Euan Blair, the eldest son of former Primer Minister Tony Blair, is the Founder of Multiverse (formerly WhiteHat) — an education start-up that helps young people win apprenticeships. Multiverse was recently valued at $200 million.
What are you trying to achieve and why?
Multiverse was founded to create a diverse group of future leaders. The one-size-fits-all university model that is being pushed on young people in the UK and elsewhere clearly isn’t working. Firms increasingly find that graduates aren’t ready for work, and many graduates never receive the higher salaries they were promised from their degrees. Despite the huge expansion in university attendance, social mobility has barely increased. Diversity is becoming an existential issue in many companies. It’s clear something has to change. Our response is to create an outstanding alternative to university through apprenticeships. By recruiting diverse talent, delivering world-class training, and giving apprentices a community to support them, we can accelerate careers and set our apprentices up to be leaders in the future.
What’s your business model?
We recruit diverse career starters with talent and determination. We go into hard to reach communities through schools, charities and social organisations to spread the word. Our bespoke matching software is designed to measure character and potential rather than pure academic achievements, which are often a function of how good your school was, not what you can go on to achieve. We then provide world-class training through applied learning, where learning happens alongside work so that new skills are embedded through immediate testing and adaptation. We developed a curriculum incorporating some of the world’s best content, to teach people the skills they need for the digital and tech careers of the future. We use coaching and our unique online platform to give people the skills they need to accelerate their careers, no matter what stage they are at. Finally we have created a community to support our apprentices through socials, mentoring, sports, wellbeing and leadership schemes. It’s designed to exceed the best of the university experience and has been ramped up, remotely, to adjust to the current crisis. Businesses pay to enhance their employees’ skills and the majority of funding comes through the Apprenticeship Levy.
How do you measure success?
We measure success in many different ways. When it comes to career success, 91 per cent of our apprentices report that they earned a promotion or a pay rise over the course of their apprenticeship. Our apprentices are more likely to move on to a positive destination, work or full-time study, than university students. We are driven by social mobility. We work hard to ensure that of those apprentices we place around half are from BAME backgrounds or have received free school meals. Ultimately the most reliable measure of success is whether Multiverse is growing, and able to give more people the benefits of our outstanding alternative to university. It took a huge effort, but when the coronavirus hit we moved online swiftly and kept increasing the number of apprentices we trained.
What lessons have you learnt?
Our two biggest lessons are that you can’t compromise on your mission, or on who you hire. Knowing that we are all driven by a single mission to create a diverse group of future leaders has enabled our team to do amazing things you’d never have thought possible, like moving online without missing or rearranging a single session. For startups in particular making good hires can be existential. Diversity is particularly important, with McKinsey research showing the most diverse companies consistently outperform their competitors. So is finding the right digital and tech talent to anticipate demand. So far, we’ve worked with around 50 architecture, design, construction and property firms to fulfil exactly these needs.
What advice would you give your younger selves?
Don’t go to university out of social pressure. There are some good reasons to go but societal expectation isn’t one of them. There are brilliant careers to be had that don’t start with a degree. It’s more important to focus on an objective, map out your path to get there and don’t let anything knock you off course.