Felix Lee

CEO of ADPList

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From a Spreadsheet to a Global Network for Mentorship

Two years ago, “two kids, one from Singapore and the other one from Africa” left their jobs to set up a company. It all began with a single spreadsheet and their obsession to build a product that people really need.

Today, their venture, ADPList, has over 15,000 mentors and hundreds of thousands of users, helping people all around the world find the right mentor. ADPList is transforming the way we think about mentorship – “we’re all learners,” says its co-founder and CEO, Lee Felix. They have been growing so phenomenally well that they managed to raise funding from Sequoia Capital.

Coming from a modest family, Felix says that “these things don’t usually happen to people like me.” Well, I say – these things should happen exactly to people like you, Felix! His work ethic is rarely found, and at only 25, he has a more mature outlook on life than most 40-year-olds I know.

In this episode, Felix shares with me:

  • His personal story and the childhood experiences that shaped him as a person.
  • Why he started ADPList and what the early signs were that he was onto something big.
  • His early acquisition strategy and the things he did exceptionally well helped him grow in the early days (he got deals with Slack, Figma, etc.).
  • Why he thinks his design background had a great impact on ADPList’s growth.
  • What happened when he tried to introduce payment (spoiler: it was met with a bad backlash).
  • The different monetization strategies he will be exploring in the near future.
  • The importance of mentorship and what to do if you’re unsure how to approach a person you’d like to be your mentor.

You can find Felix on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Check out and sign up for ADPList here (it’s free!)


Please note this transcript is automated

Desi Velikova 00:00

Hi, everybody. Today I’m speaking with Felix Lee, a remarkable young entrepreneur who took his company from a simple spreadsheet to mobile network for mentorship with hundreds of 1000s of users in just two years. At only 25, Felix has already sold his first startup, and has raised funding from Sequoia Capital for his second venture. On top of that, he’s a designer, which always makes the conversation a little bit more interesting for me enjoyed this episode. And don’t forget to subscribe to our channels wherever you’re watching.

Desi Velikova 00:52

It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Felix. You’re the founder and CEO of ADP list, a global network for mentorship that you found it in 2021. And that has been growing phenomenally since then. But before we dive deeper into your entrepreneurial journey, I want to find out a little bit more about the person behind the company. I have this belief that startups often mirror the personality of their founders. And this is especially valid when we talk about young enterpreneurs like yourself, whose business idea was probably largely driven by your passion and your interests. I have a contact on LinkedIn. And I really enjoy your daily updates that exude so much enthusiasm and optimism and kindness. And I will say even this kind of unusually mature outlook on life for someone who just 25 years old, really. So tell me a little bit more about your upbringing. And the person behind the CEO.

Felix Lee 01:57

Of course, thank you so much for having me, Desi. So for everyone listening, my name is Felix and I am the co founder and CEO here at ADP list. And our mission is to democratise mentorship for all so that the world can have a fast start in their career and get the resources and learnings that they need. So, you know, I will begin with a little bit on myself, you know, and how, you know, we came, I came to where he is today, as well as the CEO. You know, I the way that I would describe my, my upbringing is a really, you know, unorthodox but also very, very much like an underdog underrated story. In many ways, you know, I grew up in a low income family here in Singapore, where, you know, my parents do not work in corporate environment, they have a little small bakery of them of their own, where they sell breads. And I remember, you know, just as a child, every weekend, and every weekdays after school, I would go there and, you know, help my grandparents who are also working there, you know, just sell the bread to customers who are walking around, and there’s like, this really my childhood, right, and it’s really so different from watching TVs, or playing toys. And, and I really enjoyed that process, you know, I even have blocks, you know, that I still keep today that I wrote at the age of six, seven years old, about, you know, selling these breads and experience behind them. And when you look at that, you know, it’s one of those stories where it’s like, you know, it shapes you as a as a, as an entrepreneur. And so, you know, growing up, it was always an environment. So, fast forward, you know, I enrolled into Polytechnic, which is like a high school sort of here in Singapore, and, you know, I majored in there in Polytechnic, a, you know, in engineering, so I was an engineering student. And, you know, I went to engineering because I thought that Steve Jobs was an engineer, right? The funny story was that I thought that Steve Jobs was an engineer. And later, you know, I sort of found out that he wasn’t an engineer, he was a designer of sorts, or he just like this mastermind, right. And so I sort of regretted my decision, but, you know, I was a pretty good student there. And, you know, before that, I, while I was studying in high school before this, you know, I graduated from school, and one of the things about just means that, you know, people have always looked at my life as someone who is like, you know, can he really do this? Right, like, a lot of questions around a lot of doubts around that. And so, why is, you know, why

