A Silicon Valley startup that uses technology to make 401(k) retirement plans more accessible to small businesses is opening an 11,000-square-foot office in downtown Portland on Tuesday.

Guideline Inc., which has raised $59 million in venture capital investment since it launched in 2015, already has hired more than 30 people in Maine and plans to hire 50 more, the company’s chief executive said Monday. Guideline is based in San Mateo, California, and has offices in Portland and Austin.

A San Francisco-based tech company, Guideline, that automates 401(k) employee benefits plans for small businesses opened an 11,000-square-foot office in downtown Portland on Tuesday, has already hired 30 employees and is planning to hire dozens more. From left: co-founders Mike Nelson and Jeremy Caballero, and CEO Kevin Busque. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The company is competing to manage a share of the roughly $7 trillion invested in 401(k) plans in the United States, but it is taking a different approach along with a handful of young competitors. Guideline aims to lift administrative and cost burdens from small businesses by developing software to automate much of the process of managing and tracking employee retirement plans.

“We think of ourselves as a software company and not as an investment management company,” Guideline CEO Kevin Busque said.

The company focuses on the small-business market, which is regarded as an area of tremendous, untapped potential because only about 10 percent of small businesses and startups offer 401(k) plans to their employees. In addition to streamlining the 401(k) management process, Guideline also lowers the cost by charging only a licensing fee per user, rather than taking a percentage based on the amount of each client’s retirement assets under its management, as most fund managers do.

Guideline charges $8 per month per employee enrolled in a client’s 401(k) plan, Busque said. The company’s target market is businesses with about 20 employees, but it has clients as large as 1,500 employees, he said.

Guideline’s Portland office will be overseen by its chief technology officer, Maine-native Mike Nelson, and will be staffed with a variety of job classifications including software engineers, quality assurance specialists, information technology managers, account and customer service managers and sales people.

Dozens of open positions in Portland are being advertised on the company’s website, Guideline.com.

“These jobs are posted, and we’re ready to hire,” Busque said.

With Maine’s unemployment rate hovering around a record low of 3 percent, some employers have complained of difficulty hiring skilled workers in technology and other specialized fields. Still, Busque said Guideline has had no trouble thus far in filling needed positions in Portland and elsewhere.

He said the company has unique appeal as a fast-growing and well-funded startup and that it has been able to attract highly skilled workers to Maine from other regions, such as the Boston area.

In December, Guideline secured a $35 million round of venture capital led by New York-based Tiger Global Management, bringing total investment in the company to date to $59 million. Guideline has 135 employees, about 8,400 clients and $1.4 billion in assets under management.

“We did 10 percent of all new 401(k)s last year in the entire country,” Busque said.

This story was updated at noon Aug. 20 to correct the company’s Texas location.


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