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How to Build a Successful Mentoring Platform

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

How to Build a Successful Mentoring Platform

In an era where mentoring and career progression are key to professional success, we delve into the mind of Ed Johnson, co-founder & CEO of PushFar. Ed’s journey from concept to realization has revolutionized the way professionals connect, learn, and grow.

Join us as we uncover the insights, challenges, and triumphs of this entrepreneur and explore how PushFar is shaping the future of mentoring and professional development. Read on to discover how one man’s idea is transforming the landscape of career advancement and mentoring.

Technology startup entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of PushFar Edward Johnson photographed at his London home. The platform PushFar helps individuals and organisations with mentoring, career progression, and effective employee engagement. 04 November 2023 Photographer: Rii Schroer

Origin and Inspiration

SBS – What motivated you to start PushFar, and how did your personal experience influence its development?

Ed – I was at a point in my career where I felt rather lost. I was looking for some sense of direction, someone to hold me accountable to my goals and objectives, and, ultimately, someone to help me navigate career progression. It was through that period that I realised what I needed was a mentor and started to explore what individuals and organisations were doing in the way of mentoring. There seemed to be so little in the way of support, so alongside my co-founder, we began to build PushFar through a sense of personal need and industry need.

Challenges and Solutions

SBS – What were the biggest challenges you faced while developing PushFar, and how did you overcome them?

Ed – Undoubtedly, when starting, the biggest challenge was the unknown. So many entrepreneurs have seemingly good ideas, but until they are built and the hard-work started, one doesn’t really know how they’ll be received. For us, the big challenge was building something that people wanted, whilst at the same time trying to build awareness of it. My co-founder and I approached and overcame this challenge by spending time talking about the business and platform before it had been built and developing it with the insights that those we were speaking to had. It meant we could build the platform we knew people wanted rather than building a platform we thought people wanted and then having to iterate it along the way.

Target Audience

SBS – Who is your primary target audience, and how did you identify this group as your main focus?

Ed – We’re really fortunate at PushFar to have an extremely broad audience. Anybody of career age who is looking for a mentor or would like to volunteer to mentor others can access our open network. Then we also work with any organisation that has 500+ employees to support them with mentoring programmes. We’re big believers in the reality that everyone can benefit from mentoring.

Unique Features

SBS – What sets PushFar apart from other mentoring and career progression platforms?

Ed – We’re the only platform that offers both an individual and organisational solution to mentoring. The bridge between the two, we see, as vital. It enables us to be one step ahead when it comes to innovating, market research on mentoring, and spotting mentoring trends along the way.

Technology and Innovation

SBS – How have you integrated the latest technologies to enhance user experience and effectiveness in mentor matching?

Ed – We’ve built our platform from the ground up but undoubtedly now have a number of integrations that clients require. We mainly focus on these from a B2B perspective, so the standard integrations requested include those for Outlook and Teams, Zoom, and Single Sign-On. We have also built an Open API to make the data exports and imports easier for clients. With regards to the matching, we try not to overcomplicate this. We focus primarily on the user’s wants and needs, combined with where a mentor says they have experience.

User Engagement

SBS – What strategies do you use to keep both mentors and mentees engaged and active on the platform?

Ed – We look at a number of different factors and elements to this. For the most part, we engage with them through education about the benefits of the platform. It is important that people understand that mentoring, much like anything else, is a commitment. It isn’t a big time commitment, but 1–2 hours per mentee per month is what we recommend. PushFar can actually help save considerable time, and making people aware of this and the value of structure around a mentorship is one way that we keep engagement levels up. We also use trigger communications based on certain action points and offer a resources library of now 400+ articles, e-books and video guides.

Feedback and Improvement

SBS – How do you incorporate user feedback into your platform’s development and improvement?

Ed – We have a running Trello board with agile deployments and development based on client requests, ease of use, impact on all clients, and a number of other factors that come into play here. We try to take every client’s feedback on board, but undoubtedly, there are times when there are conflicting requests, and we have to take a view based on what is going to be most valuable to most clients.

Ed Johnson and Gabriel Sirbu, Co-Founder & CTO

Business Model

SBS – Can you explain your business model, especially how PushFar remains free for individuals?

Ed – At PushFar, offering a free, open, and voluntary mentoring network has always been a big priority for us. We truly believe everyone should have access to mentoring, and keeping this free makes total sense. It also ensures that the mentoring is done with the right intentions. When adding payment structures or plans into mentoring, the mentoring no longer becomes about the individual being mentored, there are factors at play that can change the dynamics of it. So, free mentoring for individuals is vital. We can provide this by generating revenue through corporate contracts. We licence our technology to organisations of all shapes and sizes looking for a mentoring solution for their own employees, members, or students.

Success Stories

SBS – Could you share some success stories or significant achievements from users of PushFar?

Ed – There are so many that it’s hard to pick specifics. We hear from mentees every month who’ve either found the job they were looking for, had success with career progression in the form of promotions or increased responsibilities, and entrepreneurs who’ve managed to make a success from their career with the support of a mentor. For us, personally, one of our big achievements was reaching over 1.5 million hours of mentoring logged through PushFar. It’s hard to comprehend such a number, but it’s really exciting to see that and know that this is happening.

Future Plans

SBS – What future developments or expansions are you planning for PushFar?

Ed – We’ve got lots of ideas that we’re working on and plans to expand at the moment. We’re looking at how we offer more functionality, each and every day, combined with also streamlining the mentor and mentee journey with various steps along the way. From a business perspective, we’ve doubled in size with a completely new sales team having joined us in the last 6 months, so I am confident this will see some fantastic results in 2024 and beyond.

Entrepreneurial Advice

SBS – What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to create a tech-based platform?

Ed – Focus on a specific idea or problem you’d like to solve. As easy as it is to become distracted trying to fix lots of different problems, focusing on one specific challenge or problem and a solution to it is important. Don’t underestimate the time and dedication required to start a business or build a tech platform. Some people imagine it as a case of building something, launching it, and then growing revenue overnight. It takes a huge amount of hard work, if you’re offering your product internationally then get used to late nights and early mornings too. I’m a big believer in 5am club early mornings and used this to ensure I was always proactive rather than reactive.

Industry Trends

SBS – How do you stay ahead of industry trends in online mentoring and career development?

Ed – We speak to our clients, customers, and end-users each and every day. Constant communication, a genuine interest in what we’re providing, and the end results of that are so important. Looking at the data and analytics is undoubtedly important. However, in the case of something so personal as careers, mentoring, and professional development, we really need to understand how people find what we deliver, what they see in the industry, and any trends that they might be aware of.

Community Impact

SBS – How does PushFar contribute to the broader community, and what impact has it had on professional networking and development?

Ed – By offering the world’s largest voluntary network of mentors and mentees, our community efforts are significant. I genuinely believe that the more people who are involved in mentoring, the better we can all become, the more support we can provide one another, the happier the workplace will be. I’d like to think we’ve had a massive impact on professional networking and development and know from all the feedback we receive that we’ve genuinely helped people to form connections with mentors who have ensured people have secured jobs, gained promotions, taken different career paths and achieved success, as a result of PushFar.


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How to Build a Successful Mentoring Platform