Bright Network Case Study
Financial and strategic support from Maven helps Bright Network deliver on its growth objectives and partner with many of the UK’s leading employers.
YOY Revenue Increase
Bright Network’s proprietary technology better matches university graduates with leading employers across the UK. Its mission is to connect the next generation with the opportunities, insights and advice needed to succeed as the workforce of tomorrow. For employers, the Bright Network platform enables a data-driven approach to hiring diverse and exceptional graduate talent.
When Bright Network first approached Maven, the business was enjoying revenue growth and had recently turned an operating profit. However, the senior management team, led by CEO James Uffindell, saw the opportunity to further scale the business on the back of its innovative graduate recruitment platform and, and had a two year plan to further develop the technology, build on its proven student engagement strategy and invest in additional sales & marketing resource. Whilst James and the Chair had personally invested in the business, they knew that an institutional funding partner would be required to help accelerate growth.
Funding from Maven’s VCTs enabled Bright Network to deliver on this plan, increasing the number of blue chip clients using the platform for recruitment, expanding its graduate and student network to over 400,000 members and generating a 50% year on year increase in revenue. The highly driven management team delivered impressive results in a short space of time, which saw Maven make a further investment in the business to help fund its next stage of growth.
Maven remains a committed investor in Bright Network, providing the management team with a supportive partner and solid platform from which it can capitalise on its established position in the graduate recruitment market.
Access to capital
The key to unlock Bright Network’s true potential
James and Zach personally invested in the business, whilst also raising EIS funding, to help Bright Network develop its technology and prove its business model. However, it soon became clear that additional funding would be required to help them hit their ambitious growth targets. “Having funded the business from 2013 to 2016 through Director’s loans and Angel investment from high-net-worth individuals, we knew we needed a strong and supportive institutional partner for our next phase of growth,” says James.
Knowing that it had a proven business model and demonstrable traction in the marketplace, which would be an important measure for any potential investor, Bright Network took the decision to attract additional funding to help accelerate its growth. “External investment would enable us to raise the desired amount of capital to grow to the level we were aiming for in a shorter space of time,” said James. “When we went out to market, we were flattered to receive four offers within two weeks, three from VCTs and one from a family office.”
Maven was one of the VCT investors who put forward terms to James and his senior management team, having been impressed by vision and success of the highly driven management team. They had proven experience of delivering shareholder value by exiting similar businesses in the sector and had developed a clear strategy to grow the business profitability through existing and new product lines.
That positive sentiment was reciprocated: “We were very impressed with the quality and approach of Melanie Goward, Maven’s Investment Director. She stood out as being smart, very approachable and the kind of investor we were after for a strong cultural fit. We asked ourselves ‘can we envisage sitting around a Board table with this person?’, and the answer was definitely ‘yes’. We also did our own due diligence, which showed that Maven had an exemplary reputation in the market as being a quality investment manager that went about their business in an ethical way.”
Maven operates with short lines of internal communication and decision making, which enables its investment team to provide a responsive approach when evaluating a potential investment. In addition, with committed capital available via the Maven VCTs, these guaranteed resources contribute to a seamless investment process.
“Maven was granted exclusivity and the investment process ran exceptionally smoothly. From moving quickly at the offer stage, to completing due diligence, the process ran to expected timelines, with completion happening on plan,” explains James. “One of the many things Maven did well was agreeing all the main commercial points with us up front, which then meant conversations between lawyers were kept to a minimum. At all points of negotiation Maven were constructive and communicative, and an agreement was reached quickly.”
Equity investment helps management deliver on its growth aspirations
Maven initially invested £2.25 million in Bright Network, with the funding being used to
support the planned substantial growth of the business. “The investment from Maven helped
us navigate two main growth barriers,” says James. “Firstly, it has enabled us to build out
our proprietary technology platform and data analytics. This allows us to better understand
our members and support employers in finding the right talent. Secondly, we’ve been able to
scale our membership significantly by investing in student acquisition initiatives. We’ve more
than doubled our membership in the past 24 months and are now one of the fastest growing
student/graduate platforms in the UK.”
Bright Network has proven its Digital and Event business models and is continuing to
steadily generate revenue growth. It is also continuing to innovate in product development,
whilst the management team has demonstrated their ability to generate value but also to flex
activities in areas that are not performing.
In 2020, Bright Network were able to quickly pivot their business activity and product offering
to be fully virtual in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, creating market-leading initiatives
like Internship Experience UK and Bright Network Technology Academy. The ability to adjust
in this way meant that Bright Network were able to continue their revenue growth at this time
and also develop new revenue channels for future growth.
“With this increased scale and technological advancement, we’ve been able to grow our
market share considerably. Today we have over 900,000 members on the platform and
thousands of these members have secured a role through Bright Network at our 250+
partner employers, which include Amazon, EY, Google, the Civil Service and Vodafone.”
More than just money
Private equity investment is about more than just providing capital. Maven helps its portfolio companies to scale, offering a strong supporting hand but without taking control. Its nationwide team includes professionals from a variety of commercial, financial and industry backgrounds, which enables Maven to provide valuable support should an investee request it. This can cover a wide range of areas such as advice on operational improvements that improve revenue growth, streamlining procurement processes or enhancing systems.
James explains that a strong professional relationship was forged between management and Maven post investment: “Maven has provided key insight to help us navigate our way through a significant growth phase and simultaneously deal with the global pandemic. This guidance has come in many forms, from challenging and validating management strategy at the board level, to more tactical day-to-day help and support. The relationship is very open and both our dedicated Investment Director and the wider Maven management have been hugely supportive of the entire Bright Network team. It is clear that Maven has not come on board to implement its own vision for the company, but rather to nurture a business and its management team, in which it sees huge potential. We feel privileged to have them as our investment partners.”
Moving forward with Maven
Maven is a long-term and supportive investor which understands that it may require several rounds of equity finance before a business attains the desired scale and an exit is achieved. The key aim in backing each entrepreneurial smaller company is to create value and give the management team a stable platform from which it can execute its growth strategy. This resonated with James. “It takes time to build a great business and this seems to be very much the Maven approach. They understand the importance of longer term thinking and proper investment to support the leaders of their portfolio businesses. Working with Maven, and the funding provided, over the past two and a half years has supported our growth ambitions, meaning we’re well on track to achieve our ultimate goal of being the UK’s leading graduate careers platform.”
In the past 24 months, Bright Network’s student database has grown from 200,000 to 425,000 members and its blue chip client list continues to grow, with low levels of churn and a high level of recurring revenues. James and his team have also demonstrated the ability to balance revenue growth whilst maintaining close control on EBITDA. This progress, allied to the business acumen shown by the management team, led Maven to invest a further £2 million to support the continued expansion of the company. The additional funding is allowing Bright Network to embark on the next stage of its growth journey through scaling of its sales & marketing capacity as well as further technical improvements to its platform to drive additional service revenues.
James firmly believes that the external funding, expertise and support the company continues to receive is helping create a stronger and more sustainable business. “Working with Maven has transformed Bright Network and helped us significantly increase our rate of growth. We’ve been able to support hundreds of thousands more members on our platform as they’ve moved into employment, whilst building a market leading offering for the blue chip employers we work with.”