How I Built A $24K/Month Mentorship Marketplace

Published: January 8th, 2023
Dominic Monn
Founder, MentorCruise
from Zürich, Switzerland
started March 2018
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey! My name is Dominic Monn, I am the founder and CEO of MentorCruise, the go-to place if you are looking for career coaching.

Our primary product is a coaching marketplace, where we are both helping career professionals turn their knowledge into a marketable coaching business, and also make it possible for mentees to find a perfect mentor with just a few clicks.

Currently, we’re making around $24,000 per month in commissions and we’re processing north of $120,000 every month for our mentors.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I come from a non-traditional background in tech. At 15 years old, I picked up an apprenticeship to study software engineering. At 19 years old I skilled up in Machine Learning and entered big tech, as part of an internship at Nvidia. During the whole process, online resources have been at my side.

Mentorship is a major problem. While it may not be obvious for folks in big companies or universities, more than 50% of employees today do not have access to a formal mentor. I was in those same shoes, and while online courses sometimes did do mentorship, it was highly transactional and often left me without a mentor when it counted.

I had web development skills from my early years as a software engineer, I had some approval from my time as a self-learner, and I started networking in the tech industry, so had connections to a mentor or two too.

The early stage of MentorCruise was cold emailing, lots and lots of cold emailing. I ended up with a mailing list of roughly 100 interested mentors (spoiler – only 15-20 ended up joining).

This was challenging because while I was building MentorCruise, I was also trying to keep up with my studies and also had my big tech internship going on, where I had to commute for three hours every day. MentorCruise was born during late nights and weekends, while I was keeping up a salary and a career.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

MentorCruise is all digital. I had skills as a web developer and had built some larger web apps before. But being able to code does not equal building a product.

I was a solid engineer, but the scope and designs of the things I’ve built usually came from elsewhere. It ended up taking years to build some intuition about this.

So, mistakes have been made. For example, I’ve built the project on my commute and weekends, which led to many shortcuts being taken in UX.



I’ve also had this imagination of how the project would have to look like – obviously, it would need a chat, and a scheduling suite to make the meetings happen. It would need tasks to track your progress, and mentors should be able to take notes!

My MVP was feature-rich and way over the top. Since then, I’ve read books like “The Lean Startup” and “Hooked” and would design a product like this a lot leaner and focused on different things.

Describe the process of launching the business.

As already mentioned, prior to launch I typed thousands of cold messages and DMs. I would contact people I look up to, to see if they’d be open to getting listed as a mentor. I would give people demos of what I would build and slowly but surely, built that email list of roughly 100 mentors.

A week before launch, I got the final opt-in from mentors, got them listed on the platform, and hit the launch button! We launched on ProductHunt in March 2018, with a whopping 20 upvotes and 10 mentors, it wasn’t as spectacular as imagined.

But MentorCruise was lean and default alive, so I wasn’t too worried. I still held my internship and finally got hired for my first-ever full-time job at a startup in the Bay Area. Over the years, this has paid my bills as MentorCruise was coming along.

Raise your prices. You might lose some of your customers, but you will gain new, and usually better ones.

One thing was clear – the ride with MentorCruise would be a long one. I underestimated just how much work it would be to get the MVP out. Of course, I focused on many wrong things, but even then, with MentorCruise being a marketplace, figuring out all the payment system details, onboarding, and chat systems already took a long while and had to be redone multiple times over the years. Of course then also our pricing was way off – a lot of things I didn’t expect and would have focused on sooner.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As a marketplace, MentorCruise always had a certain level of virality and word of mouth built in. This was only accelerated when many of the mentors that joined were prominent members of the industry.

Once their networks would find out that they were available as a mentor, we got some more traffic and first bookings through the website. Certainly no game changer – in our first month we made $37.

I had a solid background as a technical writer. So the first real traction channel that opened up was content marketing and SEO. I simply started blogging through my own product, which led to some first backlinks and visitors from other sources, like Reddit.

I realized that SEO would become and stay a great channel for us, so I invested more time into it, wrote more blog posts, and created more landing pages.


Later, we started working with content agencies in the space, allowing us to publish almost daily. We also got the help of our mentoring community to write more helpful posts. Today, SEO is our top channel.


With word of mouth and SEO, we were able to grow in a nice way. Today, there are more channels that play a role, but these two remain the biggest.

One mistake we made early on is that we charged small prices at a one-off and weekly subscription scheme. The billing cycle was not long enough to justify staying with a mentor and things could be pretty stressful.

We later raised our prices by more than double and went to a more standard monthly billing cycle, which was a game changer for retention and our revenue. This was early 2020 when we did that change, and our MRR has risen from $600 to $4,200 in the next few months.

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

MentorCruise is default alive, we’re currently sitting around $24k MRR and are processing beyond $1M every year for our mentors while maintaining our small team of 5 across four different continents.

Most of our traffic and sales are still from organic sources. We receive over 100,000 visitors every month from Google Search and have a sizeable email list and social media following on top of that.

Only this year, we also started investing in paid ads through Meta and Google. We’re currently spending $1,000 per month on these and are usually around break-even, with lots of potential to push further.

One big theme for us in 2023 is going to be B2B. It’s no wonder that after 4 years in business, not only consumers see the power of having a mentor, but also their employers. We’ve started having some traction on collaborations in the B2B space and I think it’ll just grow bigger next year, with the employment markets being as harsh as ever.

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

If I could point towards three things I would have loved to know earlier, it would’ve been this:

You should raise your prices. You might lose some of your customers, but you will gain new, and usually better ones. The early customers of MentorCruise were mostly students and self-taught engineers. We charged between $20 and $40 per week.

Today, we’re doing mentorship for employees and talented individuals, looking to push their careers to the next level. They are customers whose 1-on-1 mentorship can make a huge difference.

And then, pick your markets wisely. MentorCruise stayed under $1,000 MRR for an excruciatingly long time. The business became viable when Covid hit, many needed to solidify their skills or do a career change and the market turned from the employees into the employer’s favor.

Lastly, find a productivity system that works for you. Running a business is no joke and needs your top performance. I could not even dream of doing this, without having some boundaries and a productive to-do list.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our platform is custom built. We use Stripe for payment processing and Stripe Connect for sending payments all around the world.

A large part of our success in SEO has been our collaboration with Embarque. We’re entering our third year with them and their content is the one pulling in the big numbers.

Some more recent acquisitions for us have been Help Scout, Spark, Dovetail, Loom and the Notion team plan. All best-in-class tools will severely outrank their competition.

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

Two books that I recommend most people to read early in their startup journey: Built to Sell and Mom Test.

Mom Test is almost required reading, essentially a framework to stop getting fooled and turned in the wrong direction when pitching your startup.

Built to Sell is all about creating a business that can survive without you. My goal is always to create less repetitive and non-creative work for myself and this book is all about that.

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

All I can say is: start doing it!

There’s this concept of being a “wantrepreneur”, just waiting for the right idea or the right book to come along. There’s no such thing, and simply nothing that can prepare you for the life of running your own business.

Start with a small project today, don’t let your skills stop you. If you can’t code, then use no-code tools like Zapier. If you aren’t very good with computers, try to flip some items from flea markets on eBay, or trade sneakers.

There’s no secret sauce, other than going out there and doing it!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re looking for a backend or full-stack developer well-versed in Django at the moment. If you’re a creative coder with some knowledge of Django, come join us! Send an email.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!