Neal Taparia, founder of EasyBib, cites his entrepreneurial journey


Design by Yunkyo Kim. Photo courtesy of Neal Taparia.

Neal Taparia (Weinberg ‘06). The co-founder of EasyBib and SOTA Partners is going back to his roots to mentor budding startups.

Angeli Mittal, Reporter

Neal Taparia (Weinberg ‘06) started his first business in high school with bibliography generator EasyBib. Twenty years, $20 million, four startups and over a billion citations later, the seasoned entrepreneur is sharing his knowledge with budding startups.

Now, as co-founder of SOTA Partners, a company that invests in “companies changing the future of work and food,” he incubates and guides startups. One of his own products, Solitaired, aims to pair classic games with research-based brain training, reaching over half a million visitors regularly.

When Taparia and his friend Darshan Somashekar started EasyBib, they would “spam” chat rooms to spread the word. Taparia downloaded the email addresses of local teachers to advertise their product. He also reached out to the Chicago Tribune, getting a front page feature in the business section.

Somashekar said while this approach was successful, he and Taparia faced skepticism while launching EasyBib.

“People didn’t take stuff that kids built as seriously,” Somashekar said. “We’d go to conferences and some people didn’t quite give us what we thought was the right amount of respect.”

However, he said Taparia was fearless, allowing them to be successful with EasyBib and beyond.

“You just got to try everything possible. That’s what separates entrepreneurs from people who have an idea,” Taparia said. “We were solving our problem and that really allowed us to dip our toes into entrepreneurship.”

Though the entrepreneurial atmosphere “did not exist” at NU in 2006, Taparia said he met a network of like-minded friends and gained invaluable communication skills. That enabled him to expand on his umbrella company, Imagine Easy Solutions, to encompass EasyBib and a multitude of educational products such as grammar and plagiarism tools.

Imagine Easy Solutions reached about 30 million students and earned $20 million in revenue before they sold it to Chegg in 2016, where the business partners worked as executives for three years.

Taparia’s friend and co-founder of Tutored by Teachers Rahul Kalita (Weinberg ’06, Kellogg ’12), started working full-time with Taparia at Imagine Easy Solutions in 2013. He said he learned a lot from Taparia about effective communication for sales, which has helped him on his own entrepreneurial path.

Taparia has played the role of both friend and mentor, which Kalita said holds true with Taparia’s business structure. He said Taparia, while building a business, also built a strong culture of collaboration with his employees.

“We still have friendships from his company years later, and I think that’s a testament to who Neil is, that he was able to create that type of culture in his organization,” Kalita said.

At The Garage, Taparia has been able to mentor a budding entrepreneur and use his network and lessons learned about resilience, trust and growth to bolster the emerging entrepreneurial scene at NU.

“I just think it’s incredibly important to celebrate failure and fail fast,” Taparia said. “It’s not too different (from) Thomas Edison when he tried to invent the light bulb. Try to fail as much as possible because you’re just learning so much in the process. And that to me is the most invaluable education you could get.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @amittal27

Related Stories:

Weinberg senior makes citation easier for students with Web site

The Garage identifies personality traits of highly successful entrepreneurs in new study

Dave Eggers talks education, entrepreneurship at The Garage