Juliet Eccleston: AnyGood?

Over the years, I found recommendations were better than working with agencies and having a stack of CVs to trawl through. We have Uber and Airbnb using reputation as currency. I started a theoretical question: Is the recruitment industry capable of disruption?

Chaired by Shelley Taylor (trellyz.com


The recruitment industry. After being involved in the launch of Egg in 1998, Juliet found herself in a company culture where ideas were truly valued, suggestions were taken on, and the expectation was to challenge the norm. She shared the high points of her journey from delivering large-scale change for one of the original UK internet banks through to founding AnyGood?, a disruptive startup that aims to bring trust back to the recruitment process and provide a level playing field for candidates.


11th of October 1998. This was an incredible year for technology. The original iMac was released. PayPal was founded. And Egg was launched. Juliet and the team at Egg (headed by CEO Mike Harris) exceeded their five-year target in six months, bringing in £5bn in deposits and 500,000 customers. She was responsible for creating the complaints procedure as part of the Change team. Juliet explained to us how the company was always pivoting (it wasn’t until later that they decided to be an internet bank) and this acceptance of change and the ability to identify opportunities has stayed with her ever since. But one difficulty she came across time after time was finding the right people to work with – inspirational leaders willing to take risks. 

Juliet’s experience had taught her that personal recommendations were often more effective than using recruitment agencies and reading through stacks of CVs. Frustrated with the hiring process, she began to ask whether the recruitment industry was capable of change. Recruiters can sometimes hold information back to prevent direct contact, offer clients limited access to data, complicate the process and increase costs with multiple intermediaries – not to mention the overwhelming amount of terms and conditions. The whole process results in wasted time and information, often creating trust issues between the employer and agency. Meanwhile, nobody is tapping into the people who know other great people. Juliet decided to set up a new kind of recruitment agency; one that brings fairness and integrity to the industry through a diverse network of professionals who can recommend other professionals. 


The biggest challenge is trust. Taking inspiration from the likes of Airbnb and Uber, Juliet developed a model that removes the need for an intermediary and puts candidates in touch directly with clients. In the case of Airbnb, you have to trust the host. With Uber, both the drivers and passengers are rated. Rachel Botsman, author of Who Can You Trust?argues that, “The real disruption happening is not about technology; it’s a profound shift in the way we think about trust.” To back this up, Botsman explains that we would previously trust people in our villages and towns, and this extended to trusting large corporates. But more recently, this relationship has broken down. We now trust strangers more than we trust businesses. Our parents always told us never to get into a car with a stranger, but these days we do this every time we book an Uber. 

How can AnyGood? help people to make this leap of faith with long-term decisions, such as hiring a new team member? When a client shares a role, members are notified and asked to think about who they know. They can then contact a previous colleague and put them forward as a recommendation. The client receives a written recommendation from the member as well as the candidate’s CV and LinkedIn page. To promote diversity outside of member ‘bubbles’, AnyGood? encourages members to recommend other members and proactively curates professionals from other networks to give a broader range of candidates and a better representation of society. 

The problem with most systems like this is usually a lack of responsibility on the part of the referrer. Juliet wanted to make sure people were engaging for the right reasons, so she introduced a feature that allows clients to rate the quality of recommendations. There’s no manipulation of CVs or third parties getting in the way of the conversation. The entire process is transparent – regardless of the salary or position, there’s a flat fee of £6,500. And £1,500 of this goes to the member who recommended the candidate. The aim is to create a membership organisation where everyone wins. 


AnyGood? launched in 2017. At the end of last year, they wanted to raise funds for future growth and the members decided to invest in the business themselves. Juliet has successfully developed a model that delivers quality recommendations, where clients only pay if value is added, where everyone shares in the profits, and that ultimately removes unconscious bias to create a level playing field within business. 




Shelley Taylor is the CEO and founder of trellyz, software that is transforming the way cities deliver services to the public, including the trellyz LifeSpots app and the RefAid app (for migrants and refugees). She is a native of Palo Alto California (that is the epicentre of Silicon Valley). She has tech running through her veins, has launched companies, succeeded (and failed), and has been part of tech startup culture for more than 20 years. She created the user interface bible, most of the language we now use to describe corporate websites, e-commerce features and functionality (like “global navigation” which literally did not exist before she made it up and got people to start using it). She’s the person who got Michael Dell to put a phone number on the website so people would stop abandoning the shopping cart. She diagnosed consumer diseases like “Mad Couch Disease” for interactive television, “Post Transaction Anxiety Disorder” and "Abandoned Shopping Cart Syndrome” for e-commerce and helped improve the dire state of user interface through the 90s and 00s.  Lately she has been building her own tech companies instead of telling people how to do it better. She built the first DRM free music and digital entertainment site, and licensed music content legally when MySpace and Spotify were stealing it. She has built a ton of mobile apps. She has been living out of a suitcase since March 2017, literally building her current company country by country. www.trellyz.com


Shelley Taylor: You were talking about these bubbles that we create. The thing that frustrates me more than anything is getting venture capital. You have to know somebody in order to get in the door, and if you didn’t go to the same schools and you’re not of the same age and gender then there’s no chance. You have obviously tried to address that problem. I’m curious about your curation of the network because it sounds a little bit familiar in terms of quotas. When you go out and curate, are you doing it based on a percentage of the population who are black or who are women, and are you creating some problems as a result of your decision? You’re creating these filter bubbles, which are done with good intentions, but I’m wondering about the downside of that. 

