Tony Blair's son is using AI to match employers with their dream hire

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Euan Blair, the oldest son of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, has built a nine-figure net worth by revolutionizing the way employers match with young talent.

Now, the company wants to go one step further with AI, by making sure employers aren’t falling foul of unconscious bias during that arduous hiring journey.

Euan Blair’s education unicorn Multiverse has bought San Francisco startup Searchlight for an undisclosed fee as the embattled group continues to pivot away from getting apprentices into work and towards upskilling those in a job in search of a profit.

Bias-free hiring 

Searchlight, founded by twins Anna Wang and Kerry Wang in 2018, is an “Ethical AI” platform that tries to match prospective hires to their employers by identifying a company’s skills gaps. 

The group also uses what it describes as a “unique learning loop,” which analyzes employee outcome data to improve future hiring results. 

Its platform also aims to use AI to combat unconscious bias practices that can crop up during the recruitment process. That involves taking competencies, soft skills, and working styles into consideration during the hiring process.

Multiverse’s acquisition of Searchlight solidifies its reputation as a smart hiring platform and will accelerate the group’s use of AI.

Ujjwal Singh, Multiverse’s chief product and technical officer, told Fortune that the group is getting closer to giving individualized tutoring on a mass scale thanks to this technology.

“It really just allows us to take the notion of using AI in the upskilling and reskilling space even further,” Singh said. 

Multiverse achieved unicorn status in 2022 with a $220 million funding round that landed the company a $1.7 billion valuation. America’s richest family, the Waltons, was one of Multiverse’s backers in that round.

This came a year after the group received $44 million in funding in a Series B round.

Multiverse started out as a platform to land high school graduates promising careers without going to university through apprenticeships.

Blair has often railed against an education system where rising tuition fees and falling standards mean that for many, the calculation of further studying doesn’t add up. 

“My degrees were not useful at all for work, but I was required to get them to get a job,” Blair told Fortune’s Term Sheet newsletter at the time of his Series B round. “The college is an oligopoly that is not beneficial to those paying the programs.”

The group’s “apprentice population,” including alumni, nearly doubled from 7,600 in 2022 to 13,300 in 2023. 

However, after failing to turn a profit in its nearly eight years of operations, Blair is increasingly pivoting the company away from moving apprentices into jobs to focus on upskilling people already in the workforce.

In 2023, the edtech firm tripled its losses to £40.5 million ($51.3 million) last year, Companies House filings show. 

Blair was forced to lay off 44 employees late last year, saying the company hired too fast, which had contributed to it racking up massive losses. 

The majority of cuts were made in the company’s U.S. office, where Blair’s group had expanded following its Series D funding round. 

In October, City A.M. reported that layoffs had hit the company’s early talent team, tasked with leading Multiverse’s once crucial apprenticeship division. 

Some of Multiverse’s clients, which include Citi, Microsoft, and KPMG, have been forced to cut spending amid the economic slump, encouraging the company to find other ways to sell its learning products. 

The proliferation of AI in the last couple of years has presented itself as an opportunity for Multiverse to offer these new products to clients. Singh gave one example of Multiverse helping to retrain more than 5000 bank tellers in the U.S.

Singh describes Multiverse’s movement into upskilling as an addition to the group’s apprenticeship offering, rather than a pivot away from it. However, in financial terms, it could be the key to unlocking sustainable growth for the company.

“This is us just reacting to what the market is asking for. It allows us to be much more resilient. I think it’s also our path to profitability,” Singh said.

Things can only get better

While he has been forced to reign in hiring in the U.S., Blair’s acquisition of a San Francisco-based firm still represents a rare reversal on a trend of U.S. companies buying up smaller U.K. competitors.

Multiverse cites Crunchbase data showing in the last two months that for every U.S. company acquired by a U.K. one, 3.6 U.K. companies were bought by a U.S. group.

“After meeting Anna and Kerry and digging into the Searchlight product, I was really excited at how they were using AI to spot patterns and identify skilling solutions both within and outside of the workforce,” Blair said in a statement following the announcement. 

“Most companies are on a journey of tech transformation and they want to do it in a way that is both equitable and effective. What often holds them back is the gap between the transformation they want to see, and the skills that will unlock it. “

Multiverse is using acquisitions to accelerate its transition into upskilling, which is increasingly in the spotlight as companies scramble to make their staff more proficient in AI to boost productivity.

In May last year, the group bought Eduflow, an online learning platform, to help spearhead this upskilling drive. 

Singh believes Multiverse can help demystify what has become a scramble for AI capabilities, in a space where employers and employees are rarely aligned on how they can leverage the technology. 

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