Guideline raises $15 million led by Felicis to make 401(k)s more widely available

Everyone should be saving for retirement, but not everyone has an employer that offers a 401(k) plan. Guideline wants to change that, and the company has raised $15 million to grow its base of small business customers making retirement more attainable for employees.

Founded in 2015, Guideline wants to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to offer 401(k) retirement accounts. It does this with a SaaS-based offering that includes a small $500 fee for setup and monthly charges based on the number of employees that participate.

Unlike legacy 401(k) providers, Guideline doesn’t make its money off a percentage of its assets under management. As a result, the company is not incentivized to ignore SMBs, which typically don’t have enough employees (or assets) for most financial institutions to justify winning their business.

This was a key insight founder Kevin Busque had in building the business. He got interested in the problem while at his previous company, TaskRabbit, when he began offering retirement accounts as a benefit to employees.

Even after introducing the plan to employees, he noticed that the company had a very low participation rate. After digging in, he realized that was due to lack of education and understanding on the part of employees around which funds to pick and how much they should be putting aside for retirement.

In 2015, Busque decided to build Guideline not just to make it easier for employers to offer 401(k) plans, but also to increase employee participation. Part of that stems from integrating with payroll providers that SMBs already use, including Gusto, OnPay, BambooHR and Xero.

And part of it comes from just offering a better product to the end user — the employee — in helping them set up and manage their retirement accounts. By answering a few questions about their age, salary and risk tolerance, Guideline can provide a recommended plan for them.

Since going live last summer, the company has grown to attract nearly 2,000 employers who offer plans using its platform and amassing more than $120 million in assets under management. And Guideline has another 3,000 companies in its backlog that could convert into paying customers.

As a result of that growth since launch, Guideline today is announcing a $15 million round of financing led by Felicis Ventures. Along with the funding, Felicis managing partner Aydin Senkut will join Guideline’s board.

The company plans to use the funding to grow its engineering and customer success teams, which it plans to drive more partnerships and hopefully more customers signing up over time.

Prior to this round, Guideline had raised $9 million from investors that include Propel Venture Partners, NEA, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, SV Angel, Red Swan Ventures, BoxGroup, Xfund and 500 Startups.