We’re big fans of bootstrapping to exit case
studies. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Neal Taparia’s journey is a wonderful one.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s
start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you
born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Neal Taparia: I was born in
the suburbs of Chicago. My parents were immigrants from India. I’m
first-generation in the United States. I did my undergraduate education in
Chicago. After that, I settled down in New York where I’ve been ever
Sramana Mitra: What
led you to the entrepreneurial journey story?
Neal Taparia: My
entrepreneurial roots took place in Chicago in my high school junior year. This
was 2000. In fact, it was the early days of the internet. I would go online
through America Online and talk to my friends that way. It was a totally
different type of internet.
I was lucky
that my high school offered this course on introduction to computer science. My
dad nudged me to take the class because he saw me tinkering around. It was a
pretty eye-opening class for me because I learned how to build basic websites
and some basic programming.
year, I was in English class. When you write a paper, you’re required to cite
and reference all that information. I don’t know if you remember doing that
back in the day, but it has all these tedious rules that you have to follow.
learned about computer science and a good friend of mine who’s also good with
computers, we realized there was a much better way to go about these
bibliographies and reference management.
course of two months, we ended up putting together a product called EasyBib
where you can enter in a website or a book. We were able to build crawlers and
algorithms where we would extrapolate information, structure it together, and
quickly create your citation.
dramatically changed the process of citing information. It made it a lot easier
and shorter. It turned out to be very popular. That was the launch point of my
entrepreneurial career. It started when I was 16 years old.
point onward, we incorporated a company called Imagine Easy Solutions. Given
that early success, we thought that we can build imaginative and easy-to-use
solutions in education.
Sramana Mitra: What
year was this?
Neal Taparia: This was 2001
when we first started the site. That was my junior year in high school. We
ended up building that business. Later on, we started working on it full time
after college and after a year or two of working in the corporate world.
Sramana Mitra: You
kept this going as a side thing during your high school, college, and a couple
of years of working at a corporate job.
Neal Taparia: That’s correct.
In high school, we did everything we could to promote the site. Back then, it
meant putting flyers all around my high school. I would even flyer the
bathrooms of my high school because I didn’t know any better. My logic was
people would read flyers in the bathroom. Lo and behold, people did.
getting users. As a high school student, I emailed the Chicago Tribune saying,
“We’re students helping students.” Within a few days, we got a callback from a
reporter. They came to my house and took pictures of me and my buddy. They
displayed EasyBib on the frontpage. It was surreal.