Neal Taparia is the Co-CEO of EasyBib.com, a citation, note taking, and research tool that is used by 40 million students yearly. Over 1000 educational institutions subscribe to EasyBib's premium services like NYU, Ohio State, and Emory University. Follow him @tapneal.
Who is your hero?
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
My dad growing up would always tell me to "do it now." This was in regards to basic household tasks. He understood from his other children that procrastination often lead to nothing being done. Whether it was folding clothes or taking out the trash, avoiding those tasks could make the house dirty, and even lead to more problems. Therefore, he always encouraged us to not be lazy and "just do it now."
This mindset is vey important to being entrepreneurial. You often hear people with ideas, but they do nothing to make it happen. The mindset of just doing is critical to build and market a product.
Today, when people share an idea with me, I encourage them to do something about it in a low-cost and easy way. Setting up a landing page, a fake Google AdWords campaign, or fake Facebook ads is a great way of gauging the validity of an idea by seeing if people are taking interest. Take baby steps, and in the spirit of Nike, “just do it.”
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Our first product, EasyBib.com, took bibliographic data and formatted it. Over 40 million students use it yearly because it makes the process of creating citations much easier for students.
We thought there was an opportunity to emulate this model for student resumes for a long time. We started creating EasyResume by contracting a student locally in New York City. He didn’t work out, and sometime later in 2008 we contracted with a team in Argentina to help build out features for EasyBib as well as EasyResume.
Outsourcing of course has its challenges, but we soon realized we were spreading ourselves too thin. EasyBib still wasn’t a mature product, and required attention and resources to market and develop. Does it make sense to put a dollar into something that will give you back two dollars, or into the unknown EasyResume?
We were still in an early stage of building EasyBib, and we found we were doing a mediocre job at both EasyBib and EasyResume. We decided to cut EasyResume despite a considerable investment. We learned the importance of focus and prioritization.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I check my calendar to make sure I'm prepared for all the meetings and calls for the day, and to understand how I can prioritize my time.
Then I check some key stats regarding traffic and revenue to make sure I keep a pulse on the business.
I'll then review a personal checklist of reminders, which includes visualizing where we want our company to be and how to get there, and building upon relationships with team members.
What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
We were able to build EasyBib with just a few hundred dollars from our parents. Focus on building out a minimal viable product, and proving the concept of the idea. Even hack together an ad to see if people are interested in the idea. Based on the validation, continue to build the product.
Money isn't always best way to market the product -- you are the best way to market the product. Do everything in your power to spread the word. Get used to putting yourself in awkward situations.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Define what you see as success, and the steps needed to get there. Then start working on it.
What's your definition of success? How will you know when you've finally "succeeded" in your business?
We have certain revenue and profit goals which we tie to success.
Otherwise, I see success as having the resources to launch and staff resources to new businesses -- to rapidly put ideas into action.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.