British apprenticeship startup set to scale in New York thanks to $220M investment

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A British company focused on improving staffing for companies and opportunity for workers without college degrees has raised $220 million to expand across the pond, out of its U.S. headquarters in the Financial District.

The firm, Multiverse, was founded in 2016 by Tony Blair’s son Euan. Through engagements with more than 500 companies and 8,000 apprentices so far, the startup recruits and trains paid apprentices who are hired full time. Multiverse and the employer jointly provide training and mentorship during the course of 12- to 15-month programs.

Multiverse, which expanded to the this country a little more than a year ago, said it has almost 100 U.S.-based employees and dozens of apprentices in New York City.

The startup’s core idea is to solve a pair of connected problems at the same time: how to open up career paths to the two-thirds of adults who have not graduated from college; and how to improve hiring and retention for firms, particularly those that are looking to build their workforce with employees from diverse backgrounds.

“The tech skills gap is one issue,” said Sophie Ruddock, vice president and general manager of Multiverse North America. “Building an equitable and inclusive workforce is another. Apprenticeships do both without trading one for the other.”

The new investment follows a $130 million fundraising round in September. Multiverse’s original name was WhiteHat.

The company is growing in a New York hiring landscape where companies and government programs have been embracing the apprenticeship model as a means to get workers with potential—but not necessarily credentials—into positions where they can excel. Many of the jobs are skills-based technical positions such as data analysts and software engineers. Others are geared to business and management.

Google, fitness firm ClassPass and Visible, part of Verizon, are three New York City companies already working with Multiverse, the company said.

Multiverse said its secret to successful apprenticeships and scaling is a model that makes the process of hiring and training smooth for an employer and educational for an employee. By carefully tracking data around success while being hands-on about curricula and soft skills, Multiverse is setting itself up for growth in the U.S., Ruddock said. About 60% of employer partners expand their programs within six months of launching the apprenticeships, she said.

The result is that previously underemployed or underchallenged workers can build careers, especially in the city’s tech and tech-heavy finance and financial services sectors.

“We all have mental capacities for learning beyond a classroom environment, and you don’t always need a degree to solve problems that companies face,” Shafee Ahmed, a software engineer at ClassPass, wrote in an April op-ed for website Built In. Ahmed got his job through a Multiverse apprenticeship.

The company said the latest fundraising puts its value at $1.7 billion, double what it was eight months ago. This round was co-led by U.S.-based investors StepStone and returning investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and General Catalyst.

“Mandating college degrees, and making admissions officers the gatekeepers for great careers, means leaving out thousands of talented individuals,” said Euan Blair, CEO. “This funding will help us bring more people without degrees—or in need of re-skilling—into tech careers and ultimately create a more diverse group of future leaders.”