PushFar
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Ed Johnson
On Building A Platform For Career Mentorship
product
PushFar
from London, England, United Kingdom
started January 2019
2
Founders
5
Employees
1.96M
alexa rank
3.22K
followers
330
followers
12
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Listen to the audio version of this story!

I’m Ed Johnson, the CEO, and Co-Founder of PushFar. Together with my co-founder and our team, we’ve developed the PushFar platform, helping both individuals and organizations with all aspects of mentoring and career progression. For individuals, we offer a free and voluntary platform where students and professionals can register, find relevant mentoring matches and manage mentoring relationships and career development. We take this technology and license it to organizations, offering them a way to streamline and run effective mentoring schemes and programs at scale for their employees.

on-developing-a-platform-offering-career-development-with-thousand-professional-members

Above and beyond mentor matching, management, and reporting, there is a wealth of tools to help with career development and progression, more widely. These include the opportunity to network with others, explore professional events, discover relevant job opportunities, set goals, join conversations and measure career progress. Since we launched early in 2019, we’ve seen tens of thousands of professionals joining our platform and secured partnerships with companies including Arbuthnot Latham, Itsu, Queen Mary University, the University of East London, the Professional Women’s Network, a major international supermarket, and WaterAid.

What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of connectivity through the internet and how that links in with the business. I taught myself to code websites from the age of 9, and things developed from there. I began to make YouTube videos and became one of the firstYouTube partners (before the word ‘influencer’ really existed). By the time I left school, I had amassed more than 10 million views, producing videos teaching others how to code websites, use Photoshop and the basics of digital marketing. That, in itself, was really exciting. My interest in business grew from there, as I started to develop small community platforms and tech projects.

For those entrepreneurs raising investment, treat it the same way you would treat your own money. Spend it wisely and always ask whether what you’re spending it on is an absolute necessity.

on-developing-a-platform-offering-career-development-with-thousand-professional-members

I dropped out of school midway through my A-Levels, after I tweeted the CEO of a digital marketing agency, asking for a job, which in turn I was offered. Since then I’ve worked for several companies from small startups through to large multinational corporations like Oracle and it’s great seeing the benefits and drawbacks to both extremes.

When I was looking for a mentor I found it a real challenge and that is what led me to develop PushFar. I partnered up with my now co-founder Gabriel, who I’ve worked with on various projects over the years and we both decided to set up PushFar early in 2018. It took us a year to develop the platform and a lot of adaptation (indeed we’re still rolling out new features the whole time even now). In the first year, we were bootstrapping the project with our savings but then received our first seed investment mid-way through 2018, once we’d proven there was interest, through the conversations we were having with larger companies about helping them with their mentoring schemes.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

It was late in 2017 when I was really struggling to find career direction and development. I had a stable and good job as the head of the digital for an online platform but was trying hard to work out what the next chapter of my career might look like. I knew I needed a mentor but that led to the challenge of actually trying to find one. I realized that there was a huge gap in the market and there were so many people in a similar position. By January 2018 I had mapped out the concept and took it to my co-founder, Gabriel, to get his thoughts on development. Gabriel agreed that the idea sounded great and together we began to design and develop PushFar. During the first six months of 2018, Gabriel left his job and started working full-time on PushFar, whilst I continued doing part-time consulting work to tide me over financially. In August 2018 we managed to rise £95k in an initial seed round, to fund further development, launch, and marketing of PushFar.

In January 2019, we launched PushFar and within the first couple of months had thousands of registered users. We knew we were onto something and raised an additional top-up seed round to further marketing efforts until we had stable and recurring revenue coming through. Fast-forward a year and we’ve just closed our second funding round and have a really exciting array of clients using our mentoring software.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We now have more than 20,000 mentors and mentees on our open platform which is really exciting. To see so many people engaging in mentoring and career progression through our platform is the end goal for us and this is absolutely happening. On the business side of our proposition, the number of organizations engaging with us, signing contracts and using our technology for internal mentoring schemes continues to grow month-on-month. With our recent additional investment, we’re scaling things up quickly to expand and have some ambitious plans for the year ahead.

The future for us all comes down to the success of the technology and ultimately the positive outcome of mentoring relationships and career progression. We are continually analyzing data, usage and collating feedback, to drive forward product development. This year’s product roadmap has some very exciting features, which I can’t wait for our team to deploy, and for our members to start using.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Having been involved with two other startups prior to PushFar, there are things that I’ve learned during each of them which have proven invaluable. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to spend money more effectively. I read a lot about startups with high ‘burn rates’ and I know from my own experience the first time around that this is really easily done.

With PushFar I made a point of ensuring we were extremely lean with our spending. Anything that was not an absolute necessity was not a consideration. I continually check how much we’re spending on all aspects of the business and ask what the real return on investment is and how it is contributing to our revenue generation. A mentor of mine refers to ‘vanity metrics’ in startups. These are metrics that don’t add any true value to a business but are really easy to get caught up in. I try hard to ignore these and only focus on the revenue we’re generating.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The whole team is on Slack and Whatsapp. These are essential for us. We’ve been a remote team from day one and staying in contact is vital. With remote working teams, it’s really important to speak and exchange messages as often as possible. We always have calls above and beyond ‘text’ exchanges too and, where possible, we make these video calls.

In terms of sales and business development, we use Freshsales to track outbound and incoming sales enquiries, deal-flow and customer enquiries. The reporting functionality there really helps me to stay on top of who I need to be following up with and when, as well as being able to report to our board of directors about progress, targets and expected revenue.

We use a number of different Trello boards too, to stay on top of product development and daily/weekly team tasks. We have a public-facing Trello board, which shows our product roadmap and then we have internal boards that help us with ‘to do’ and ‘in progress’ task and priority planning.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Zero to One and The Tipping Point are two books I would highly recommend reading, for anyone interested in growing a business and gaining traction.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

As I said earlier, it’s really important to always look at revenue generation and/or plans to get to revenue generation as early as possible. There are a lot of startups out there who haven’t got a clear path to revenue and in these instances, 99 times out of 100, it is really difficult to raise investment and grow.

The other thing I would recommend is holding off raising investment for as long as possible. If you can launch or develop your business without giving away equity or taking on external funding, then it’s definitely worth doing. For those entrepreneurs raising investment, treat it the same way you would treat your own money. Spend it wisely and always ask whether what you’re spending it on is an absolute necessity.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you’re interested in finding a career mentor or volunteering to mentor others, you can join PushFar’s mentoring platform free at pushfar.com.

-  
Ed Johnson,   Founder of PushFar

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