Bright Network is disrupting the £32.2b recruitment industry with their data-driven platform that matches the brightest graduate talent with the best UK employers.
James Uffindell founded Bright Network in 2013, but his entrepreneurial journey actually started 13 years earlier on a train from Rome to Vienna. It was here, at just 20 years old, that he was struck with the idea for his first company. It was called Oxbridge Applications and it helped students apply to Oxford and Cambridge. When James sold the business in 2013, they were helping 20% of all applicants to these universities – around 6000 students a year.
“But then they were coming back to me and asking, what next?” James recalls. An Oxford graduate himself, he knew first hand that these top-tier students weren’t getting enough career advice and support. At the same time, companies weren’t accessing this talent pool efficiently with half of top recruiters failing to fill their graduate vacancies.
“I saw a gap in the market and, as an entrepreneur, I was ready for a new challenge. So I set up Bright Network with the mission to help the best companies find the talent they need to grow. And for the students, I wanted to create the careers service they never had.”
Fast forward to 2018 and Bright Network have 150k members and work with 250 big employers including PWC, Accenture and Goldman Sachs. They sign up 30k of the best first-year students every year and give them advice and support all the way through to finding their first job as a graduate.
“We’ve built what we call our data insights engine which allows us to become hyper-personalised and more relevant to the network,” James explains. “The average open rate on emails from traditional job boards is around 15%. Our average open rate is three times higher. The sell to the employers is a pre-screened pool of graduate candidates. So instead of getting 80 applications, we’d rather they get 10 of the best, curated for what they’re looking for.”
Last year, Bright Network’s revenue was up by 35%. To service that growth and invest in the future, the business is also growing their costs. This, coupled with long payment terms from their big corporate clients, created unexpected gaps in cash.
“One of the problems with a high-growth business is aggressively managing cash flow – we’re constantly investing to improve the product for our clients and members,” comments James. “The technology platform that we’ve built, the staff and the database; those are all critical investment items. They pay off in the future, but they involve heavy expenditure in the present, which drains cash.”
Up until that point, Bright Network had been using traditional business finance options including an overdraft facility from their bank. They had doubled their turnover since setting up the overdraft but found that their bank just didn’t have the flexible solutions they needed to fund such rapid growth.
James describes how they decided on a business loan from MarketInvoice: “Only 1% of businesses grow faster than 20% per year and we’re growing at almost twice that. Banks are slow and just so risk-averse when it comes to funding high-growth businesses. We needed to find another source and that’s when we came to MarketInvoice.
It was very easy to apply – something like 10 minutes – and a really short time from application to getting the money. The combination of technology and people made it a really great customer experience”.
Bright Network are gearing up for a period of fast growth with plans to double their team by the end of next year. Following a successful beta trial, they’re launching an innovative new SaaS product called Bright Network: High Growth this summer. The product is tailored for start-ups and scale-ups, giving them access to top graduates with up to three years’ post-graduation experience in a smarter, more personalised way.
“High-growth businesses hire differently to big corporates,” James explains. “They have this founder’s mindset of competing for the best talent. And what do bright, motivated people like most? Working with other bright, motivated people!”