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Founder Stories Feb 1, 2019 5 min read

Meet Pushfar, the startup transforming professional networking

Noelle
Noelle Baquiche

We caught up with Ed Johnson, founder of Pushfar, which aims to revolutionise professional networking, mentorship and career progression. Pushfar recently closed its funding round on SeedLegals, and plans to launch its platform in early in 2019.

What does PushFar do?

PushFar is a mentoring and
career progression platform; helping students, graduates and professionals to
get ahead and climb the professional ladder. We help match mentors and mentees
and once an individual is mentoring or being mentored, our platform
intelligently suggests activities, events, opportunities and people to network
with – all of which can further assist career progression.

What made you start PushFar?

At first it was a personal
need and a problem that I had identified – I was struggling to find a mentor to
guide me through my career. Then, after several conversations with other
professionals and students, it became apparent that there was a bigger market
opportunity. The question to ask is, where can one go to find a mentor? And
there are limited options. In large companies, there are often mentoring
programmes. However, these are often limited in their approach, under utilised
and traditionally resource-heavy on HR departments. If you are not part of a
larger organisation, then there’s nowhere, aside from networking. Additionally,
where do you go for guidance in career progression? Again, there are
limitations. On the flip-side, if you have a wealth of knowledge and insight
into a company, a role or an industry, where can you go to find people
interested in learning from you? Once again, the spaces are few and far
between. That’s when I realised that a platform needed to be built.

What funding have you received so far?

We’ve received SEIS investments
from several angel investors. This has allowed us to fully focus on technical
platform development, planning, business development and marketing. There was a
time when we thought we would try to get to launch without the investment, but
we realised that it would take far too long, only spending our evenings and
weekends on it – there’s so much development work going into our platform and
having the investment was really the only effective way in which we could get
to where we needed to. We can now put the time into PushFar that the product
really deserves.

Don’t settle for the wrong investors – It’s not worth the pain, time and money it will cost you further down the line.”

How did you find your investors, and were they angels or VCs?

At this stage, our investors
are angels. Though, we are in talks already with several VCs and already
planning out our next investment-round. We’re by no-means in the position yet
to accept VC funding, but having initial conversations is always a good thing.
From experience, closing investment rounds often takes twice as long as
expected. We found our first investors through personal connections, contacts
and networking. There was a lot of networking in the six months leading up to
closing our first investment round. All-in-all, I reckon I met with close to
100 prospective investors. It’s always an exciting time but there is a lot of
pressure to get it right.

Do you think they invested in the concept, the product, the founders,
or the team?

I would like to think that our
investors backed us for all those reasons, combined. We have an MVP and the
concept is strong. I’m also fortunate to be working with an amazing team. Our
co-founder and CTO, Gabriel, is an incredibly talented developer. This is a
great advantage when it comes to building a technology-focused business.
Previously, I’ve worked with freelance developers and agencies, with mixed
results. Having in-house technical experience is just a breath of fresh air!

Any advice for the perfect pitch deck?

I don’t think there’s such a
thing as a perfect pitch deck – it’s a constant evolution. I know we’ve
adapted, tweaked and amended our deck dozens of times, this month alone. Each
investor is unique and will engage differently. I would absolutely recommend
tailoring it, where possible, to each investor and investment firm. Some might
be more engaged with the data, while others are more interested in the customer
marketing plan. Always think about what could help you to stand-out for them.
As for more general advice – be bold but be realistic. There are so many pitch
decks floating around talking about global domination, billion-dollar
valuations and mass-market appeal. While it’s fantastic to aim-high, don’t be
unrealistic about aims for the first year or two. Secondly, don’t
overcomplicate things. Break it down into bite sized chunks, grab attention and
convey the bare essentials. Adding fancy graphs and essays is often not
necessary.

What was the hardest thing about raising funding?

It used to be the paperwork.
SeedLegals seems to have fixed that though. So, now it’s probably that feeling
of complete uncertainty, while going through it. There were days when I woke up
wondering if we would ever close our investment round and reach the investment
levels we needed to. It’s a cliché, but that rejection can be really tough. The
important thing is to keep going and not lose sight of the targets and goals.
At the same time, listen to the answers investors are giving you. Ask them why
they aren’t investing and use that to learn to improve your pitch, your
proposition, your product and your end-goals.

If there were three pieces of fundraising advice you could give other
founders, what would they be?

·
Don’t
settle for the wrong investors –
It’s not worth the pain, time and money it
will cost you further down the line. It’s really easy, particularly in the
early stages, when you’re raising funds to say ‘yes’ to any investor who wants
to back you. Work out what each investor will bring to the table and ask them
to be straight with you about why they want to invest. Sometimes, an investor’s
objectives simply won’t match yours.

·
Make sure
you’re all reading from the same page –
It’s so important that all
founders, team members, investors and prospective investors ‘get it’. Having
the same vision for a venture may seem obvious, but it’s extremely easy for any
company to have a number of different routes to market, product opportunities
and marketing strategies. Make sure they are aligned as much of the time as
possible, but particularly when you’re going out and fundraising.

·
Don’t
worry about rejection –
Yes, it’s another cliché but it’s so true and
exceedingly easy to let get to you. I know I’ve felt downhearted at times
during our most recent fundraising round. You are highly unlikely to avoid
rejection 100% of the time. Don’t take it personally and don’t let it impact
your confidence.

What are the main benefits of using platforms like SeedLegals vs.
traditional startup lawyers?

Money, unnecessary complexity
and paperwork. SeedLegals have made this investment round far easier than
lawyers I’ve previously worked with. They are cost-effective for a start-up and
the platform takes the headache out of things. The support I’ve received has
been brilliant too.

What’s next on the horizon for PushFar?

Launching! We’re three months
into our six-month development phase and then we go to market early next year.
The conversations we are already having with a wide range of businesses,
universities and charities is hugely exciting. Now I can’t wait to see (and
indeed use) PushFar.

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