Sometimes, adversity breeds success. At the height of the global Covid-19 crisis, product designer and tech sector entrepreneur Felix Lee feared for the prospects of his designer colleagues around the world; today, the platform he launched to help designers support one another is unveiling a $1.3m fund-raising round as it continues to build out its global mentoring services.
ADPList was born out of the pandemic. On its launch last year, Lee and co-founder James Baduor simply wanted to do something to support the design community, as talented people around the globe found themselves out of a job. Their idea initially was to set up a list of people prepared to offer support and advice to fellow designers struggling during the Covid-19 crisis.
Very quickly, however, Lee and Baduor spotted that one tab on the spreadsheet they had created was getting far more attention than any other. More often than not, designers accessing their list were looking for mentoring services. And from there, the duo saw an opportunity to turn their idea into an enduring business – Amazing Design People List, or ADPList for short.
Today, what began as a means for designers to provide peer support, share career opportunities and offer mentorship, has organically grown into a platform featuring 2,500 mentors who are providing more than 5,000 booked sessions a month. Some 20,500 mentees have signed up for the support.
“We started ADPList during the height of the pandemic, and the success of the platform has since shown us that there is a global network of people ready to connect and provide support for others in their communities,” says Lee.
“The evolution of ADPList today continues to build on the belief that every mentor’s voice can transform people’s career anxiety to agency, and our platform provides them with an entirely new, accessible and engaging way to do so.”
The premise is a simple one. ADPList provides instant, one-click access to a global network of mentors who have signed up to provide their time and wisdom to others in the design industry. The online nature of the service means geography is no barrier – designers can seek advice from mentors based anywhere in the world. Already, mentors working at companies including Spotify, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, Nike, Netflix, Twitch and Coinbase have signed up to take part.
Mentors themselves indicate their availability on a shared calendar for mentees to select and schedule virtual sessions. Video calls are conducted within the platform along with feedback and ratings after each session. Beyond one-on-one mentoring, the platform also offers small group mentoring, townhall-style talks and other formats.
Michael Tam, global design director at IBM iX, says signing up as a mentor on the platform has been an enriching experience. “From the first moment I started mentoring with ADPList, I knew it was more than an act of passing on knowledge,” he says.
“After clocking up more than 6,000 minutes across 10 time zones with over 100 mentees from more than 15 different counties, I can tell you one thing for sure: every session is a unique exchange of our lives, our stories and our dreams.”
Now ADPList’s founders are ready to take the platform to the next level, building out their business model and commercialising the service – they also see potential to expand the platform beyond the design community into other professions. Lee and Baduor have secured their first external funding, with $1.3m of support from Surge, a rapid scale-up program run by Sequoia Capital India for start-ups in India and Southeast Asia.
Lee sees a golden opportunity. “At present, there is no shared platform that makes cross-border mentoring easy, or offers a global network of mentors with different skill sets and at different levels,” he says. “In the current creator economy, people are keen to share, support and teach others.”