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LearnVest founder and CEO Alexa von Tobel turned down Harvard and a life on Wall Street to make personal finance education accessible to women, and she has no intention of failing.
She thinks learning how to manage your money should be simpler, a passionate belief which comes from her personal need for her New York-based company’s product, a series of online tutorials on personal finance which have led some to dub her “Suze Orman 2.0.” On Tuesday, LearnVest announced the launch of three new on-demand, online Bootcamps covering basic personal finance, cutting costs, and investing. These products are just the latest iteration in von Tobel’s quest.
The 26-year-old von Tobel got the idea for LearnVest while working at Morgan Stanley, realizing that she had no idea how to manage her own finances.
“Here I was responsible for millions and millions of dollars and I didn’t know the first thing about getting a credit card or insurance,” von Tobel said. “I needed tools like these.”
Instead of attending Harvard Business School, von Tobel put all the money she’d earned after college into building LearnVest. Since then, the company has raised over $5.5 million in financing, most recently closing a $4.5 million round led by Accel Partners in April.
The LearnVest CEO has been spending a great deal of time in the media spotlight recently. She was recently named to Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list of young entrepreneurs and has received media coverage from a number of local and national outlets including BusinessWeek and the New York Times. The ‘Suze Orman 2.0’ moniker first came from a Fox reporter.
But behind the media attention that even has the attractive blonde’s coworkers teasingly calling her ‘Finance Barbie’ is an entrepreneur possessed. Her self-deprecating humor and amiable demeanor are genuine, but von Tobel is shrewedly packaging herself and LearnVest as an accessible and fun medium for learning about personal finance. And she’s doing it from a cubicle alongside her employees in Learnvest’s cozy New York office.
Usage statistics suggest it’s beginning to work, with Learnvest receiving about 360,000 unique visitors in the U.S. per month according to Quantcast, a Web-traffic-measurement service..
While von Tobel is certainly passionate about giving women unbiased advice on their personal finances, she is also keeping her eye on earning money to repay her investors.
And that’s where LearnVest’s latest product, the online bootcamps, come in. The three-week programs consist of daily emails with information and easy to do items that take minutes, according to von Tobel. The investing bootcamp is LearnVest‘s first paid offering, costing users $7.99.
“It’s cheaper than ‘Personal Finance for Dummies’ and easier to understand and accomplish,” von Tobel said. “We don’t want users to be overwhelmed.”
LearnVest’s content also provides affiliate marketing opportunities for the New York startup, where LearnVest earns money by suggesting personal finance products like credit cards.
Besides affiliate fees, LearnVest also sells advertising, in the hope that financial services firms and other brand advertisers will pay a premium for female users taking advantage of LearnVest’s educational content over what they’d pay for such users on general-interest websites.