Desi Velikova 04:34

do you think that people had doubts,

Felix Lee 04:36

you know, I think, just like, it’s like, you just don’t look like you know, like, the pot, right? You just look at everyone else kind of thing. And also, because you just don’t come from the right. Background, right. The fact is that, you know, I’m not even supposed to be here, right? You know, these things don’t happen to you know, my story don’t happen to people like me very often. And so You know, just I remember that at the age of 15. And we had to take an important exam in at 16 years old in order to go to Polytechnic. You know, my score was like, pretty bad. And my teacher just came to me and be, like, you know, if you don’t get serious about your studies, you’re just going to, you know, not do well in this exam. And for me, you know, I, you know, there was, there’s always a few few amazing things that I admire, which is, you know, like, I’m extremely, extremely competitive. And so everything that I do, I want to be the best at it, like, literally, you know, that’s just my mindset. And that was when I was 15. And by the time I was 16, I had to take the exam, you know, I, for that entire year, I worked my, you know, I just worked so hard. And, you know, at the exam, you know, after the exams, we got our results. And, you know, I was the top scorer in the school, you know, probably almost perfecting the entire score, right. And I went to one of the better schools in Singapore, and I was offered a scholarship in Singapore, to be an engineering student. And so, you know, just a kid who doesn’t really study and just suddenly gets to the top of the ranking is unusual. Right. And so that’s, that’s the first thing that happened in my life. And, you know, and the reason why I’m sharing all these things, and you’ll see is just because, you know, I’m trying to say that, you know, these stories are really underdog stories, right? Like, you never expect this to happen. And so, the next one, you know, when I was in school, you know, I, I was playing a lot of spots, right, I was playing a lot of sports and our sports person, I was very, very much into skating, like rollerblading, right. And so, I became pretty good at it, right. But it was a really expensive sport, you know, like, my parents just couldn’t afford that kind of sports. So, you know, every single wheel was $8, and you have like, eight wheels. And so that’s really expensive, and you have to keep changing them. And, you know, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that, you know, and what I would do is to actually take used wheels from people, right, I would, I would take the wheels that they do not want any more, there’s just a trend. And Michael, and me and my brother, you know, our goal was, you know, to be the best at that, you know, we’re just extremely competitive in nature, we have to be at the best at what we do. And so, you know, we join a lot of tournaments, we had no sponsors, you were just, you know, kids without that, shoes and whatnot. And eventually, you know, long story short, eventually, we, we made it into the national team to represent Singapore, on an international stage. And, you know, we were one of the best views in the whole country. And, you know, from how did your parents support this? Yeah, I mean, they were supportive morally, and financially, a little bit hard for them at a time. So, you know, I could understand, and I remember, back then I was, like, 17, or 18 years old. And, you know, I was still in my studying zone as well. So I was balancing a lot of things. But, you know, it was such a story where I remember for the rest of my life, because, you know, just getting there was an easy, you know, as you would read a lot about a lot of sports stories, you know, mine is, you know, pretty similar. It’s one of those things. And after, you know, like sports, you know, I played that sports for about four years, and I decided, you know, okay, this is it, about three years, and somewhere around the timeline as well, I decided to start my first startup. And for me, you know, literally, I could tell literally, no one in the school believed in what I was trying to do. You know,

Desi Velikova 08:36

what was your first startup, it was

Felix Lee 08:39

a travel tech startup where we help people to plan itinerary. So it’s a platform where you can plan your itinerary, you know, automatically. So no one believed in that, you know, like, there was no investors like investors. I remember, there was this brutal night where we went to a pitch competition, and a investor literally stopped us in the middle of the pitch in front of everyone, and just, like, shut that idea down. You know, it’s like, what makes you think you can do this, you know, who do you think you are? and everything like that? You know, it’s, it’s extremely brutal looking back, you know, I wouldn’t do that. I don’t think anyone should. But, um, you know, we got through that. And eventually, you know, the company was acquired, you know, by the beef, even before the time I graduated from school. So, you know, I had my first company acquired while I was still a student. And, you know, that was the first time that ever happened to any students in the school. Right, it was a big thing. So I became the valedictorian. I became the graduate speaker for my year of graduation because of that. There’s a lot of people to thank for that. And, you know, and then this is the third story, right? Besides the academic and sports, you know, it is a story that is like, you know, it just it just a lot of grit there and I remember, you know, today’s my dad’s birthday. And so, you know, I was reflecting back and, you know, one of the things that, you know, he supported me and my brother was that, you know, he gave us a $5,000 bank transfer to start our first company. And I can never really forget that, you know, it’s, you know, you know, some, some, some debt with right, maybe find $1,000 of check, you know, or whatever, you know, out that have $5,000, you know, that he could spare. And so that’s what we got. And, you know, you know, without that much resource, we, we made it out, right, we made it out there. And so, you know, there was, there was a third story. And, to me, you know, these three are intertwined. And finally, you know, starting ADPs, in 2021, you know, and today, so global, were funded by Sequoia Capital search, which is one of the best, you know, venture capital firms in the world. I look at the founders who are funded by Sequoia, and then you look at that, you say, like, you know, they’re all, they’re all, you know, really experienced people, they’re all like, you know, they go to good schools, whether in India, or in the US, and, and, you know, sometimes you look at that you’re like, wow, like, man, like I didn’t drop out from, I didn’t drop out from Harvard, like, in fact, I have not even been to university at all, like, I’m not a college graduate, I do not have a university degree. And so, you know, which is why I’m sharing my story here in this introduction, just because, you know, things like that stories like these don’t, they don’t happen for people by like, like, for me, for people like me very often, you know, it just doesn’t end. You know, it’s one of those motivations, what keeps me going every day, you know, that, if at police can be successful, and, you know, someday, some kid looking at this podcast, might be inspired to do the same. So yeah, that’s my story.

