Meet Jessica Perez Founder Of Tycoon App
Meet Jessica Perez, founder of Tycoon, a personal finance app designed specifically for freelancers. In my recent Fashion Freelancer Business Series I spoke a lot about what it takes to become successful in the fashion industry as a freelancer. I concentrated mostly on how important it is for freelancers to build their network.
Earlier this year I listened to the American Fashion Podcast with host Charles Beckwith. He had Jessica, and two other guests on the show. The topic was regarding the unique struggles many fashion models have in the industry. Jessica worked for many years in the fashion industry as a top model. During this time she found herself frustrated with the lack of resources for freelancers to help with personal finance. So, like any true entrepreneur, she decided to create her own.
I connected with her to find out more about her product. Then I quickly discovered her passion for building a community for freelancers to help them overcome the unique struggles they face. Read her story here.
We couldn’t cover every possible angle of technology in the fashion industry in just one post! This article is part of a 6 part Fashion Tech Business Series. If you want to learn how technology is being used to shape the fashion industry and how you can be a part of it check out the entire series at the bottom of this page.
Getting Tycoon started…
I was scouted on the street in Soho when I was 18. Before I started Tycoon, I was busy traveling the world for modeling jobs.
Financial challenges were definitely the biggest [struggles]. At the beginning of my career, it felt like every year I realized I had done something wrong the year before in how I managed my finances or dealt with my taxes. Learning to be diligent about staying on top of my payments, realizing how much I could spend with a variable cash flow, understanding the tax code, all of those things resulted in a great deal of stress for me.
Other than that, I would say the second biggest challenge was dealing with the loneliness of freelancing. It’s hard to not have coworkers. Going into an office allows you to have a community, people around you to shoot ideas off of, people to go out for lunch with. It takes a great deal of energy for freelancers to create a sense of belonging for themselves.
Light bulb moment…
I saw the need for my product when I realized that every freelancer I knew complained about the same things—how they had forgotten to collect on a job they did months ago, how someone owed them money, and how confusing it was to keep taxes straight with a variable income. I built a product designed for the individual freelancer, whereas existing products mostly target freelancers who operate more like small businesses. There was nothing in the market that was well designed and not a complete headache to learn how to use. My vision has always been that financial management for freelancers is an imperfect equation and we need help focusing on what’s most important.
Making the leap into business…
I wanted to create a product like Tycoon for over a decade. I knew I had already reached my ‘peak’ in my modeling career and that there was only one way to go from there. So, I made a list of all the things I ever wanted to try in my lifetime and Tycoon seemed like the most challenging. It was the right time in my life to take the biggest risk so I took the leap.
I already knew that this would be an easier process if I had a co-founder, but that’s only become that much more obvious as time has gone on. At the end of the day, if this company fails, it’s on me. If it succeeds, I will share that success with other key people who are part of our team. But ultimately at the end of the day, all the big pressures lie on top of me. That’s an enormous burden to carry by yourself, especially as a first-time founder.
[The biggest challenge over the years to grow and scale has been] funding. I had a period of about 5 months where I had enough money to pay multiple people and I felt like I had reached Nirvana. Forget growing or scaling, it’s really hard to run a business when you’re worried about paying people or when you know you can’t pay them.
The most unexpected learning curve has been how many ups and downs there are in building a company and how to cope with it. If you listen to successful founder stories, most of them struggled for years before they had a break. Some days it’s hard to wipe the ‘this is a sinking ship’ thought out of your head and focus instead on finding land.
Where to start…
It was really hard to get [Tycoon] started because it’s extremely difficult to vet developers when you don’t know how to code yourself. How can you guarantee that this person will deliver what they say they will if there’s no way for you to ‘check’ their code? To this day, that aspect of it still bothers me because I always have to have an enormous amount of faith in what my developers tell me. The only way to slightly de-risk a situation like mine is to do what I did and hire people who come highly recommended by someone you trust.
The first iteration of our product took six months to build. I can’t really say how many iterations I went through because each button, screen, and behavior has the potential to go through various iterations once you start building. If I had to guess, our current product has been through hundreds, if not thousands of iterations.
The fact that we don’t do invoicing or expenses is the biggest difference [between Tycoon and other similar apps on the market]. Our app is not about keeping a perfect ledger of income and expenses; it’s about knowing where your money is and how much is available to you. If you use an invoicing app it doesn’t mean that you know exactly how much money is still out there that you need to collect on or that you know how much you should have saved in your bank account for taxes. Our app is much more about financial management. For freelancers, this is centered mostly around collecting payment, cash flow management, and saving properly.
Defining special features…
With our app, you can enter payment terms for every job you input. The app then sends you a push notification when your payment is due. The app keeps your income divided into what you have been paid, what you are waiting to collect on, and what is past due. Seeing your income divided up like that allows freelancers to plan ahead and stay on top of their payments. If you use the paid version, you can also deduct a % of tax and commission from each of your jobs. You can then see your income divided into what you will actually ‘take home’ after you’ve paid your tax and commission dues.
On the horizon…
We are continuing to build out partnerships with other companies, creating integrations with other products, and encouraging our active users to continue recommending our product. Our launch of product based sites like Product Hunt brought us a good amount of exposure and new users, so we are always looking for similar platforms to feature us. We are also focusing more on content creation and cross-blogging. Our blog has a unique and valuable voice in life as a freelancer. (Read the Tycoon Blog here.)
I admire the founders of theSkimm. They took knowledge from their own work experience and created something simple that is useful. I also really like the Airbnb founders; their story is one of how true grit and being creative can lead you to succeed.
I consider a lot of my founder friends to be my mentors. The best advice I ever received was to remember that people advise you as to what worked for them. But every person has a unique set of circumstances so in the end. You have to take any advice you hear with a grain of salt.
Fashion Tech Business Series
If you or someone you know is interested in starting their own fashion tech company read the entire series here. We tell you what the latest and greatest technology is in the fashion industry. Learn what it takes to be a successful fashion tech entrepreneur.
- How Technology Is Changing The Landscape Of The Fashion Industry
- Interview with PopMark Co-Founders Soumya Jain & Fletcher
- What Software Do Fashion Professionals Need To Know To Stay On The Cutting Edge
- Interview with Tycoon app Founder Jessica Perez
- What Software Do Fashion Designers Need To Know To Stay Competitive
- Interview with Passport Runway Founder Elizabeth Entin