Education tech Startups Venture

Guild Graduates To $175M Series F At $4.4B Valuation As ‘Upskilling’ Startups Raise Billions

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Guild, provider of an online education platform with a focus on upskilling frontline employees, announced it has raised $175 million in a Series F funding round.

Wellington Management led the financing, which sets a $4.4 billion valuation for the 7-year-old, Denver-based company.

Oprah Winfrey also participated in the round, adding a plug for Guild to accompany its funding announcement with the statement: “I believe deeply in the power of education to change the trajectory of a person’s life, and Guild is creating a more equitable path to quality education.”

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Other backers include Bon Secours Mercy Health, Citi Impact Fund, Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst and Iconiq Capital.

The upskilling space

The fundraise is one of a number of recent big rounds for companies in the upskilling space, a sector that has pulled in billions in venture funding over the past year, per Crunchbase analysis. Guild itself pulled in a $150 million Series E just a year ago.

Broadly, players in the upskilling space are capitalizing on demographic, workforce and technological shifts that are favoring employer-covered e-learning.

One driver for momentum in the space is the current hiring environment, which in the U.S. in particular is characterized by high levels of job-hopping, low unemployment rates and reported difficulties for many employers in attracting and retaining qualified workers.

Many employers are now offering education benefits as a perk for employees. This allows them to work toward a degree or learn new skill sets without racking up large student debt. Frequently, e-learning programs also offer a path for promotions or a new role at one’s existing workplace.

Guild pitches its offerings as well-suited for frontline employees. It counts large hourly wage employers like Chipotle, Lowe’s and Target among its corporate customers. So far this year, the company says it has launched partnerships with employers including Hilton, PepsiCo, Kohl’s and Tyson Foods.

Convenient and cost-effective education

In addition to being accessible from anywhere, online learning programs also tend to be cheaper forms of education. At Guild, the cost typically works out to between $3,000 and $6,000 a year for a full slate of courses offered through partner universities and learning providers, CEO Rachel Romer Carlson told Crunchbase News earlier this year. By contrast, average tuition and fees for a U.S. private university are around $38,000 per year and around $10,000 annually for an in-state student at a public school, per U.S. News.

Coursework can move quickly online too. At Guild, for instance, Carlson said programs are increasingly competency-based rather than time-based. If a learner can demonstrate competence in a subject area, they can move through the program at a faster pace.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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