Desi Velikova 11:57

I think from what you just share, it is amazing, you know, how much support your family could give. And it’s not just about the money, sometimes it’s not about the expensive University, it’s about having your parents believing in yourself and supporting you as much as you know, they can, and probably showing you this kind of work ethic from the early days, which I believe you probably inherited from them. Talk me through the aha moment, you know, the moment the idea of ADP lists for cure, and you’re like, Oh, my God, that’s probably gonna be my next venture. I think this is a fantastic idea. You do have such a moment? Or has it been like a gradual journey?

Felix Lee 12:41

Well, I think it’s pretty gradual. Right? ADP really started as a side project when I had a full time job, you know, so, obviously, I was, I was, I love my full time job, you know, I love my boss there and at police was started during the COVID, you know, pandemic. And for me, and James, it was just a way to support people in the industry and support people by, you know, bringing people together and say, hey, look, I can help by mentoring you, right? So it’s all of our support. So I never really would imagine myself in this in this space, or, you know, doing ad please, for full time job. And that is not until, you know, you started growing globally. And my boss came to me, because he sees that on LinkedIn, everyday, just like yourself. And he just asked me and said, Look, if you want to stay in my company, you got to pick one, it’s either my company work or your side project. Alright, if you do, if you do your side project, you got to leave the job. And so, you know, you know, like I say, you know, like, we didn’t have any funding back then. So it was a tough decision. Because, you know, as a 24 year old, you, you’re just starting out your career. And, you know, you thought you could do your side project, right. So what I did was that, I made a phone call to James and I told him, this is what happened. And my mind, in my mind, I was actually really confident that, you know, that I could walk away because of a few factors, right. The first one is that, you know, James is a really supportive co founder, and he was willing to do it as well. So that really helped, that I wasn’t taking the risk at home, obviously, there was someone who is willing to go all in. And the second thing, you know, was that coming from Southeast Asia, Singapore, where I’m from, there isn’t a single company, if I were to be honest, there just isn’t a single consumer company that is global. Right? If you look at Airbnb, WhatsApp, Instagram, and all these companies, they all come from Silicon Valley, right? And there are some amazing companies that come from the UK as well which is you know, why’s and whatnot, but there just isn’t a global company coming out from Southeast Asia. And I don’t understand why. And so, when ADP says this global, I said to myself, you know, I think sometimes greatness is trust is, is, you know, is given to you or is handed to you. Right. But sometimes greatness is trusted upon you. And I think that, you know, when I look at ad plays, I think that, you know, this responsibility is trusted unto us. And that, you know, to kid, one kid from Singapore, and the other kid from, from from Africa, you know, and this platform is so global. And if we can do something that made it, make it a successful venture, the whole world will see. And, you know, it isn’t about the money, it’s about a richness, but, you know, we could be the first company coming out from Southeast Asia and Africa that could be global, like never before. And, you know, there’s so much more meaning behind that. And so, I decided to leave my job, there was a very moment I knew I had to do it.

Desi Velikova 16:14

Right. So you decided to leave your job? Do you remember, you know, how big was ADP list at that time? And what do you do? In those very early days? What do you do? One? What do think you did? Right? And when I say Right, like exceptionally well, that helped to growing in the early days, because not many side projects take off like that, right? There must be something that you have been doing better than many other people.

Felix Lee 16:45

Yeah, you know, like, one of the things that, you know, we’re just so grateful for, is to be able to serve our community. And if I would point to one thing that we did exceptionally well was that we were very obsessed with making sure that the customers the community was served well, and they feel heard, and they were a big part of what we’re doing and building. And so I’ll give an example, every back then it was only 500 mentors to your question, when I left my job, it was only 500 Today’s like 14,000. So it grew a lot over the past one, two years. And, you know, in early days, and even up to today, so when I can, every single mentors that get approved, would get a personal LinkedIn message from me. And I don’t automate that I literally go to their profile, and say, Hey, I’m Felix, you’re just been approved, and I just want to welcome you. And, you know, that gives them a channel to say, Wow, if I’ve got any feedback or problems, Felix is here to solve for me, you know, he’s here. And also, I emailed every single users that join, I still do do it today. And when they have complaints, and when they are feedbacks, you know, we try to fix it as soon as possible, we try to fix it almost within the day, or even within a week itself to make sure that, you know, the things that result for them. And we were only 2% Back then, right. And so that really kept us in the momentum of like, well, we could do things fast and really support a lot of things and people. And that really got us really close. And people love our spirit. They love our ambition, they love our story. And they just started spreading the word, you know, it’s a good product, it’s a good platform for you to learn for you to learn from the best from you for you to mentor others as well. So they just started spreading the word. But I will say one thing is that, you know, being customer obsessed, is so so important that one thing that we did exceptionally exceptionally well, that I’m still very, very much addicted to today.

