, bills get paid, and all invoices and receipts are filed in an organized manner. I do make a point of personally signing every check. It's a bit old-fashioned, but it's a good way to enforce the discipline of knowing where each dollar goes.

Accounting: Payroll

Seamlessly integrated with Intuit's Quickbooks Online is Intuit Online Payroll. They take care of all of the taxes, filing, direct deposit, and forms.

Accounting: Tax

I use the local Ithaca firm of Sprague & Janowsky to do our corporate tax work and general accounting help. They take care of all the tax issues - which in New York can be amazingly complicated - as well as help us out whenever our accounting gets complicated. For example, they made sure that our books were in a professional format prior to use sending them out to potential investors.


I am a strong advocate of having a local banker. We work with the folks at Tompkins Trust Company. A local banker is like a solid defense: They won't score you any points, but they'll make sure the important stuff gets done right. I have heard first hand of incidents where entrepreneurs had a standard banking transaction screwed up by a faceless person in a massive call center at one of the mega banks. I like to know that for the big stuff, I'm going to sit across the desk from my personal bankers Matt and Kim and they're going to get it done right.

Employee Health Insurance

The newest addition to this list is our employee health care brokers, Tompkins Insurance Agencies. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has been the actual providers, but he had to change brokers after our first broker passed away, and the second broker ignored us. We went with Tompkins Insurances because they showed that they actually cared, and based on our positive experiences with the bank, we made the switch. So far, so good.

If you want a formal introduction to any of these folks, please don't hesitate to ask. I don't mind helping drive business to people who are doing a good job. If you happen to contact them directly because you read this, please let them know. That sort of good will has a way of coming back around.