Final Five

With Alvaro Perez, co-founder of Dibind, Boston

Alvaro Perez, co-founder of Dibind, BostonAlvaro Perez is the co-founder of Dibind, an online marketplace that allows Boston residents to buy and sell high-quality, affordable, used furniture. It even takes care of the furniture that no one ends up buying. Perez is a fifth-year industrial engineering major at Northeastern University who believes that with Dibind, he can significantly reduce the amount of furniture that ends up as trash yearly in the city.

How did this idea turn into a business?

The idea arose after my roommate and I decided to move off campus and experienced the hassle of the move-in process and looking for affordable furniture. We realized that it was a common problem among college students. We then imaginedhow we would have liked the process to work for ourselves and our fellow classmates, and we came up with a viable business plan that would solve the problem.

How does your industrial engineering background serve you as an entrepreneur?

I believe that besides all the contributions IEs can have on a startup business, having an industrial engineering background helps tremendously on coming up with new business ideas. The entrepreneurial mindset is all about finding new opportunities to create value for consumers, and industrial engineering gives you the tools and knowledge to identify where the greatest opportunities are. Also, industrial engineering promotes an "outside the box" way of thinking to solve problems, which is crucial to entrepreneurs who want to disrupt industries.

What do you know now, after co-founding Dibind, that you wish you knew before you started?

At the beginning of the business, we as co-founders focused on having a perfect platform that incorporated all the features we thought consumers would want. After the launch, we found out that some features were not as desirable as we thought, so we wasted resources on things that didn't add much value to clients. I've learned over time the importance of not making decisions based on assumptions before actually going out and proving it.

One of the things that would've been useful to know at the beginning is [that] Dibind is not only a service that students are interested in, but other demographics as well. Dibind started operating in May of this year, and after our beta launch this past August, we realized there was a huge market in young professionals, corporate offices and suburban residential properties we were ignoring. This made us reconsider our target market. As an ultimate lesson, I believe it is important to get a minimum viable product and test it, and then iterate the business plan and product based on the reception received by markets.

What do you see for Dibind in the future?

In the short term, I see Dibind proving the concept in the Boston market and being a main player in the online marketplace. I believe Dibind could also play a big role in reducing all the furniture that is trashed in Boston every year. It is estimated that each year nearly 40 million tons of furniture is trashed in the city. To solve this, Dibind has partnered with local charities to provide complimentary donation services for sellers who can't find a buyer. In the future, I see the company expanding into other U.S. cities with [high-density] populations.

What advice would you give to other IE students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Even though entrepreneurship could be gratifying, it is a risky and uncertain endeavor. We as industrial engineering students have the ideal set of skills, tools and background knowledge to become successful entrepreneurs.

I believe the goal of an entrepreneur should not be to make money, but [to] solve a real-life problem. The effect of solving the problem could eventually lead to money, but focus should always be on the problem.

– Interview by Cassandra Johnson