Desi Velikova 19:02

What about your early days acquisition strategy you to do? Anything? That is just awesome. Great. And yeah, different in terms of finding the right mentors, but also finding the early community members.

Felix Lee 19:17

Yeah, so you know, in terms of acquisition strategy, in in early days was 100%. Word of mouth today, it is still very much word of mouth. Anyone listening to this? Know that increases spending $0 on paid marketing toolkit,

Desi Velikova 19:33

which is absolutely mind blowing for a platform that’s got hundreds of 1000s of I still can’t believe it. It is so very likely

Felix Lee 19:40

to date onto today. We are not spending a single cent we don’t intend to spend a single cent until we are making a revenue or profit. And so we touched on that later. But, you know, in terms of acquisition strategy, you know, we really focus on delivering the best product the best experience. That’s one right like it wouldn’t sound tangible. at all to anyone who thinks that they’re a good founder on this call, I’ll tell you that to be honest. But that’s the difference between ADP and many different companies, is because we believe in certain things that really, really people don’t believe in. But it’s if you do it well, and you do exceptionally well, it works. And so customer obsession is one of the biggest things. The second thing for us was building good relationships and partnerships in the industry. You know, we build a lot of partnerships with slack with Facebook, you know, Salesforce, and so on and so forth, in early days, and so that allowed us to gain more attention as well, from more mature companies and then spreading across the industry. So that certainly helps. So I will say these two, probably, you know, our main acquisition strategy in early days.

Desi Velikova 20:50

How did you go about contacting companies like Slack and Facebook? I mean, you’re saying you’re just two young guys building your start? Yeah. So I can imagine there are hundreds of those people contacting them. Why did they pay attention to you?

Felix Lee 21:05

Of course, you know, Spectre, the first thing that I talked to you about customer obsession, right? A lot of their employees are on ADP list. So they get a good experience. They tell their boss about it. And they say, Hey, you know, why not do a partnership within you and my company, our link you guys up? And so that was a start, right? So a lot of things goes back to? Are you serving your community? Well? Right. And there’s no secret sauce, right? I didn’t go and CO DM like, 1000s of people, I genuinely didn’t do that. It was just like, hey, you know, look, we’re interested in this. And the mentors will really do refer us and that’s it. Right? They were, they were not just supporting the product as a user. They were supporting us as a partner. They were supporting us, as part of a movement to democratise mentorship. And that is a whole different ballgame is that ADP list is not a product to them. It is a movement, it is a brand? And I think that is exceptional.

Desi Velikova 22:08

Right? It was so it was a proper bottom up strategy, where you managed to onboard the right people from this organisation that got excited, really believed in your mission. And from there, you managed to spread the word, which I mean, it sounds, you know, it sounds the right way it is by the book, we just how many people actually do it right. And I heard you saying that, you know, you attribute a huge part of your early growth, to the fact that in the very early days, you focused on the design community, aka some ADP comes from amazing design people, right? So why is that? Why do you think you guys are such a special breed? And you know, me working at a design studio, I’m surrounded by designers, you know, I know, they’re amazing. But what is it about the design community that is so special, and you can help you?

Felix Lee 23:00

Well, I think, you know, when you want to think about studying something, I always say, you know, think of studying in a really niche space, right? You want to be niche about what you’re doing. And the reason for that. It’s just really because, you know, you, you want to be able to create atomic networks. And these atomic networks allow you to spread the networks even faster later on. Right. So that, you know, you could essentially solve a more coastal problem. And, you know, so design for us was the atomic network, right? It is a rather small group of people as compared to, you know, engineers or whatnot. And, you know, I’m a designer myself, so I understood the space, I understood the problem that we’re facing. And there was like, the right space for us, because we understood it well. It’s small enough. And, you know, there’s something that we could help us, right. And so we went into designs industry, and obviously, it helps that designers are a lot more empathetic as well, because it’s part of their daily processes. And designers are more willing to support each other when it comes to portfolio and resume because it’s, it’s not really that new of a concept to them in terms of portfolio review. So that became quickly became very normalised and popularised on the platform.

Desi Velikova 24:19

Do you think that the shift towards remote working had a significant role in the growth of ADP list the absence of in person interaction with mentors and more experienced individuals has really impacted opportunities for young people to learn through observation, or just really to seek informal advice and guidance when they need it? Do you think that the remote work revolution impacted ADP lists? trajectory?

Felix Lee 24:49

Yeah, I think you know, the way that I would look at it is two things. Right? The first is that because people are very comfortable with video calling, and zoom You know, it becomes a very natural thing where you are able to network and learn on Zoom and online. And so that really helped because of the COVID. I just can’t remember a time where I, where I would just continuously ask everyone out for coffee every day, you know, I didn’t even use Zoom back then unless the person was overseas. But now, you do that regardless. So that helps. The second thing is that, you know, because people were craving a lot of social interactions, right? When you’re isolated, you crave a lot social interaction, and that that really accelerated the growth as well, citing these two factors. And in fact, today, even as the world starts to open up, you know, 80, plus is still seeing record high numbers in terms of the sessions that are conducted every single month. And when you look at this, you know, there is a clear indication, it’s a clear data point that the world is changing, that people are now working very much hybrid, if not full remote, because no one ever wants to go back to, you know what it was before. And so, you know, that is why we’re still seeing record high numbers, because this is a lot of people who are adapting to the new, new normal, the new way the world works. And, you know, that certainly helps.

