On the up · 20 August 2018

Pushfar founder and school drop-out proves you can succeed without A-Levels

Ed Johnson – Pushfar

Pushfar is a new platform to help students and professionals to go further with opportunities for networking, mentoring and career progression.

24-year-old Ed Johnson, co-founder and CEO of PushFar came up with the idea after struggling to search for a mentor.

Pushfar helps students and graduates in discovering relevant and engaging careers. After individuals secure a position, Pushfar will look at how menotring can help them climb the career ladder and make the most of their roles.

As part of our Young Entrepreneurs series, Business Advice caught up with Johnson to find out more about his business and how he struggles to “switch off.”

What inspired you to start your own business?

Having worked in the technology sector since I dropped out of school, mid-way through my A Levels, I have always been fascinated by business, networking and technology.

Securing my first job by asking for it in a tweet to the CEO of a global digital advertising agency showed me the power of social networking.

At the same time, late last year I began to feel I was losing direction and that a mentor would be a very beneficial support. Realising that finding a mentor was more challenging than it should be, I began to explore the creation of PushFar.

What are the barriers to starting your own business as a young person?

I think the biggest barrier is finance. Having the ideas is one thing, but the execution is always a challenge. Convincing investors to back your concept in its infancy takes a lot of hard work, late nights and early mornings.

Second to finance, the barrier of legal jargon, accounting insight and additional unknowns is daunting. You realise that you are constantly learning new things, which is great, but it is all very far from any form of a comfort zone.

How did you fund your business?

We went out and spoke with a substantial number of investors. Having private angel investors backing us was essential, because to build PushFar we have six months of full-time development work to get through, before we reach the revenue generation phase. So, investment and funding were vital.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that literally hundreds of individuals have seen our business plan. There’s a lot of rejection but when a prospective investor comes back with a ‘yes’ it’s a fantastic confidence boost.

What do you think the younger generation can bring to the business world?

Insight, undoubtedly, into the future. Younger generations are always ahead of the game when it comes to networks, technology and being able to predict market gaps. If you look at the CEOs and founders of the most innovative new companies, they all seem to be pretty young.

The younger generation have a challenging road ahead. Older generations have been more fortunate in growing up in less connected and less competitive markets but with everyone on the same page with globalisation things are getting trickier. That said, challenges are good and unlock further innovation.

Will you ever work a 9-5 job?

Never say never. I have done and from time to time I consider it but realistically, I love where I am with PushFar. I’m an early bird and can often be found in our co-working office space at 5am, hacking away on the keyboard and planning the roadmap.

I’m sure in ten years’ time the concept of a 9-5 job will be far diminished more generally too. With technology, we are all working at whichever times suit us best.

I used to manage a team at a previous role and I’ve always believed that if the work gets done, it shouldn’t matter which hours people work. It’s the effort put in and the efficiency of time spent, more than set hours.

Is a degree a necessity?

Sure, if you want to be a doctor. For most people? Definitely not. I don’t have one.

What tips do you have for other young people wanting to start their own business?

Don’t start a business for the sake of starting a business. If you come across a problem that there genuinely isn’t a solution to, then consider starting a business.

A lot of people know like the idea of being an ‘entrepreneur’ – it’s seen as a lifestyle, far more than a job. Don’t become an entrepreneur if you want to make a lot of money or take an easy route. It won’t happen.

If I had pursued a more conventional route with a fixed salary and a job I would be earning more than triple what I currently earn – and it’s unstable at the best of times.

Be sure you are committed, willing to put in the long hours and as much of a cliché as it may seem, do something you love.

Who is your celebrity icon?

I seriously admire Tom Blomfield. Perhaps not yet a ‘celebrity’ but as the CEO of Monzo, he’s fast becoming a more well-known figure. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear him talk at a couple of different conferences and he’s doing a brilliant job. Certainly, he’s inspiring.

What app do you use the most?

Email or WhatsApp – and I use them both for work too.

Where do you see yourself at 50?

Ask me at 49. That’s so hard to say. I would love to be in a position of being able to retire but I don’t think I ever will. I love work too much to ever consider slowing down – and I’ve never been very good at ‘switching off’.

What song should be your life anthem?

I love Broken Arrows by Avicii – I’m not sure it’s necessarily my life anthem but I listen to it a lot and the message behind it is all about picking yourself up from failures.

Being an entrepreneur, there are always failures. You get used to learning from them and must keep picking yourself up. I’m pretty good at it now.

Netflix or night out?

Night out – always. As I mentioned, I’m terrible at switching off and I know that if I watch Netflix I’ll pretty quickly minimise it and go back to emails, my work to-do list and end up missing most of the film. I’ve tried it a few times and it just never works!

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

Business development