Today the bank accounts of the financial planning service LearnVest are a little more flush. The company announced this morning that it’s raised $16.5 million from current investor Accel Partners, as well as new participants American Express Ventures, Claritas, Carlyle Group founding member Ed Mathias and former T. Rowe Price CEO Todd Ruppert.
They’ve also signed up additional advisors, like Gilt Groupe chairman Susan Lyne and the former CFO of Weight Watchers.
“We were in a position where this came to us,” CEO Alexa von Tobel told Betabeat. “We were not fund-raising–we actually got the term sheet a week before my wedding.”
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Guess Mayor Bloomberg isn’t going to close out his third term partying in swinging London, after all. Today in the hipper-than-thou surroundings of the BuzzFeed offices (BTW? sad lack of actual cats), he announced a new all-out, city-backed push officially expanding the “Made in NY” branding (created for the entertainment industry) to the tech business.
“We’re spreading the word, hopefully drawing even more tech companies to the five boroughs by taking a couple of steps today,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
Companies with at least 75 percent of their production in the city now includes tech firms can apply to be “Made in NY” certified, meaning they can display that spiffy little logo (or as it was described in the announcement, the “mark of distinction”) on their site. Everybody’s getting stickers, in other words!
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Alexa von Tobel is fond of analogies. Blame her time at Harvard, as both an undergrad and in the university’s MBA program–before she won a business plan competition and took a leave of absence to launch LearnVest, a personalized financial tool for those who can’t spare the $2,000 to $3,000 to sit down with a financial planner. (“61 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck,” she noted from the company’s sunny new Soho office. For the former Morgan Stanley trader–and head of biz dev for Drop.io–statistics tend to roll off the tongue.)
In the past, Ms. von Tobel–the first in a growing line of local HBS female founders–has called LearnVest, “Weight Watchers meets personal finance.” In a recent TEDxTalk, she longs for a “Biggest Loser” for household budgets. But in demoing LearnVest’s revamped new platform and iPhone app last week–financed by a $19 million Series B led by Accel Partners last July–she opted for something more ambitious, describing it as “LegalZoom meets personal finance,” for its ability to take hard-to-parse documents and make them accessible to the masses.
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The rain was really starting to come down hard, but the female CEOs at Internet Week appeared undaunted by the passing storm. Birchbox’s Hayley Barna, Learnvest’s Alexa von Tobel, Nest.io’s Caren Maio, Mashable’s Sharon Feder and Artspace’s Catherine Levene joined CNNMoney reporter Laurie Segall for a discussion about gender in tech.
The panel was entitled “Why Being a Good CEO Has Nothing to Do with Being a Woman,” but it was clear from the first question that the women on this panel were more concerned with talking about their businesses than how being a woman has hindered their growth in the tech sector. And who can blame them? After all, the panel was specifically about how gender had nothing to do with their success–though almost all of the questions revolved around their experience as women in a male-dominated world.
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On quick glance, the list of people named to the digital advisory board for Women at NBCU–NBCUniversal’s lady-friendly ad network–contains roughly every female startup founder and techie maven known to Startupland. At least it sorta feels that way.
As PaidContent reports, the digital board includes TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque, IfWeRanTheWorld founder and CEO Cindy Gallop, Rent the Runway founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman, Google’s Marissa Mayer, One Kings Lane cofounder Alison Pincus, Twitter’s VP of media Chloe Sladden, New York City’s Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne, LearnVest founder and CEO Alexa Von Tobel.
“Wtf will they do with $19 million,” a source asked Betabeat back in June when LearnVest announced its $12 million raise out of a $19 million round led by Accel Partners. “For a newsletter that says ‘don’t take cabs every day! Use a 401k!'”
Well, now we know a little more about what LearnVest, the personal finance and lifestyle site for women, has been spending its millions on: “a comprehensive study, which explored women’s financial attitudes, behaviors and needs.” Did you know six in 10 women feel stressed about their finances?
Fortunately, the startup had some bucks left over after commissioning that study to launch a few features.
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First came the Dens and Naveen’s Gap billboard, then David Karp’s Uniqlo ad, and now the photogenic founders of New York startups are showing in jewelry campaigns.
A new black-and-white series of portraits from DANNIJO, the social media savvy jewelry line, features both Foursquare’s Naveen Selvaduari (well, his hand at least) and LearnVest’s Alexa von Tobel, along with celebrities like Questlove.
We knew something was up when news leaked last month that LearnVest had raised a multi-million round which the women-focused personal finance blog was trying to keep quiet. “We had not given that to TechCrunch by any means,” a slightly harried-sounding PR rep for LearnVest told Betabeat at the time when we called to ask what the heck a content site needs that kind of money for. Sources hinted that LearnVest was building “something like Mint.com for women” and today LearnVest announced My Money Center, which aggregates bills, loans, credit cards, bank accounts, 401K and more into an interface that resembles an email inbox, as well as the complementary LearnVest Advice Center with expert advice and financial planning courses. For women.