Disruptor 50 2020

45. Guild Education

Founders: Rachel Carlson (CEO), Brittany Stich
Launched: 2015
Headquarters: Denver
 $228.5 million
Valuation: $1 billion
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

George Kavallines

Guild Education is a Denver-based edtech firm that helps Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, Walmart, Taco Bell and Lowe's offer debt-free degrees to their employees. Co-founder and CEO Rachel Carlson calls it "education as a benefit" and says her firm is the tech platform and network of nonprofit and public universities. It offers debt-free tuition for employees so that they can get the education and pick up the skills they'll need for today's in-demand jobs. On Guild Education's platform, users can enroll in programs from high school to trades, associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

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According to the company, there are more than 30 million working adults without a high school diploma, and 70% of the U.S. population doesn't have a college diploma. Rather than look at a college degree as a passport to a job, Guild Education is working on helping working Americans get the in-demand skills and education they need with employee-sponsored education benefits. The company has partnerships with Southern New Hampshire University and Purdue Global University, among others. This winter the company partnered with Five Guys to help eligible employees enroll in high school and college degree programs with 100% of the tuition covered by Five Guys.

To help workers laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic, Guild announced the launch of a new program called Next Chapter. It enables furloughed workers to select, train for and transition into new career paths in growing industries like technology, health care, customer success and the skilled trades. Unlike traditional outplacement services, which were designed to place workers in jobs similar to the ones they left, Guild says Next Chapter uses matching algorithms and live coaching to help laid off workers select the right career path and then helps them find the right programs and funding sources to get the training they need without going into debt.

The company raised $157 million in funding in November, bringing its total to $228.5 million. Investors include General Catalyst, Iconiq and Salesforce Ventures.