My Startup: BrighterBox

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo

BrighterBox is a recruitment startup providing access to some of the most talented graduates in London.

The company works exclusively with startups and small businesses itself - letting the jobseekers that use it gain access to the most interesting and forward-thinking companies with vacancies. 

Founded by a Mancunian in London four years ago, BrighterBox has recently expanded to Manchester, opening a new office there to help the brightest talent and fill the skyrocketing number of digital and tech roles in the region.

Founded: 2015

Founder: Charlie Johnson


Charlie Johnson

Why did you start BrighterBox?

I moved from Manchester to London for my undergrad studies and as I was finishing up there, I began to look for employment in the capital.

I noticed that some students seemed to have significant advantages over others when it came to having an ‘in’ for securing internships and work experience, so, before I’d even heard of the concept of a recruitment agency, I was already thinking about how to increase access to opportunities for young people without connections.

Job boards were cluttered, and it was hard to find meaningful, appealing work online. University advice focused on working for corporates and grad schemes, as these companies had the budget and resources to get in front of students. They were everywhere: KPMG even sponsored the Student Union elevator! 

But in the late noughties, London was quickly evolving as a European hub of technology and enterprise. At the same time, there was a growing sense of antipathy amongst millennials towards working for the man - and a desire to do something more impactful. Grads now wanted to work in startups, but there was nowhere to find good opportunities.

Startup employers often reached a stage where referrals within their own networks were running dry, and posting on a generic job board wasn’t quite right; it would create more work, and rarely attract the right profiles. Alternatively, they could use a non-specialist recruitment company who wouldn’t ‘get’ the startup mentality and style.

So I started BrighterBox up as a way for growing companies to connect with top junior talent and bridge all these gaps.

Tell us more about the tech behind the product.

BrighterBox sits somewhere between an online platform and an agency. We built an algorithm that matches candidates with opportunities based on their skillsets and interests, with a view to inspire students who might not know what their options are.

This algorithm also helps us quickly identify the top 2% of potential matches, from a pool of tens of thousands, meaning we can turn around urgent hires quickly, but without rushing. Most of the smaller tasks in the process are automated (such as collating feedback and interview scheduling), allowing the team to focus on the more human elements of the process.

Where are you at right now?

The majority of the team are based in London, but we set up a Manchester office this summer with a view to attract and retain entry level talent in the North West.

Manchester companies are leading the way in eCommerce and social media, and co-working spaces are booming up there. With London house prices becoming less affordable for first time buyers, we felt that Manchester was the obvious place to expand to.

What are your aims for the next year?

The big aim for 2020 is to make sure we keep growing by innovating and adapting. Our B2B and B2C audiences are both constantly evolving, in terms of what they need, what platforms they use, and how we can connect with them. The challenge is to remain visible whilst still adding value.

What's been the hardest thing about getting BrighterBox off the ground?

Setting up the business so soon after having a baby made things really tough - I’d suggest anyone planning to start up a self-funded venture and grow their family at the same time to speak to me first!

Aside from the lack of quality of (or any!) sleep affecting how clearly I could approach a problem, the senses and anxieties that any first-time founder typically feels starting up were no doubt exacerbated.

Why should more people be using BrighterBox?

We understand what makes a startup employee tick, so using BrighterBox to hire graduates for your startup is a no-brainer - many founding teams of recent UK success stories have had their time freed up to focus on growing their businesses, whilst BrighterBox take care of growing their pipeline of talent. 

How much will it cost users - and why is it worth the investment?

Traditional recruitment models don’t sit well with small businesses, so we offer a startup-friendly, back-weighted billing option.

The hiring company pays a small pay-as-you-go monthly fee for the first six months of the candidate’s employment, with a final percentage of the annual salary only due if the candidate is still there at the six-month point. The idea is that initial outlay and risk are limited, and the bulk of the fee is only due once the hire has proven to be successful.