Dealflow | November 14, 2019

Reskilling frontline workers, Guild Education becomes a B Corp unicorn

Jessica Pothering
ImpactAlpha Editor

Jessica Pothering

ImpactAlpha, November 14 – Denver-based Guild Education helps companies invest in workers who keep sales and operations rolling in storefronts and on factory floors. In four years, Guild has helped 400,000 wage workers start or return to degree programs with corporate tuition assistance programs it has developed for clients like Chipotle, Walmart and Disney.

Guild Education raises $21 million to help wage workers pay for higher education

A fresh $157 million in equity funding will help the company accelerate its mission of reaching the 88 million U.S. adults “in need of reskilling and upskilling in order to compete in the future of work,” founder Rachel Carlson said in a statement.

The deal pushes Guild’s valuation above $1 billion and signals venture capitalist interest in workforce development in the U.S. and globally.

Guild’s Series D round was led by General Catalyst, a venture capital giant whose prior bets include Airbnb, Kayak, Warby Parker and consumer-focused ventures like Oscar and Lemonade. Emerson Collective, Iconiq Capital and Lead Edge Capital also participated alongside a long roster of prior investors. Impact-focused Rethink Impact and Salesforce Impact Fund were among the company’s early investors.

Workforce dealflow

Other recent U.S. workforce-related deals this year include Lumerit Education, which has a similar focus to Guild, was acquired by publisher Pearson. Trilogy, a developer of tech bootcamp for universities, was acquired by 2U for $750 million.

Bay Area-based Lambda School raised funding to offer tech skills training through a pay-as-you-earn model. Investors also backed SV Academy‘s employer-supported tech training; Climb Hire, which adds a cooperative twist to the income share model; and Make School, which offers a full degree in two years. (All are Bay Area-based.)

Boulder, Colo.-based Techtonic just secured $6 million for its software apprenticeships. Austin-based Interplay Learning raised funding to teach trade skills. Rwanda’s BAG Innovation scored backing for its “virtual internships”.

Global trend

Andela is an investment darling for workforce upskilling in emerging markets, even though it’s pivoting away from entry-level workers. Peru’s Laboratoria and Crehana, Argentina’s Digital House and Mexico’s Holacode are teaching tech skills in Latin America, while Hungary’s CodeCool is focusing on Central and Eastern Europe.

Investment thesis

Jobs for the Future is investing in skills tech companies like Cell-Ed and PAIRIN via its recently acquired Employment Technology Fund. Pearson launched a $50 million education and workforce skills venture fund. Salesforce Ventures, Lumina Foundation, and Robin Hood are partners on a workforce development fund.