Dan Heyman and Jess Perez each run their own app startup. They’re also a couple. As two entrepreneurs living under one roof, they use their relationship to their advantage, helping each other’s startup grow.
Both Heyman and Perez came from backgrounds that, in hindsight, were clear paths to entrepreneurship. Heyman graduated from Columbia, studied at MIT’s business school for a year, and then started working for Demeter, a support network that helps entrepreneurs create businesses in developing countries. There, he learned about the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, and encountered a major problem that his company dealt with on a regular basis: maintaining and updating the contact list of important clients.
Perez modeled professionally for most of her working life. She had to market her brand (her image and personality) to clients in order to book jobs. Although Perez always had a business plan with her managers, she found it difficult to keep track of her earnings as she traveled around the world for work. And she noticed this problem was common among models.
The couple first met in February 2014, when Perez approached Heyman at a party, and they hit it off right away, bonding over their travels abroad and mutual interest in entrepreneurship. At that point, Heyman’s app Stack AI, which organizes contact lists for small businesses and entrepreneurs, was still in its infancy stage. Perez saw Heyman and his business partner working and thought, “If these two goons can start a business, I can too.” She began to envision her own app, Tycoon, a personal finance-tracking app for fashion models and freelancers.
Perez founded Tycoon in August 2014 and now works at the Columbia eLab within WeWork Soho, in the same building as Heyman.
As a couple running their own startups, Perez and Heyman face a lot of challenges, but use each other for moral and professional support.
From Tycoon’s beginnings, Perez used Heyman as a resource to find app developers and designers, while Heyman himself helped with the initial mockups for the app. He also advises Perez when she has meetings with investors, and uses his professional network to introduce her to important contacts. Heyman, on the other hand, uses Perez as a beta tester for Stack AI.
“Jess is a phenomenal beta tester,” says Heyman. “She has some very strong opinions of where we should go with the app.”
Perez is fiercely invested in the success of Heyman’s app, and commits time to give him feedback and suggestions.
“I think that they should make a feature change, and I strongly believe it,” she says. “But sometimes I need to step away from beta testing because I get emotionally invested.”
Reflecting on her relationship with another entrepreneur, Perez says, “We’re either going to be the power couple or the broke couple.”
Photo credit: Emanuel Hahn