Follow the Money
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. Read More
The camera opens on a young man leaning on a balcony overlooking Central Park. His brow is furrowed; from the side he resembles Matt Damon. The voiceover comes in, underscored by a cello: “My name is Tim Sykes, and I teach people to trade stocks. I am a self-made multimillionaire and I am the No. 1 ranked trader out of 60,000 on Covestor.”
If you were a discerning customer searching for stock advice, you might pause here. What the hell is Covestor?
The site, run out of London and New York, has been around since 2007, and allows “self-directed” investors to broadcast their trades online.
Covestor requires users—small-time, independent professionals as well as guys at home in their bathrobes watching E*TRADE on two monitors—to connect their online brokerage accounts or submit audited records. Every trade, bad or good, is posted online. In other words, it’s oversharing for traders.
A few years ago, Covestor pivoted to emphasize an even weirder business: mirror trading. In addition to merely watching Mr. Sykes make his millions from his Columbus Circle apartment, one can share the wealth by automatically mirroring his moves. Just as television made celebrities out of Jim Cramer and other prognosticators with good cadence, Covestor hopes to make stars out of any old schmucks who prove they can beat the Street. Read More
It is a truth universally acknowledged that those least in need of a leg up are most likely to receive it. Into that aphorism rolls Merchant Exchange, a new “luxury rewards network” based in New York targeting a subset cofounder Michael Tolkin likes to call “wealthy millenials.”
By Mr. Tolkin’s definition, that means New Yorkers 25-t0-35 who spend between $$30,000 and $40,000 annually, which we imagine refers to disposable income.
“They have money to spend and want to be discerning,” Mr. Tolkin tells Business Insider. “They’re educated and busy; they’re not coupon-clipping.” Presumably they’re also not whipping out their coupon shears because it’s 2012, but who are we to quibble with a noble benefactor of today’s youth-ish.Read More
“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. Read More
Social media startups only seem to get more trendy, and that’s sucking innovation away from other spaces–enterprise, for example. “As you know, most tech accelerators and organizations are almost entirely focused consumer-facing startups (e.g., 90-95 percent of startups at Y Combinator, TechStars, most hackathons, etc.),” the organizers of the new Enterprise Tech Innovation meetup wrote in an email. “However, recently, there’s been a trend to develop enterprise-focused accelerators which I believe have a hope of bringing the kind of innovation large corporations seek.”
Isn’t it funny how the fame and glory of social media has inspired entrepreneurs to build hordes of consumer-facing startups warring for user attention in a web-wide popularity contest, when a B2B service could make its founders rich by signing on just a few major clients? Read More
The folks at Dubset.com, one of the original General Assembly companies, have released a fun little explainer video on the MixSCAN technology they are developing in partnership with Sony Gracenote. The idea is that DJs can upload their mixes and create a virtual watermark. That way any system running MixSCAN can identify when a Read More