Multiverse, a startup which connects apprentices with companies, has secured $44m in new funding — the biggest ever funding round for a UK edtech company.
The company, founded by Tony Blair’s son Euan Blair in 2016, secured the funds from General Catalyst — who led the round — as well as Google Ventures, Index Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The round also included angel investment from Sky chairman Jeremy Darroch and Microsoft chairman John Thompson.
Multiverse, which used to be known as WhiteHat, works by connecting young people with companies which they then train at, alongside educational training from Multiverse. Last year the company trained 2k apprentices across a range of industries like finance, media, tech, construction and local governance.
“We get young people into great apprenticeships at really great companies, places like Santander, Unilever, KPMG,” explains Jeremy Duggan, president of the company. “We then provide the education for the apprentices across their first years at a company.”
The company, which is currently active in the UK and will launch in New York later this month, wants to offer alternative routes into jobs, outside of university.
For too long there’s been a belief that university, supplemented by sporadic corporate training, is the only route to success.
“For too long there’s been a belief that university, supplemented by sporadic corporate training, is the only route to success,” says Blair, founder and CEO.
“This model is fundamentally broken — too often failing to give people the skills they need and not spreading opportunity fairly across society.”
At the same time, Duggan says, universities are still struggling from a diversity perspective — with a disproportionate proportion of graduates coming from private schools — and they’re also falling behind on the skills they can offer to students.
“Apprentices spend three years still getting education, in a skill area that’s highly relevant to the future of work, but they’re also getting paid and not racking up debt,” he says.
The perception of apprenticeships is also changing, Duggan says.
“There was an idea that they were always quite blue collar jobs, so a lot of people want to get into a great media company, or banking, or tech, and they’d do that through a degree. But we’re showing you can do that through an apprenticeship route.”
The companies cover the costs of the training offered and the sourcing of apprentices, so Multiverse had to show them how taking on apprentices could help their bottom line, too.
“The company pays and in exchange for that the company gets the youngest, brightest, most diverse talent that’s available,” says Duggan.
Around 87% of apprentices stay on in their roles after completing the apprenticeship, Duggan says, which helps employee retention, and the scheme also helps companies to diversify the pool of talent coming in.
There’s also the fact, he says, that a lot of companies are spending significant amounts on consulting in order to help their digital transformation.
“Our training helps companies develop their own people for this, which also helps with the bottom line.”
John Thompson, the chairman of Microsoft and an angel investor in Multiverse, says alternatives to university will become more and more important, particularly as companies look to digitise.
'We're at an inflection point where every enterprise company is having to become a tech firm, generating a huge demand for skills in digital, data and software,” he says.
“This gives us a chance to find better ways to train people, and change the current imbalance of who gets access to great careers.”