Desi Velikova 26:17

You know, I feel that execution is still so underrated when it comes to a new piece of digital products. People don’t tolerate messy glitchy products with painful UX anymore. Eyes user, if an app annoys me, I would just delete it straight away, I hate wasting my time to you know, to make something work. And the thing with ADP list is that it is so sleek, it is so well designed. And I would even say well behaved then it’s been like this, you know, for a very long time. At the moment, you have like the right amount of information that you need as a user even before you create an account. And like the whole UX is so smooth and so slick. It’s a pleasure to us. Do you believe that your design background has helped you in growing KDP lays? What’s the impact of you know, your design thinking there?

Felix Lee 27:18

100% As a designer, you really learn how to think with intention, right? Every word you speak. Every action you take is intended. But the more important thing when it comes to design is because there are a million things that you could design and talk about take action on. The important question is, what do you not do? What do you leave out intentionally? Right? Not unintentionally, but what do you purposely leave out? Not designed and not talking about? And I think that is the maniacally focus of designers and in fact, great product people, right is to know what don’t make it onto the table, as much as what did make it on the table is to know what one and don’t make it on the table. And so, for me, you know, when I look at that, as a designer, early days, our goal is this simple, you know, if we can just brief two person together on a simple website, our job is done. I don’t need fanciful logins. I don’t need fancy for sign ups or anything. If two person could just get a conversation, our job here is pretty much done. You know, the first version of eep least there was credit on an Excel spreadsheet, by the way you started from an Excel spreadsheet. Until today. When you look at the design, when you look at the interface is obviously different. But when you think a step deeper, the value is the same. It’s exactly the same. The spreadsheet connects you with someone who is willing to mentor you and who you want to be mentored by. And you just connect from there. Now ADP is just the same today, right? Just with better functions and better security and everything else. It is still here to connect you with someone who you want to get mentored by, and who would want to mentor you in a more easier, seamless experience. And so, if you look at a cross platform today, including let’s take an example of Airbnb. The first version of Airbnb in 2008 is about renting this, you know places to stay in terms of the value wise, right And today is still very much the same. It’s just that he has expanded a little bit in terms of the categories in terms of, you know, the functionalities, but the value remains the same very much after 10 or 12 years. And so, so a lot of things as designer is to know, from the very, very first day, what is your value? You know, what is your fit in the world? Where do you stand in the world? And for us, you know, we understood that very clearly. Because that’s exactly the problem that we want to solve in the world, which is, you know, to make sure that mentorship is accessible to everyone, you know, just as we did two years ago, just as we didn’t now and in the future.

Desi Velikova 30:39

Right. So let’s talk about mentorship. Now, so you’re speaking to someone who has never had a mentor in their life. And there are a number of reasons for this, right? So first, I’ve never been brave enough to approach someone I really kind of admire and ask them to be my mentor. Maybe there is like this sort of lack of confidence, am I worth their time? But then there is also the element of who they truly understand my needs, what kind of advice they would give me? Why would they really care? And I know of missing, I’ve been missing out. This is like a wrong mindset. So tell me, what would you say to people who are still hesitant about seeking mentors?

Felix Lee 31:24

You know, I think the way to tell those people is that it’s fine if you don’t have a mentor, but you’re probably just going to make a lot of mistakes that you could have avoided. And a lot of mistakes that you didn’t have to make it or do you didn’t have to do that. You could have done things in a more optimised way. You could have known why certain things are there in the first place, right? What is the reason behind it? Because before we think about innovating on something before we think about, well, if I don’t make these mistakes, I I never know, right? Before you think about all those things. History is always important, right? Knowing, knowing why it’s important, knowing why is there knowing why people do that. And why is it like this in industry, you can only get this from the mentors, you know, you can’t get this from the books from the videos. And if you don’t understand history, well enough, you’d never get the chance to future. Because, you know, you don’t know how to connect the dots. You don’t know how product can fit in the world. And you probably won’t know where the world is going, you know, all your career is going. Because if I if as a designer, you know, in this case, you know, I want to be the VP of design, let’s say at Apple. You know? Wouldn’t it be nice if I speak to the VP of apple and ask him, you know, what, what really took him to get there? Right? What mistakes he made? What challenges do he has? Has he faced and what would he wished he would have done differently? And then, you know, I wouldn’t 100% Follow him, but I would adapt it to my own abilities and my context of today. But it starts from understanding it starts from understanding from someone who has been there, done that. And if you don’t, you are going in blind, you’re going in the dark. And so the way that I look at police, for a lot of people that hasn’t get mentors yet is this. You know, it’s this story that’s really simple is that, you know, if you if you’re a runner, and if you are a really, really dedicated runner, that jokes every morning, in the middle of like 4am 5am You know, ADP least. And even if you’re tired, you will go and run, you know, ADPs would be that one person standing under the lamppost and cheering for you. Right? Because, you know, we, we celebrate people who, who wants to try and, and try to learn and try to be better. And that’s why we have a tagline called be more, right? Because we really want you to be more of who you are, be more creative, be more daring, be more bold, be more creative. And if you can be more we have done our job, but also, eventually, you know, you benefit yourself as well from mentorship. So that’s, that’s my word of advice. And obviously, you know, you’re just three clicks away from the mentor today on ADP. So yeah,

