Von Tobel is best known as the founder and CEO of LearnVest, which aimed to demystify financial planning. That company was acquired by Northwestern Mutual in 2015, for a reported $250 million. On January 4, Northwestern Mutual announced that von Tobel would be leaving the company. And on January 9, von Tobel filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise up to $200 million for a venture capital fund to be called Inspired Capital. Von Tobel did not comment on the formation of the fund, citing SEC regulations.
When Northwestern Mutual acquired LearnVest, the startup had about 1.5 million users and about 150 employees. Von Tobel stayed on as LearnVest was operated as a separate unit within Northwestern, eventually becoming Northwestern's chief innovation officer. LearnVest stopped offering financial planning services in May 2018. Northwestern says that it has incorporated LearnVest's technology into its own platform.
If von Tobel succeeds in raising the $200 million, hers will be one of the largest funds started by a woman. Of course, others have paved the way: Aspect Ventures, founded by alumnae of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Accel Partners, raised $181 million for its second fund.
Von Tobel has seen all sides of the finance world. She worked as a trader at Morgan Stanley after graduating from college, and came up with the idea for LearnVest while working there. She then went to Harvard Business School, but left in 2008 to start LearnVest.
In the process of building LearnVest, von Tobel raised a total of $69 million over five rounds. Her earliest investors included Golden Seeds, an angel group that invests only in women-led companies, and Accel Partners. The company later raised money from American Express and, in 2014, Northwestern Mutual.
Von Tobel has been an active angel investor, investing through Blue Jumpsuit Ventures. She's appeared as an investor in Airtable, a database company; Forethought, which makes artificial intelligence to improve customer support; women's network Chief; and Propel, which makes an app to help people better manage food stamps.