Guild, the ad-free, digital community and networking app and platform for professionals, has raised $2.7m in seed funding from existing angel investors, as it seeks to establish itself as an alternative to Linkedin and to those using WhatsApp for business purposes.

London-based Guild was initially launched as a safer business alternative to WhatsApp. It went live in beta in 2019, and then opened to the public in early 2020. Guild was created by entrepreneur Ashley Friedlein, who also founded Econsultancy, sold to Centaur Media plc in 2012, and is an investor in a number of technology and B2B media businesses.

Since then, it has evolved to become both a platform for businesses to run GDPR-compliant communities and groups, and an alternative to Linkedin for individuals. Guild is designed mobile-first as a native messaging app but also has a web version

The $2.7 million seed investment comes from Guild’s existing angel investors including B2B media and tech entrepreneurs Tim Weller (Founder, Incisive Media), Ben Heald (Founder, Sift), Victoria Mellor (Co-founder, Melcrum), Alex Martinez (Co-founder, Procurement Leaders).

Guild’s growth has accelerated due to the increased importance of digital collaboration and networking during the pandemic, both across organisations and for individuals – up 500% since the start of 2020. The investment will be used for continued product development, including integrations and payments, and to invest in marketing to grow the user base, as Guild moves towards a Series A funding round in 2022.

As a community platform for businesses, Guild replicates the ease-of-use of consumer messaging apps but with GDPR compliance and greater admin, customer service and data control. Guild customers include The Marketing Society, CIPD, PRCA, PPA, The Lawyer, Management Today, Cambridge University Judge Business School, Econsultancy, Deloitte and the National Education Union.

For individual users, there are more than 2,500 Guild groups and communities to join to make valuable new professional connections and learn from peers in smaller, more contextual networks.

Guild has also appointed Michelle Goodall as chief marketing officer. She joins as a partner and will steer brand, marketing and communications, partnerships and member growth. Goodall joins Guild from Access Intelligence, a SaaS technology company whose marketing and communications platforms include Pulsar, Vuelio and ResponseSource.

Ashley Friedlein, Founder and CEO of Guild, said:

“We knew networking and community were important when we created Guild, but 2020 proved just how much it mattered, and how our current platforms weren’t fit for the job. WhatsApp isn’t a compliant option for businesses to use, Facebook itself continues to make the headlines for the wrong reasons and Linkedin has become noisy, and no longer a place for engaged professional groups. We launched Guild to create a platform and ecosystem for professional communities and networking that is as easy to use as WhatsApp or LinkedIn but without the ads that result in privacy problems, too much noise and a poor user experience. There is clearly an appetite for this and we’re now seeing rapid organic user growth beyond the early adopters.”

The investment, said Friedlein,

“comes at an exciting stage and shows our existing investors’ confidence in how Guild can unlock the value of professional communities. Beyond exchanging expertise and knowledge, we have a vision for community-powered market networks where professionals can monetize their expertise directly and globally. We’re building the infrastructure and member base now to ready us for external funding in 12-18 months.”

“We’re also delighted to welcome Michelle, who has a wealth of experience and deep understanding of community, social media and professional networking and shares our vision of how powerful community is for business, whether for organisations or individuals.”

Michelle Goodall, CMO of Guild, said:

“At a time when other business-focussed social networks are focusing on growing ad revenue, at the expense of user experience, we’re focusing on the power of community and connections and creating the world’s best professional environment for this. LinkedIn will always be important to professionals, but Guild offers something different and complementary: high quality professional groups, communities, connections and expertise on tap, without the spam.”