Alexa von Tobel has just done what few women investors before her have managed to do: In under a year, her investment firm Inspired Capital has raised a first venture fund of $200 million, the company announced November 12. That puts the New York City-based firm, which she founded in January with Penny Pritzker--the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Barack Obama--in a rarefied league of venture capital firms started by women.
Besides Inspired, there's Aspect Ventures, which was founded by Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw, respective alumnae of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Accel Partners. It raised $181 million for its second fund last January. Rethink Impact, a two-year-old venture firm led by Jenny Abramson, has $112 million in its coffers.
Unlike Rethink Impact and a raft of other, notably smaller women-backed funds, von Tobel's firm isn't specifically geared toward investing in women-led companies. That's certainly important, says von Tobel, who is also an Inc.com columnist and host of Inc.'s Founder's Project podcast. "While 74 percent of VC firms have zero female investors, and as entrepreneurs move toward gender parity, we do believe we have a highly unique competitive advantage at Inspired Capital."
The company's investment in Chief offers a glimpse into how that might work in action. In July, General Catalyst and Inspired co-led a $22 million Series A round in the New York City-based private networking organization for female business leaders, which was founded by Lindsay Kaplan and Carolyn Childers. The round was one of the largest Series A rounds raised by a woman-led company this year.
Inspired says it invests in seed and Series A stage tech startups that are also capital-efficient businesses, which means the intended market is sizable and a company's trajectory toward profitability appears solid. And if the pitch intersects with the firm's own fintech expertise, even better. In October, Inspired participated in a $4.9 million investment round in digital business bank Rho.
In 2008, von Tobel dropped out of Harvard Business School to found LearnVest, a digital financial-planning service, which was acquired by insurance giant Northwestern Mutual in 2015, for a reported $375 million. Pritzker also excels in areas of finance. She's the founder and chairman of Chicago's PSP Partners, an investment company, which has holdings in real estate, growth-stage companies, and startups. Her family founded the Hyatt Hotels chain.
Von Tobel says her broader goal with Inspired is to help reflect the changing face of startups today and beyond. "Our strategy is simple: Inspired Capital is a modern firm focused on the country's best entrepreneurs, who are building category-creating, tech-advantaged, durable businesses," she says. "Our doors are open to everyone, and we're excited about that future."