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Posted on Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

A CPA living among entrepreneurs: Why one Ann Arbor firm sees opportunity in startups

By Nathan Bomey

A 65-year-old Ann Arbor-based certified public accounting firm is channeling its inner startup.

The firm, Weidmayer Schneider & Raham PC, which added two new partners in 2011, is now actively pursuing Ann Arbor area startup clients.

It’s a small, but meaningful sign that financially efficient startups can provide a meaningful stream of revenue for traditional service companies.

Steve Everson, who merged his accounting firm into WSR last year, is spending one day at week at the Tech Brewery, a startup business incubator on Jones Drive where dozens of mostly young entrepreneurs are pursuing innovative companies. The Tech Brewery provides desks for rent to local entrepreneurs.

Schneider acknowledged that it’s an unusual move — a CPA living among young tech entrepreneurs — but it’s altogether practical, too.

“When you work alongside these startups, you realize what their issues are,” he said. “Being close to them allows us to have a feel for that and build an expertise in serving startups.”

WSR, launched in 1947, will celebrate its 65th anniversary in September, said principal Steve Schneider. With about $2.3 million in revenue, the firm has four principals and another 16 staff members, including about 10 CPAs overall.

In 2011, the firm added Everson and local CPA John Park, whose practice focuses on tax and nonprofit auditing.

WSR’s client base ranges widely from manufacturing and restaurants to retail and auto dealership.

Startups provide a long-term revenue opportunity, Schneider said.

“The fact that Steven is involved with the Tech Brewery provides a ready focus for us to see these clients and help them” for years to come, he said. “It opens up an opportunity for us to expand our services into another group of clientele.”

Everson said that by working alongside anywhere from 35 to 40 startups based at the Tech Brewery — including firms like information technology startup Duo Security — WSR gains insight into issues startups face.

“What it allows us to do is to be close to our clients and appreciate from their perspective what their issues are,” he said. “If you work at an accounting firm, especially the larger firms, you get an overinflated opinion of accounting and how important it is.”

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