Alexa von Tobel took a leave of absence from Harvard Business School just as the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, and founded the online financial planning platform LearnVest Inc. — a plan of action that might sound like a disastrous mistake to some.
But Ms. von Tobel, a certified financial planner whose passion is to bring the principles of personal finance to millions of Americans, was clearly on to something.
On April 15, LearnVest announced it had raised $28 million in a Series D funding round led by Northwestern Mutual Capital, bringing her New York-based startup's total funding to $72 million.
As chief executive of LearnVest, Ms. von Tobel has created a web-based business model that pairs users with CFPs who help walk them through a dashboard providing advice on how to make a budget, determine net worth, link accounts, set up goals and save for retirement.
True to her goal of helping millions of Americans get out of debt and save for retirement, Ms. von Tobel in December published the book "Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money" (Crown Business, 2013), which quickly became a New York Times bestseller.
Earlier in her career, after receiving a bachelor's in psychology from Harvard College, Ms. von Tobel worked as a trader on Morgan Stanley's proprietary trading desk. But business startups had appealed to her since she was a kid with her own lemonade stand, so she left the wirehouse to serve as head of business development at Drop.io, a New York-based online file-sharing venture eventually bought by Facebook. And then she launched LearnVest.
Ms. Von Tobel said the early days of LearnVest were tough, but she stayed focused on her mission of bringing personal financial planning to a wide audience.
"My plan every day was just to make progress and give 110%," she said. "You build momentum and then you build a team of people who are also making progress every day."
— Joyce Hanson
President and founder, FPPad