Desi Velikova 34:40

yeah, it makes a huge difference when you know, you’re approaching someone who is ready, who is willing to do it, which is obviously probably one of the reasons why ADP lease has been growing so well. Because now you know, okay, all these 14 15,000 people they’re actually interested in mentoring me I might just get in touch and feel like, I don’t know nervous. Would they say no? They already said yes. Right. So let’s tell me a little bit more. What do you think is the right dynamic between mentor and mentee? So let’s say I’m someone who really likes helping others, I come to your platform, I register, I’m lucky enough that you approve me. So how do I know that I’m providing the right guidance for the unique circumstances of this person? And I’m not overstepping or even miss guiding them?

Felix Lee 35:38

Well, you know, it’s, it’s a fine line to draw, to be honest, as the and the way that I look at it is that how to know if you’re a good mentor is that someone keeps coming back to you. I mean, it’s the first one. But in in very clear terms, a good mentor provides three things. First, clear advice, clear guidance, you know, second, a listening board. Right. And third, providing actionable rules, right, you shouldn’t just have a call and say goodbye, you know, there should be something that both of you can come back and revisit the next conversation, whether it be an improved portfolio, or whether be it, you know, a new topic that you might want to discuss on, always don’t leave the conversation just with a blank, right. So three things be clear. You know, be listening, always be listening, and have something actionable, right, and actionable. So these three are the key factors for a relationship to thrive, you know, from a mentors point of view. And from a mentees point of view, and anyone can be a mentee, I’m a mentee, you know, like anyone can be a mentee, I feel like the word mentee is such a miss understood word in our industry. And I, and I just don’t like it at all, because people think like mentees are like, juniors, got sick, you know, like, everyone is learning, you don’t stop learning, just because you’re a senior product manager or senior product designer. Like you have a mentor at a point. And even if you’re a manager, you have a mentor. Right. And so, you know, the word man T shouldn’t be, you know, degraded, right? And so that’s something that I really want to talk about. But as a mentee, in order for you to try if you know two things, right, two factors, one is going in with a very open mind to be able to listen and learn. And obviously take it to your own context. And the second one is to be coming in prepared. Don’t expect the mentors to come in prepared for you with a lesson plan, because they’re not teachers, they’re not your lecturers, they’re not professors, what they are, they are your mentors. And it is your job to come in prepared with questions with context where they could help, you know, unravel that, right, untangle that. And so, you know, if I were to sum it up for a mentee, go in with an open mind and go in prepared. I think that’s the most important thing for the relationship to thrive.

Desi Velikova 38:24

And how do I know as a mentee, that probably this person is not the right fit for me? I mean, obviously, I’ve got my, you know, gut instinct, whether this is a match. But beyond that, are there any warning signs? Do you think sometimes, you know, there are people who are trying to join the platform and become mentors, for the wrong reasons, probably ego or just to enhance their resume, or just like having some kind of an ulterior motives? Is this? Does this happen a lot? And if I’m a mentee, how do I spot that?

Felix Lee 38:59

Yeah, you know, first of all, we we vet through and approve and decline and reject applications for mentors. So today, our application rate is about 30%. So a lot of people, they don’t get approved, and they get angry sometimes. Because we don’t just look at how many years of experience you have. Because if you have like 20 years of experience, and you have never mentored a single person in your life, based on your application, obviously, you know, just shows that you’re probably here for the wrong reasons, right? We just historically you just haven’t done that before. And obviously that’s one of our criterias but you know, how do you know if actually this mentor is the right mentor for you? It is a more than it is an art question more than a science if I were to put it that way. Versus obviously you know, as you mentioned, as the you know, you have to feel it in yourself if this if you feel good in the conversation, right? Are they are they giving you you know, energy and not taking it? where he from you? That’s the first one. And the second one, you know, is really to understand if, you know, the advice that they’re giving to you is something that you can consistently relate. Right? Right, you can’t, you just can’t relate to a lot of things that, you know, maybe this person works in different industrial, totally different style of working or a different part of the world. And if you can’t relate, there’s no use for it. So the second criteria, which is more of a science thing, which is, you know, can you practically relate to the experience? Can you put yourself in their shoes and say that, okay, culturally, morally, ethically, you know, and everything else skills wise and whatnot, is something that you’ll be able to relate to some to a high degree, right, because if you are, then you are able to contextualise the feedback and, and act on it. Right. So, and the reason why I say it’s more art than science is because, you know, you have to understand that and convey and contextualise it to action novels at the end of the day. So, you know, it is a judgement on itself. But I will say that two things, feel it, you know, almost like spiritually. And second is, you know, have consistent relevance throughout the conversation. And I think that’s a good indication.