Juliet Eccleston: The way we are looking at the different under-represented groups isn’t as scientific as that. It’s much more about my own network of people. I was in technology change and financial services for a long time and that resulted in my own network being very white-male dominated. I was trying to broaden my own network and almost treating AnyGood? as an individual and looking at what networks it needs to engage with in an organic way rather than having quotas. There’s a great organisation called UKBlackTech, so we engaged with them. There are some great professionals there who are not naturally within my network, so we’re talking to them about how we can best work together to engage with different groups. It’s the same with disabilities and other under-represented groups. We try to do it organically through the professionals that are already there rather than saying that we need this many women and this many disabled people – it’s more about opening doors for groups that already exist. 

Shelley Taylor: You have obviously dealt with failure as well as success at Egg. I want to ask you about that, but I also want to ask within this current company, what is your biggest risk and what is your biggest failure and how did you address it? 

Juliet Eccleston: I think the biggest thing we tore up is thinking that it would happen organically and that people would just recommend members and it would then grow into this wonderful, colourful network. That was the thing we tested early on. I tend not to think of it as a failure because every stage is a test of the proposition at that point. We are still testing the proposition now, even though we have several clients and candidates going through and roles being filled. I think the biggest thing was realising that we needed to alter the way we developed the network. In terms of the challenges now, the hardest thing we are experiencing is being seen as different from recruitment agencies. The companies we talk to get a lot of calls from agencies claiming to be different or to use AI, so it’s a challenge to be heard and given a platform to tell them that we charge a flat fee and that our terms are only six pages long. Once people experience it, they get it really quickly. 

Shelley Taylor: What you are basically doing is optimising for the highest paid roles if the commission is the same for everyone. Why did you make that decision? 

Juliet Eccleston: What we were looking at is where recommendations are of the most value. It seemed to be for roles at management and leadership level. When people use executive search, headhunters or recruitment agents, we’re actually looking at where that recommendation can make the biggest difference to someone getting the role and where it makes the difference to the client. That tends to be for roles of £50,000 and above, or on a contract rate of £500-£600 a day. These are the roles where recommendations were being used more. We wanted to make sure we were cheaper than anyone else doing it at that level, so that’s where we pitched it. 

Audience: How do you get members to engage in something that’s not their normal job in order to do these recommendations? The other end of the spectrum is how do you prevent them from getting overly flooded with requests for recommendations, and I’m also thinking about their productivity if they are spending their time doing all this for commissions? 

Juliet Eccleston: It’s a good question and one we had to think about in terms of the journey for members and how quickly they can actually recommend a candidate. What we are seeing is that members, in the same way as they might check LinkedIn on the way to work, are utilising the platform. When a role is uploaded to the platform, members will get a recommendation via the app and they can ignore that notification until they know they want to put some time into it. Also, they can create a ‘watch’ list, so they can highlight the role if they know someone that they might want to contact later on. We are trying to recognise how people work during the day. People do it so they can earn the referral fee, but we’re also seeing that people are doing it because they want the person they know to get a great job. We’re seeing candidates being put forward for things where they wouldn’t ordinarily put themselves forward. For instance, a woman returner being put forward by a colleague that knew them years ago when they would never have the confidence to go for it without that sponsor. The drive is much more about the member and candidate relationship rather than just the money. 

Shelley Taylor: How do you deal with that constant sense of impending doom as a founder? I want something totally practical that you do in that moment. Is there some tool or practice? 

Juliet Eccleston: Yes, I’m a big one for being in control. Anyone who knows me will know that I have to be in control of everything. It resonates with me so much. Although I have never heard of that phrase ‘impending doom’, you certainly do get those moments within a startup that I hadn’t experienced within a corporate environment because there was always a chairman or a sponsor or somebody for me to go to. Now it’s just down to you. It can feel like a big burden at times. It does result in you doing too many hours and spending too much time trying to go through these challenges. The thing that has made the biggest difference to me is having co-founders around me who I can massively trust and have known for a long time. When I’m going through one of those moments of being out of control, I will often ramble a lot and say all of the things that I need to get off my chest. It’s good to have someone to do that with and work our way through the problem.