At just 27-years old, Alexa von Tobel is one of the most celebrated entrepreneurs in New York City. And this summer, she’s been on fire. Today, her company LearnVest is unveiling new products that promise to revolutionize the way women handle their finances. LearnVest is in a class of its own as the leading brand for women and their money online, providing unbiased financial information so all women can make the best financial decisions possible.
When von Tobel graduated from Harvard College in spring 2006, she thought it was ridiculous she had never had a single class on personal finance. There’s OK Cupid to find love, Kaplan to prepare for the LSAT, the Rosetta Stone to learn a new language and WeightWatchers.com to help you lose weight. But how do you find a financial planner?
“I didn’t know how to properly open a credit card, or what a Roth IRA was exactly. I thought, ‘How am I so ill-equipped for something so fundamental to my future?'” She retells. “Money isn’t about being rich, it’s about being secure… But personal finance isn’t taught in high school, college or graduate schools. No one wants to read a self-help book about personal finance and it’s out of date the second it’s published… 70% of America is living paycheck to paycheck…. It’s clear most people can’t afford a financial advisor at Morgan Sachs.”
The irony is that she was going to work as a trader at Morgan Stanley’s internal hedge fund and had just been accepted into Harvard Business School as an undergrad (which doesn’t happen very often). After initially deferring and entering the work force, she eventually enrolled in HBS, only to take a leave of absence shortly after in 2008. It was then she decided to pursue her dream of creating an online platform to help women everywhere gain control of their finances, a platform that became LearnVest.
“When everyone zigs you have to zag,” she says. “I left HBS and moved to New York City armed with a business plan, my savings and a dire passion to make it happen.”
In September 2009, the cherubic blonde closed $1.1 million in venture and angel funding and officially launched LearnVest to the public on November 16th, 2009. She closed a second round of funding in February 2010 with $4.5 million from Accel Partners. And two weeks ago, LearnVest closed a whopping $19 million in a Series B round of funding, which included Accel Partners, two new financial investors, and original investors. Since its launch, LearnVest has signed up nearly half a million users and is rolling out ambassador programs on 22 campuses nationwide. Miss Alexa von Tobel does not have plans to return to Harvard Business School.
The big news today is LearnVest’s new products launch, which is the result of 8 months of rigorous feedback from thousands of women about how they feel about money. LearnVest has identified the largest program: Women don’t know where to start. The new customizable and gratifying products are designed to help members stay on track with the LearnVest Method – “Get informed, get organized, get support.” In addition to a suite of incredible free tools, today marks LearnVest’s first foray into premium services.
For free: As someone who has 5 credit cards, 2 checking accounts, a savings account and a bad habit of picking up bar tabs, I’m most excited by LearnVest’s My Money Center, which acts like Mint.com to organize all of your accounts –checking, savings, investment, loans and credit cards. As a woman who loves to color coordinate, categorize and tag, I love the new design, which you may notice looks like something quite familiar: It’s your Financial Inbox! Allowing you to track all of your spending in one secure location.
Another free tool is LearnVest’s new Take Control Bootcamp, which educates members on how to evaluate the current state of their finances, manage cash flow, and increase net worth. Are you a recent grad? A young professional? A household planner? A career woman or perhaps you’re in money trouble? LearnVest’s Bootcamp program is like a fitness regime for your money with daily action-oriented emails to take control of your finances.
“Financial planning should not be a luxury,” said Alexa von Tobel, LearnVest’s Founder and CEO. “LearnVest is here to make financial planning more accessible to millions of Americans and these new personalized financial tools will help us achieve that.”
Premium: LearnVest’s Advice Center is part of its new premium membership. Building on the success of LearnVest’s original Bootcamp Programs, which are currently the focus of a $150,000 study by the Financial Literacy Center, the Advice center offers unlimited access to personalized support from LearnVest’s Financial Planning Team. Through “Ask An Expert,” members may submit questions focused on their own financial situations and can expect to receive a tailored response within a matter of hours. The Advice Center also offers access to LearnVest Courses, a new multimedia curriculum similar to topics discussed with a Certified Financial Planner and designed to help women create a financial plan. All LearnVest Courses are available on demand. Premium content is available in 1 day ($4.99), 3 month ($39.99) and 1 year ($129.99) packages.
LearnVest created a promo code for you dear readers! It’s TNW2011 and it’s good for a free ‘Day Pass’, which lasts 36 hours. FYI: This code will expire at midnight EST on August 2nd, 2011.
Alexa von Tobel is smart to focus on women. LearnVest began as a content site, so it was imperative to speak to a specific audience. Financial planning is an incredibly personal experience that women go through in very different ways than men. Today, women are getting married later in life, they’re graduating from grad school more often and there also getting divorced more. In the last 10 years, women have experienced a 63% increase in average salary. Of LearnVest’s 30-person team, 80% are women ages 20-50. They know their audience.
Watch our interview with Alexa von Tobel here:
Had von Tobel been born 25 years prior, and pursued her childhood dream of becoming President, I’m certain our country wouldn’t be in talks about raising the debt ceiling. I highly recommend you check out LearnVest’s new tools. I’m planning on spending an hour today doing the same. Share your opinions in the comments!
Read next: Startup Q&A site Sprouter to close