Less than five years later, he is the CEO of his own startup.
After graduating from Norfolk State University, Perez immediately started putting his Moguls experience to work. He credits the pitching skills he learned in the program as a pivotal factor to winning a $50,000 prize for his startup from the Pharrell William's Black Ambition Prize Foundation.
He cofounded Novus Security, which focuses on building anti-phishing tools specifically for older adults ages 50 and above who may experience phishing attacks via email.
Between raising capital for his business, developing new ideas and writing a novel, Perez took time to talk with us about the crucial role Moguls in the Making has played as he builds his future.
What led you to apply for the Moguls program?
I saw an advertisement at school and it looked like a really incredible opportunity. Plus, it was the first year of the program, which made it feel more special. At first, I wondered if it would just be a one-time thing, but when Ally announced that it would be an annual event, I was thrilled to be one of the first to do it.
What was your biggest lesson from the Moguls program?
Learning how to iterate quickly. As soon as we were assigned our category, everyone had a different idea. As team lead, I realized I had to help guide the conversation so everyone's input was accounted for and we could cycle through all of the ideas effectively.
What is your favorite memory from your Moguls experience?
The energy and how we came together as a team. We would stay up all night working. Some of us were working on the pitch deck, others grinding through the actual presentation – but we are all there working toward the same goal. That's when the bond really deepened with our team.
What lessons did you learn from the Moguls program that you still carry with you today?
Definitely design thinking and using it alongside the agile methodology to get something up to speed very quickly. If you focus on building for your end user, as well as repeatedly asking very specific questions, it's amazing how far you can get in a short amount of time.
What's your best piece of advice for incoming Moguls students?
Don't be afraid of pivoting. Sometimes we can get very laser-focused on an idea – or have tunnel vision. Pivoting doesn't mean you did anything wrong, it's just an opportunity for growth and to deliver the best product possible.
What's been your biggest professional lesson thus far?
I think I would have to say the same thing – pivoting. I'm a full-time founder working on my own startup. I had to do a soft pivot recently that I was pretty hesitant about, and my imagination really blew it out of proportion. Once I reminded myself that pivoting wasn't a bad thing, I was able to see the other path forward, which allowed us to focus more intently on our customer base.
What's been your biggest financial lesson as a young professional?
Don't spend more than what you actually have. It can be hard, especially when you just start working. Even though you are expecting to get a certain amount of dollars on payday, don't go out and make that big boy purchase until after the money hits your account. Unexpected expenses can pop up all the time. Like Jay-Z said, “If you can't buy it twice, you can't afford it."
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
Professionally, I hope by this time next year my startup is at $500K in monthly recurring revenue. Personally, I hope to have finished my novel and it's changing people's lives like The Alchemist did for me. Entrepreneurship contains my passion, writing contains my purpose.
The views, information or opinions expressed are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of Ally.