Meet Maria, Georgi and Petar from Proofable.com – the Start It Smart special pick in 3Challenge Seed (Season 4), who won 3-month access to our exclusive mentorship programme. So far, the Proofable online services have helped hundreds of university students, academics and professionals improve their written work in English. Currently, the team is transforming Proofable from a service provider into a freelance platform which will connect their clients to professional proofreaders.
Maria Velkova has recently graduated with BSc (Hons) Pharmacology and she will continue her education at the University of Cambridge with MPhil Bioscience Enterprise, a program specializing in biotech entrepreneurship and commercialization of scientific discoveries. Proofable is her first start-up and she hopes to continue to develop her entrepreneurship skills and to make her own biotech start-up in the future.
Georgi Shulev’s academic background includes a BSc in Business Administration and MSc in Strategy and International Business. Before starting his own company Georgi worked as Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst.
Petar Dimitrov has extended experience in the banking software development lifecycle. He is studying in New Bulgarian University with major in Network Technologies. Currently he is working for some of the major banks across the UK and takes part in several start-up projects.
In the picture (left to right): Georgi Shulev, Maria Velkova, and the president of Start It Smart – Petar Sharkov
Can you tell us a bit more about your project – what is it and what value does it bring to your customers?
Maria: Now, more than ever people are being judged on the quality of their written communication. Whether you are a student, a professional, or a business, your credibility can be seriously harmed by bad writing. You probably know that a typo in your CV may lower your chances of getting the job you want, or that a badly written master thesis can damage the quality of your research and ideas. In order to solve this problem, we have created Proofable!
Currently, our in-house proofreading service has already helped many students, professionals and businesses to improve their written work in English. We are now expanding our business by developing a freelance proofreading platform, which is open to proofreaders in many different languages, so that we can reach out to even more clients.
The dual platform will give maximum flexibility, whether our customers are seeking a quick, reliable and high quality service through the in-house service, or whether they prefer to select their own proofreader through our freelance division. We help our clients to achieve maximum quality of their written work and to avoid silly typos, grammatical and syntactical errors and to express themselves clearly and professionally.
What is innovative about your project?
Georgi: Soon Proofable will provide the first open freelance proofreading platform, which will be available in many languages. Whether our customers are native language speakers, who are not experts on expressing their ideas on paper, or whether they are people who produce written work in a language which they are still learning, we will cater to all needs. Through our dual-service platform, we have a first mover advantage in providing a niche service that is in constant demand.
Our freelance platform provides competitive pricing through an auction process, where proofreaders bid for the client’s work. Here, the customer has the ability to “select” his or her proofreader by price, specialty, rating and speed of proofreading and more. On the other hand, the in-house service is suitable for those with a tight deadline, who would like their work proofread quickly for a set price. The best thing is that we aim to create a very user-friendly product and will provide both services in one place, which also has not been done before!
How was the idea behind your project born?
Maria: In my Expository Writing class I was taking at Rutgers University back in 2008, students had to produce written work, after which we proofread each other’s essays. My professor made a point that my editing skills were exceptional and very helpful, so a friend of mine asked me to proofread her work now and then. Although she was a very bright physics student, she was no expert in expressing her ideas on paper, which harmed her grades, as she was losing unnecessary marks due to bad grammar and syntax. After I started to proofread her course works, she immediately saw a great improvement. In consequence, I said to myself, why not help more students to achieve the grades that they deserve so, Proofable was born. Ever since, our team has helped many students, professionals and businesses from all over the world to improve their writing.
How did your team come together?
Maria: This is a fun story. Well, Georgi and I are not only business partners, but also partners in life. Georgi is a natural born entrepreneur and when he felt that the Investment Banking sector will not suffice his thirst for entrepreneurship, he moved to the UK with me. This is where we met Petar. The funny thing is that I was looking for a flat mate the year before Georgi and I met Petar and Peter offered that I live with him, as he happened to reside in my town at that time. Georgi was not very fond of this proposal, but little did he know that one year later Petar will join our start-up family as well.
What is your motivation for developing this project?
Maria: Because my background is in Biomedical Sciences, Proofable began as a business learning experience. This project is very special to me, as it is my first start-up and it was transformed from a learning experience to an innovative business reality. We hope that Proofable will become the biggest, most user friendly and most popular service for proofreading, editing, translation and copywriting services on the market.
Tell us a little bit more about what you’ve achieved so far and what lays ahead for you?
Georgi: So far we have validated our in-house proofreading service and have proofread more than half a million words. We have more than 100 customers, of whom about 46% are returning customers. Also, we have already developed the freelance platform functionally. Currently we are ready to start working on the front end of the platform and the design of the website as a whole and are hoping for it to be up and running by the end of August, 2013. We have also begun efforts to recruit more than 500 qualified professional freelance proofreaders from the UK and hope to have 300 registered proofreaders by August, 2013. Another major milestone is our acquisition and migration to “.com”, which will help us reach our potential customers more easily.
Who is your product most useful for? What exactly would they get?
Maria: Proofreading and editing are very versatile services, which can be used for any written work, so our customer base is very big. Proofable is suitable for students, writers and any business that owes an online webpage, are just a few examples of the people we can help. Our range of services include, but are not limited to, proofreading of academic coursework, dissertations, theses, CVs/resumes, cover letters, web pages and books, which cover the needs of virtually most people around the world.
What tip would you give your potential customer that they can implement tomorrow?
Georgi: For students: do not lose unnecessary marks just because your English writing skills are not superb! For professionals: no one is perfect and even the best writers can miss a typo on their CV or cover letter that can harm their credibility and lessen their chances for getting the job they dream of. For businesses: do not trust that your website translator will get everything right. Having grammatical errors on your web page makes your business look unprofessional. For writers: you can get the best deals and most suited proofreaders and editors to your work by using our freelance platform! Always proofread your work to avoid silly spelling, grammar or translation errors. Visit www.proofable.com to find out about our services and to start looking your best on paper!
Can you share an important entrepreneurship lesson you’ve learnt while developing your project?
Maria: You need to believe in yourself and in your ideas! Just go for it! You need to be bold and stand your ground no matter what!
Georgi: Think big and chase your dreams, because only the ones who try, get what they want! There is always a way to achieve the things you want, it’s just a matter of persistency.
Petar: “The secret of success is consistency of purpose.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
What is your startup’s ‘secret sauce’?
Maria: Passion and ambition =]
How did the 3Challenge experience help you in developing your project so far?
Petar: We are new to the competition and have yet to reap the benefits. So far 3Challenge has given us exposure and has shown us that our project has great potential. We have already had interest from potential investors as a result from participating. Most of all, we have met amazing like-minded people, who are passionate and ambitious about what they do, and we will hope that we continue to meet more such inspiring young men and women! Thank you!
Don’t miss out on hearing about the progress of Proofable and the 3 winners in 3Challenge Seed – stay tuned for Grow, the 3Challenge Season 4 finals, which will take place in September 2013! Meanwhile, visit proofable.com for more information on the best way to proof your writing and improve your marks!