Desi Velikova 41:22

And I guess it’s the other way around as well. Right. So for a mentor, you want to be meeting people who are motivated, who are prepared? Who really willing to learn and also try what you suggest? Is it like a similar dynamic like, so if you are constantly meeting with someone who is probably just, I don’t know, being insecure and moaning is opposed to acting? What is my way out? How do I know? Okay, I mean, I try to help, that’s how much I can help from here on, it’s up to you to help yourself how a mentor should deal with this situation.

Felix Lee 42:04

I think that a lot of mentor mentors, you know, and at least those that I know, they are not afraid to turn down a request, because they feel like, it’s not the right person that they can help. Right, it’s not that they don’t, you know, they’re not experienced enough or whatnot, but just that, you know, it just isn’t the right person or right, you know, background that they are able to support. So, the way that I look at it from mentors point of view is that you should be, you should be, you should be able to tell from, you know, you know, wishes what you said the reverse is true, you should be able to tell if the questions that are coming towards you. And the way that they come to a secession is, is what you would, you know, expect out of your mentee. And if the expectation is there, right. Because, as a mentor obviously, gotta understand, right, as a mentor you, you have multiple mentees, but sometimes the mentees, most times the mentees only have one mentor. So, so you see, it’s a very unbalanced equation, because I have, you know, one person and this person has a lot of people. So undeniably, the mentor is going to be busier. So they have to be more selective, right? They have to be more selective. And so I can’t be taking on the sixth person. Right. Whereas this this person, right, he could always go to other mentors as well, you know, whatever the he like. So, you know, he or she likes. And so I think, for mental point of view, you know, you have to understand if this is the right person that you can support meaningfully. And I think that’s, that’s really about it.

Desi Velikova 43:47

Let’s bring a sensitive topic in ADPs community, and this is money at the moment, everything on the platform is completely free. There is no compensation, there is no booking fee, or anything like that. And obviously, it is been it’s been growing phenomenally. I think this is like a remarkable level of true altruism, really, and the desire for genuine connections that people have. But yeah, just tell me why are you so cautious about incorporating any sort of compensation, or just payment for people who want to have it?

Felix Lee 44:31

Well, you know, I am conscious for good reasons, right. I’m cautious for good reasons. I think the community has gotten too used to free things. And obviously, you know, that’s great to some extent. But it’s not good if you really think about the longevity of mentorship because there needs to be something sustaining it. Right? You can’t just depend on on donations that I’m so and when people like to give, you know, it’s not predictable, and you’re not able to make your forecasting of hiring people of who you hire, and how do you maintain this platform? Right. So it’s not it’s not that lucrative solution long term. So, but people understand that, you know, unfortunately, people don’t, you know, we get backlash for that. And the way that I look at it is that, you know, monetization should come from an angle of what benefits the people and the community first, and then be monetized. You know, we have plans in the pipeline. So, you know, we, I’m more than happy to share them, you know, for sure we have plans in the pipeline. But these plans would, you know, really involve bringing more value to users, rather than just, Hey, pay ADP is right now, you know, because that’s, that’s the last thing that that that I would want to do. And, you know, in every conversation in ADP leaves behind closed doors, you know, that’s the last thing that anyone in the team, honestly will want to do, is to set a price tag or slip, like a, you know, like a fat subscription fee, like, like, you know, and then put it on ADP list? No, we’re not going to do that, you know, if we do something has to give value back to the users, and that they’re paying more. So yeah.

Desi Velikova 46:27

I’ve heard the story somewhere that you try to introduce, like a people keeping mentors if they wish. But this got like a really bad backlash. So tell me about it. Why didn’t people like it? It is there for the community, if they want to use it. They’re obviously not obliged to do it ages. It’s not mandatory. So what was the problem? Why? Why did they hate it so much? And was it the mentee? So everybody in the mentors as well?

Felix Lee 46:59

I think it’s a good question. You know, I think a lot of people a lot of people, you know, look at that, and think that, at least those who obviously raised up questions, I think a lot of them look at that and think that, you know, it’s a corporate evil kind of move, right? Where for me to donate money, there’s something wrong for me to donate money to my mentors to teach them. There’s something wrong. But when we look at it objectively, you know, that happens almost every single day, right? You ask someone for advice over a cup of coffee? And naturally, you would fight to pay the bills? Because you’re like, No, you know, you helped me today, so I’m going to pay for you, right? So it doesn’t make sense that people are saying that digitally. I’ll be honest. You know, one of the things that they say is that, hey, look, if someone donates, tips a mentor, does that mean that this mentor would treat that person differently? Well, there’s some truth there. But, you know, we can’t deny that, hey, look, the mentor has put themselves out there to know what they’re doing. You know, so, you know, you don’t speak for the mentor, right? You don’t speak for them in terms of the biases. And if there are, you know, we will stop that, you know, our team will stop that. Right. And so a lot of people assume that a lot of people assume that. And some of them assume that Oh, ADP says taking a cut from the donation fee, the tipping fee. And I’m like, men, have you calculated? Have you calculated the fees from stripe? Right, first of all, is expensive. But also, you know, just financially speaking, it doesn’t make sense. If I collect like 10% fee, from all these small little tips. I can build a, I can even build a company is going to pay me like just $100 or a couple of $1,000 per month. It’s not even a business model. Come on, you know, we’re not even taking anything. So a lot of that comes from assumption, you know, when the backlash happened. And so I think, you know, what could have done be done better is obviously the communication, the transparency of, you know, of the breakdown behind things and, and whatnot. But at the end of the day, you know, to be honest, I enjoy the hit, you know, I enjoyed a hit as much as I enjoyed the love from the community. Because without people hitting you so strongly, you’re probably not doing something right. And, and, you know, for people to need to talk about you socially. I find that a plus point, and I hope that they continue to say it That sometimes because I’m like, Well, you know, that means that it means something in their lives. And I’m willing to sit down and listen, and I’m willing to sit down and improve for you. You know, any also shows how much we care about the community, you know, I think it’s a win win for me when whenever these these things happen.

