Those frustrating bibliographies throughout our high school career and in college have been causing us the same problem over and over again. Does it get any worse than the demoralizing red marks chalked all over the last piece of paper of a report that I thought was exceptional? The content is top notch, but alas, at the end of the paper, my works cited page has formatting issues and errors that in effect were the very reasons that my paper went from a grade of an A to a B-. I always wished that I didn’t have to deal with this ridiculous issue and could earn the grade I deserve solely based on my knowledge of the subject matter, grammatical and spelling skills (even though most us complete a report the night before that it is due).
Well my fellow Campus Socialites, I say nay to this! Do away with the ugly red marks on that last page and the unjustified decrease in our grades! I say we get our bibliographies correct the first and only time around! My fellow Socialites, Neal Taparia and Darshan Somasheker give you Easybib.com!
Meet Darshan and Neal. Both hailing from Chicago, they too began to encounter a similar bibliography problem like the one I discussed above. Only after their errors, they took action and began to address the citations issue head on beginning in their junior and senior years of high school. To rectify their situation they did not simply open the books to begin to learn the format for only APA, MLA and whatever “A” citation. They had a revelation! A revelation about how to revolutionize the science of creating bibliographies for every student in the world! Absorbing every piece of information they could, over the course of 6 years Neal and Darshan learned how to develop software to allow functionality for an automated bibliography service via a single website. Thus, Easybib.com was born.
Easybib.com is the quickest, most efficient way to not only create and complete a works cited page in literally minutes but is the only dedicated, online, automated bibliography service currently used around the world by students of all ages.
The Campus Socialite: What exactly is EasyBib.com?
Darshan and Neal: EasyBib is an automatic bibliography citation maker. Over 3 million students a month use it to automatically format sources in MLA, APA, and Chicago style for their research papers.
TCS: When did the idea of EasyBib.com arrive?
Darshan: When I was a senior in high school, and Neal was a junior, we both had large papers to write for our English classes. The most tedious part of that process was creating the bibliography, so we thought making a website that does it for you would be a good idea.
TCS: Was EasyBib.com a result of the both of you having trouble actually creating bibliographies for your reports?
Darshan and Neal: Yes, exactly. We didn’t feel it was necessary for a student to have to learn all the rules or to have to comb through the style manual.
TCS: Darshan and Neal, you say that this company started in high school. That is amazing! How did the two of you manage to juggle schoolwork, creating a business and have leisure time?
Darshan: We launched EasyBib in 2001, and would spend all of our summer, Christmas, and spring breaks working on it. Working on it during the school year was more difficult, because of having to do homework, study for tests, and so on. Neal and I also both attended different schools, so it was easier for us to focus on the site during vacations. We also planned our summer internships to be in the same city so we could work on the site.
TCS: I am sure it must burn a hole in one’s pocket to create a website…where did you get the initial funding for EasyBib.com?
Neal: EasyBib has been completely bootstrapped from the start. It only cost a few hundred dollars to buy the domain, obtain Web hosting, and get the appropriate legal registrations in place.
Darshan: The labor itself was free – Neal became the master at bibliographical rules, and I coded the Web site – so you can say there was a whole lot of sweat equity involved.
In 2003, we introduced our premium subscription tool called MyBib Pro, which lets users format citations in multiple styles. Revenue from that product, along with advertising, became the basis of our business model.
TCS: Your website is extremely easy to use as students need to simply enter an ISBN number for the books used in writing their papers. How did you compile these ISBN numbers and make this process so convenient?
Neal: We use an external database that has bibliographical data from over 25 million books. When a user types in an ISBN number, we query the database and retrieve that information.
TCS: Is there a chance that when a student uses Easybib their bibliography can come out wrong?
Neal: One of the reasons why we think EasyBib has been successful is because making a citation is not only fast, but it is also accurate. If students receive incorrectly formatted citations, they would not come back. Therefore, our primary focus is on making sure that our citation formatting is correct.
We test our citation formatting code against over 2000 independent citation tests that we’ve developed every time we deploy updates to the site. Every now and then a teacher or student suggests a change or update – if it’s right, we make the change and add tests for it to make sure the formatting changes are implemented.
Of course, we still rely on the user to input in data properly – we don’t have a way of ensuring that authors are all spelled right, or if the URL you’re citing is the correct one. At least, not today – we’re working on that too!
TCS: What is the cost of a premium membership account and what is the benefit of purchasing this over using the service for free?
Darshan: MyBib Pro costs $4.99 per month, $10.00 per every six months, or $14.99 per year. With the premium subscription, a user gets additional citation styles like APA and Chicago. We also help them automatically format their footnotes and parenthetical citations. Premium users also get an ad free experience.
TCS: So, is EasyBib.com your full time job or are you involved in other business ventures?
Neal: EasyBib is our full time venture, and we now have several employees working with us to make the site even better. We’re working on adding some new tools to the service that will make the research and citation process even easier. Once we are able to show a beta of those features, we’d love to share them with your readership.
Darshan: Easybib will be moving in to middle schools, High Schools and Libraries where students and teachers will have access to the premium membership services.
We are also currently financing another project that will allow users to enter biographical data and generate a resume.
TCS: That’s Terrific! What did you do before prior to your work with Easybib?
Darshan: I worked at Bain & Company, a management consulting firm after graduating from Brown University. I also helped a friend of mine, Sam Lessin, start a Web site called drop.io, which is a private, file sharing and document collaboration service.
Neal: I graduated from Northwestern University and worked at Lehman Brothers in their private equity group.
We decided to jump into EasyBib on a full-time basis in 2007.
TCS: What do the two of you do in your free time?
Darshan: I just started reading long books again – I used to read a lot in high school, but work and college cut into that. Fortunately, I’ve been able to make time for it more so these days. I play guitar a bit as a hobby, and of course spend a large part of my free time unwinding with friends.
Neal: I enjoy watching and playing sports, in particular tennis and basketball. I also show no mercy at FIFA soccer ’10 on XBox. Outside of that, I enjoy combing through business magazines for inspiration.
Our old office was located in Manhattan across the street from Porky’s (an awesome bar on 21st Street), so on Friday nights we used to head over there after we left the office to let loose and play some beer pong. We never forgot our old college ways!
TCS: What is the best advice for young entrepreneurs trying to start a business, especially if they are in high school or college?
Darshan: It’s important to understand that creating a successful business is a long term process that requires patience and a calm hand. Even if you envision your goal clearly, it will take time and energy to get it executed properly – and in that execution is where a business can do well or not.
Neal: If you think you have a strong idea, and it resonates with others, be proactive and go pursue it. Many people talk about business ideas but few people follow up. After college, it’s not easy to start a business as you have to support yourself with income. Venture financing is an option, but it dilutes your equity and isn’t easy to come by. High school and college is an ideal time to experiment with business ideas because you don’t have as much responsibility to support yourself or your family. If the idea is proven, you can pursue it full time after college, and you are more likely to secure financing. Don’t hesitate – work on your idea now.
Interview by Daniel Birnbaum of The Campus Tycoon