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Bootstrapping to Exit: Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Neal Taparia (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Apr 21st 2020

Sramana Mitra: If they came to your site, what would they do?

Neal Taparia: They would go there when they’re writing papers to start documenting their information. We had launched this site after putting it together over two months. Students would go there.

Say they were using Catcher in the Rye, all they would have to do is put in the title of the book or other bibliographic information. We would structure and cite it for them.

Sramana Mitra: How would they pay you?

Neal Taparia: We were not too business-minded back then. It was just exciting to see that we can build something that people were using. The first check we made happened a year into launching EasyBib where we talked to a principal of our high school.

Our principal said, “If you built some features that helped us with school and classroom management, we’d pay you $3,000 for it.” That was a ton of money for us when you’re that young.

That introduced us to this institutional model along with the other model we had where students can come directly to the site and start managing all their bibliographic information. 

Sramana Mitra: What did you do in college?

Neal Taparia: I ended up going to college at Northwestern University. They didn’t have entrepreneurship or business programs when I was there. I ended up studying Economics.

I considered Computer Science, but I wasn’t super passionate about it. I liked the idea of solving problems. I like the business and marketing side of it. I went forward with Economics. I also studied Religion just because I thought it was a great way to learn about society.

During my spare time between classes, I would try to work on EasyBib as much as possible. At that point, we had a number of schools that approached us offering to pay for an institutional version of EasyBib.

I remember being in lecture and I would get a call. It would be a teacher saying, “There’s a bug.” I’d be scrambling in and out of lectures to address these customer service needs. It was a lot of fun to learn and build at the same time while being in college.

Sramana Mitra: Interesting. By this time, you have figured out that there’s money to be made here.

Neal Taparia: Yes. We also introduced subscription models. This was pretty early on in terms of pioneering the freemium model. We had introduced premium features where if you needed a citation style or if you had the need to save your work, we put that under a payroll gate. We also started making money that way, which was exciting to see.

Sramana Mitra: While you were doing this on the side, what kind of job did you seek and why?

Neal Taparia: I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship right out of college. I definitely had an inclination to jump into the entrepreneurial deep end and see what I can make of it.

My parents were not as enthusiastic as I was about it. They were more measured and calculated. They had spent a ton of money on my college tuition. I ended up moving to New York City. I took a job on Wall Street doing investment banking at Lehman Brothers. This was in 2006. That was my first real world experience.

I have done some internships previously – at a law firm, and one at Goldman Sachs. I’d always find my internships to be in the same city as my business partner. We would work on EasyBib and other entrepreneurial projects after our internships.

After college, I ended up in New York City working at Lehman Brothers, which was a good experience because it taught me a lot about accounting, valuation, and finance. I was there for about a year and a half.

I left Lehman at the beginning of 2008. This was eight or nine months before everything came crashing down. Back then, you thought you were working at this amazing top Wall Street company, so it was surreal to see everything come crumbling down.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping to Exit: Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Neal Taparia
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