A female VC-founder match made in heaven as Accel backs LearnVest

LearnVest, a financial planning and literacy site aimed at women, raised $4.5 million in a first round led by Accel Capital. The company’s earlier investors Richmond Management, Rose Tech Ventures, and principals of Circle Financial Group also joined.

The deal is a bit of an interesting story — it pairs one of the very few female founders around with one of the very few female VCs around.

When founder and former head of business development at Drop.io Alexa von Tobel debuted the site on-stage at TechCrunch50 last fall, she was grilled by a skeptical and mostly male panel of entrepreneurs and investors. They questioned why the web needed a female-focused take, when Mint and Yahoo Finance were readily available.

But Von Tobel stood her ground on-stage, and it looks like the company may have found its match with Accel partner Theresia Gouw Ranzetta coming onto the company’s board. Ranzetta is an expert on niche-focused content properties and advertising networks, with seats on the boards of women-focused Glam Media and real estate search engine Trulia. As audiences have become fragmented, Ranzetta has consistently bet that tightly-focused niche services will increasingly attract advertising dollars and sponsorships.

“Places like Mint don’t always cover the issues that I care about, like how do you prepare for a baby? How do you financially plan for a wedding? Women are the ones who manage household budgets, and no one is speaking directly to that audience,” Von Tobel said. “I just want to go after one niche and own it.”

Since launching last year, Von Tobel has built out the site with daily e-mail newsletters. (Think Daily Candy but for personal finance.) The site already has quite a bit of financial planning content on how to do taxes, manage monthly spending and pay down credit cards and student loans. The company has also launched “bootcamps,” which are 20-day intensive online programs with tips to get in financial shape through budget planning.

Learnvest is based in New York.


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