Desi Velikova 50:19

It’s an interesting one, isn’t it, people love the platform so much. So they were like, so protective of it, they didn’t want it to change. They were probably seeing it as this ideal environment free of any commercial interest, and they didn’t want it to change. And I think it’s really remarkable, because it’s a reflection of what many people really need the moment, I think we’re witnessing this new generation of professionals and enterpreneurs, especially from the Gen Z generation, who are going to rewrite what we consider successful and impactful. I’m probably 10 years or a little bit more older than you. I’m like a proper millennial from the middle of the generation. And in the last two decades, it has all been about how can we make people spend more time spent more money, subscribe them for longer send them this never ending notifications, then, you know, raise more money, make investors happy, hire more people, and so on and so on. And I think people are getting tired of this game. Because the only definition of success for many of us has been money, right? And people and especially younger people are starting to question that maybe. So why does it need to be this way, maybe we can provide the definition of, you know, what we consider impactful, and we’re going to find like more deeper, meaningful ways to create with people is to have successful businesses. On the other hand, this is a business right, so you have to be thinking about your business model, and you have to be thinking about your revenue streams. So tell me a little bit more, you know, what are the revenue streams? You’re currently exploring something from the kitchen?

Felix Lee 52:17

Yeah, you know, when we look at revenue streams, you know, we’re really looking at how we can, you know, support the users and bring him even more value, right. And so the way that we look at it, is, it’s really about, you know, what problem are we trying to solve with the monetization before the before the whole, you know, we just want to monetize. And so when we look at that, you know, we we really look at say, like, you know, what problems do they have right now, right, for example, a lot of them are paying extremely heavy price to attend court based learning, right? on different platforms. And a lot of them are not getting hired, and they need a job. Right. And these are places where, you know, an opportunities where we can go in and say, we can really add value there. You could pay less for Cohort Based Learning on ADP least, you know, with the research a wide network of mentors, that creating, you know, their own causes and whatnot, you know, we could help you get hired by bringing companies here, so companies can pay us a referral fee, so on and so forth. And so, you know, I’m just giving you like two of these, you know, ideas, right, but there’s definitely a lot more. So it’s really look at these problems, right, that we have identified and solve them from the bottom up. And the way that we look at it deeply is is a lot like, you know, like Apple, right, which is, you know, we’re not really a product, you know, we’re a platform. And platform means that people are able to build something on top of it, right, like business are able to come here and build their hiring pipeline on top of ADP, Lis. Mental mentors can come here and build their own mentorship business on top of ADP based, almost like a YouTube creator kind of thing. But on ADP missed, right? As a mentor. And you become the a platform, right? Because people now depends on you. And for Apple, the platform is, you know, the iOS, right? The iOS empowers the App Store, the App Store powers, the creators, so on and so forth. And so when we look at that, you know, mentorship is like our app store, right? Or like mentorship is our, our platform. And so, this mentorship layer is the foundation that will power a lot of things, it will power. The next generation of mentor lead causes your power the next generation of, you know, business hiring, your power, the next generation of partnerships, from business to communities, to people and whatnot. And so that’s that’s really our endgame, you know, is transparent, which is that you know, EDPs will be the platform of the 21st century where, where companies, learners and mentors will come together and create a much more sharing and learning environment. For each other, but also not just sharing knowledge, but sharing opportunities, and that’s, that’s really, you know, the game plan here that will make any of these really, you know, stand out, you know, in the 21st century.

Desi Velikova 55:13

It’s exciting. I’m just looking forward to following your journey. Felix. It’s been a pleasure meeting you having this conversation with you? Where can people find you and how they can join the platform if they want to?

Felix Lee 55:25

Yeah, so you can find me on LinkedIn, which is Felix Lee, or directly on Twitter, which is Felix Li, Zack D. And obviously, I’m on ATVs as well so happy to meet everyone. And lastly, you can join ADPs as a learner or as a mentor on@police.or rg

Desi Velikova 55:49

I loved what you did with the Maintain learner. We are all learners, right? We’ve never stopped learning.

Felix Lee 55:54

Yeah 100% We are all learners never stop learning.