How I Built
Software to Fight Plagiarism
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Jeremy, founder of PlagiaShield. I live near Paris in France.
PlagiaShield helps online businesses protect their written content from plagiarism. Many companies invest in blog posts to gain traffic. However, once they publish a piece of content it quickly gets copied. PlagiaShield finds all potential thefts and helps get rid of them.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I am a food engineer by training. Even though it’s very far from what I do now, I still think it was the right choice for me. It led me to many interesting professional opportunities. It’s a journey.
I first spent 7 years of my career as a product manager, in the food industry, the retail and the pharmaceutical industry. I liked going from idea to launching products and growing them.
Every year I learned a lot about how to use technology for marketing purposes. It started with simple Excel formulas and ended with complex data science programs running in the cloud. I had several side projects before PlagiaShield.
I first built and published a simple video game for Android phones. That’s how I first learned programming. Then I built and maintained a website doing reviews of GPS watches, drones, and sports cameras. I became more proficient at SEO, website building, and digital marketing
Last year, a friend of mine lost a lot of traffic on his website. One of the issues is that his content was copied by many other sites. It was horrifying. I first helped him by creating a program that would list all the thefts. He used it to take them down and get some of his traffic back.
There are a lot of online plagiarism checkers but they do not help digital professionals protect websites with thousands of articles. After a thorough market analysis, I started working on what became PlagiaShield.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The first challenge was knowledge. During the first year building the product, I spent about 50% of my time acquiring useful skills that would have a direct impact on the final product. These skills also gave PlagiaShield a competitive edge.
- Learning a new programming language that made the app faster and more affordable.
- Learning best practices for designing the interfaces so people can easily use the app.
- Learning new cloud technologies so the app could handle very large domains and could scale to a large number of users.
- Learning new digital marketing technologies to provide a better user experience.
On a personal level, in the beginning, it was a lonely road. Nobody in my close circles made a career in technology. It made it hard to share my journey in-person.
Luckily, the online community is very open, welcoming, and supportive. In retrospect, I should have participated in discussions much sooner.
Who is your target market?
PlagiaShield is built for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professionals. They work in an agency, within a brand’s team, or do freelance work.Their job is to ensure the website they manage gets the best possible traffic from search engines like Google or Bing.
They already use a plagiarism checker because they care about unique content. However, they only use this type of tool to check if an article written for them was not plagiarized.
If the SEO manager is the main user of PlagiaShield, I also target other potential buyers within the company: CEOs, founders, and marketing directors. They care about the business impact. They also have their say in the buying decision.
Regarding location, even though PlagiaShield works with all languages, the main markets are the USA, India, and Germany. In these 3 countries, there is a high number of SEO professionals caring about unique content.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I love marketing and sales. After so much time focused on building the product I was eager to spend most of my time telling the world about PlagiaShield.
The first method is direct sales for qualitative professional relationships. The other is digital marketing for scale.
I participate in a lot of virtual events about SEO and online business. Having 1 to 1 conversations allows me to:
- Better understand my target audience.
- Build strong relationships I can build on.
- Explain PlagiaShield in a very qualitative way
- Answer all questions one might have.
This exercise also provides useful insights for doing a better job at marketing: I know which messages work and which ones do not.
On the other side of the spectrum, content marketing (and SEO) is the digital marketing channel I most invest in.
Up to now, I’ve built the foundations. I have prepared the full content strategy and I have a high-performing website on a technical level. The next step is to scale content creation and link building. That will be my main focus during the next 12 months.
I also engage with the community. I launched a weekly newsletter for expert-level SEOs: The SEO Digest.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
My product is fully automated so I do my best to bring a human touch where I can. When people sign up, I send them a personal video. It helps start conversations and is a great way for me to better onboard them. After a short review of their profile, I can provide valuable personalized guidance.
Apart from that, I spent a lot of time perfecting the onboarding process and the user interface so that new users always know what to do next. It is straight to the point so they get the best value for their time.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
I have no team yet but I highly value innovation. Innovation it is a central part of the business as it allows PlagiaShield to offer valuable services at an attractive price. Modern cloud technology has an important role: there is no server constantly running. Everything runs on demand then shutdowns. This also means PlagiaShield has a low environmental impact.
As a solopreneur, advanced use of technology also allows me to better serve customers at scale. Marketing automation tools are of great help when used properly.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
- CRM & Marketing automation: User.com is very powerful.
- Video sharing: I use Loom to record and host the welcoming video I sent to new users.
- Cloud provider: AWS. I am a certified AWS Solutions Architect. AWS provides many managed services.
- Design software: Canva
- Project Management: ClickUp is a great fit for me. I use it with the Toggl time tracker.
- Website: I coded both the marketing site and the app using ReactJS with Gatsby. Gatsby is a static site generator.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
If I started all over today, I would be vocal about the project earlier. Most tech & business communities are very welcoming. Much more than we think.
Moreover, in 2020 there are more virtual events than ever. It has never been easier connecting with peers.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It is exciting.
Going from nothing to something useful is extremely rewarding.
After so much time building PlagiaShield, I get to share it with web professionals. It’s a delight seeing them use the product and getting value from it.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
With the current restrictions related to COVID it is much more difficult meeting peers in person. I look forward to being able to meet the community and the customers again.
There is also a level of risk I have never experienced before.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I’d definitely recommend the following two books:
- Product-Led Growth by Wes Bush: it is very actionable. After reading it, removing friction and shortening the time-to-value became top priorities (time-to-value: how much time between when you sign up and when you get value from the tool).
- Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin: it contains insights about the startup world.
My favourite podcasts are very related to the software business:
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
People I meet often ask if PlagiaShield will protect other types of content (photo, video, music) in the near future. That is not the plan.
The goal is to stay focused on protecting written assets. PlagiaShield will evolve to include a higher level of protection.
2-3 years from now, I also see business and legal partners having an essential role in the growth and the added-value of the software.Support is an essential part of software success. I plan on getting more and more people from this function on board as the customer base grows.