Founder Profile

Alexa von Tobel

Inspired Capital

After selling her financial planning company, she's backing tomorrow's entrepreneurs.

Alexa von Tobel. Courtesy subject

For Alexa von Tobel, safe havens are for fleeing. A decade ago, in the middle of the financial crisis, she dropped out of Harvard Business School to found LearnVest, a financial planning company. In 2015, she sold the company to Northwestern Mutual, which she also joined, eventually becoming its chief innovation officer. (The price: $375 million, according to a source close to the company.) After the sale, von Tobel found that she was spending every free hour outside of work making personal investments in other startups. One day, it just clicked. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘I should do this full-time,’” she recalls. In January, von Tobel launched Inspired Capital, a New York City-based venture firm focused on early-stage technology companies. Her longtime friend and mentor, former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, joined as a founding partner. For the past six months, von Tobel has also hosted the Inc. Founders Project podcast, interviewing other entrepreneurs to uncover what makes them tick. For her, being back in the field with startup founders feels like home. She says: “I’m in my natural habitat.” --Graham Winfrey

Industry
Financial Services
Year Founded
2019
Location
New York, New York
Industry
Money Movers
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

For Alexa von Tobel, safe havens are for fleeing. A decade ago, in the middle of the financial crisis, she dropped out of Harvard Business School to found LearnVest, a financial planning company. In 2015, she sold the company to Northwestern Mutual, which she also joined, eventually becoming its chief innovation officer. (The price: $375 million, according to a source close to the company.) After the sale, von Tobel found that she was spending every free hour outside of work making personal investments in other startups. One day, it just clicked. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘I should do this full-time,’” she recalls. In January, von Tobel launched Inspired Capital, a New York City-based venture firm focused on early-stage technology companies. Her longtime friend and mentor, former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, joined as a founding partner. For the past six months, von Tobel has also hosted the Inc. Founders Project podcast, interviewing other entrepreneurs to uncover what makes them tick. For her, being back in the field with startup founders feels like home. She says: “I’m in my natural habitat.” --Graham Winfrey

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Daina Trout

Health-Ade

In 2018, her kombucha became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage in the U.S.

Daina Trout. Courtesy subject

In 2012, Daina Trout was working for a big corporation and feeling like a number. With her boyfriend and best friend, she set out to found a company--and settled on what was already brewing on her kitchen table: kombucha. An avid fermenter who’d studied nutrition, she found a niche almost immediately: high-quality fermented tea infused with herbs, cold-pressed organic juice, and spices. Breaking into the refrigerated-beverage case was no simple task, but in 2018, Health-Ade became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage brand in the U.S. It’s in 26,000 stores and has 220 employees, mostly in and around Los Angeles, where the company brews the tea in 2.5-gallon glass jugs, all in its own facility. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Industry
Food & Beverage
Year Founded
2012
Location
Los Angeles, California
Industry
Food Revolutionaries
Co-founders
Vanessa Dew, Justin Trout
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In 2012, Daina Trout was working for a big corporation and feeling like a number. With her boyfriend and best friend, she set out to found a company--and settled on what was already brewing on her kitchen table: kombucha. An avid fermenter who’d studied nutrition, she found a niche almost immediately: high-quality fermented tea infused with herbs, cold-pressed organic juice, and spices. Breaking into the refrigerated-beverage case was no simple task, but in 2018, Health-Ade became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage brand in the U.S. It’s in 26,000 stores and has 220 employees, mostly in and around Los Angeles, where the company brews the tea in 2.5-gallon glass jugs, all in its own facility. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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Maxeme Tuchman

Caribu

Her app takes some of the sting out of being away from home by letting you read and draw with your kids online.

Maxeme Tuchman. Courtesy subject

Maxeme Tuchman is trying to take some of the sting out of family separation. Her Miami-based Caribu makes an app that lets people read and draw online with their children or grandchildren. Users in 164 countries pay $7 a month to access the Caribu library, which is stocked with hundreds of children’s books in seven languages as well as coloring sheets, a word search tool, and other educational activities. Previously Tuchman, who is Cuban-American, was executive director of the Miami-Dade branch of Teach for America; she then served as a White House Fellow under President Obama. At Caribu, she has helped score a $100,000 investment from Rise of the Rest, AOL co-founder Steve Case’s seed fund, sparking Caribu’s $1.3 million seed round. And over the summer, Tuchman launched an equity crowdfunding drive on WeFunder that has so far raised $1 million much of it from women and people of color. One new investor is the Atlanta Falcon’s Ricardo Allen. Tuchman says: “He sent me this note: ‘I’m about to go to training camp, I miss my babies when I’m on the road. This is perfect.’” --Hannah Wallace

Industry
Software
Year Founded
2016
Location
Miami, Florida
Industry
The Platform Economy
Co-founder
Alvaro Sabido
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Maxeme Tuchman is trying to take some of the sting out of family separation. Her Miami-based Caribu makes an app that lets people read and draw online with their children or grandchildren. Users in 164 countries pay $7 a month to access the Caribu library, which is stocked with hundreds of children’s books in seven languages as well as coloring sheets, a word search tool, and other educational activities. Previously Tuchman, who is Cuban-American, was executive director of the Miami-Dade branch of Teach for America; she then served as a White House Fellow under President Obama. At Caribu, she has helped score a $100,000 investment from Rise of the Rest, AOL co-founder Steve Case’s seed fund, sparking Caribu’s $1.3 million seed round. And over the summer, Tuchman launched an equity crowdfunding drive on WeFunder that has so far raised $1 million much of it from women and people of color. One new investor is the Atlanta Falcon’s Ricardo Allen. Tuchman says: “He sent me this note: ‘I’m about to go to training camp, I miss my babies when I’m on the road. This is perfect.’” --Hannah Wallace

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Julie Wainwright

TheRealReal

The IPO of her luxury resale site proves that even high-end shoppers like a second-hand bargain.

Julie Wainwright Courtesy company

That vintage Dior saddlebag you’ve coveted? Julie Wainwright bet big that you’d sidestep eBay to buy it on her site, the RealReal. During a period of eight years, the former CEO of Pets.com raised a stunning $358 million to hire more than 100 gemologists, horologists, and other experts to build the leading authenticated luxury retail site. Along the way, she formed a partnership with Stella McCartney and received honors from Parson’s School of Design for her commitment to innovation and sustainability. Like many direct-to-consumer efforts, the RealReal has also opened physical stores where shoppers can ogle almost-affordable (at least to some) fashion and accessories in person. She took her company public in June. --Kimberly Weisul

Industry
Retail
Year Founded
2011
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
Fashion Forward
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

That vintage Dior saddlebag you’ve coveted? Julie Wainwright bet big that you’d sidestep eBay to buy it on her site, the RealReal. During a period of eight years, the former CEO of Pets.com raised a stunning $358 million to hire more than 100 gemologists, horologists, and other experts to build the leading authenticated luxury retail site. Along the way, she formed a partnership with Stella McCartney and received honors from Parson’s School of Design for her commitment to innovation and sustainability. Like many direct-to-consumer efforts, the RealReal has also opened physical stores where shoppers can ogle almost-affordable (at least to some) fashion and accessories in person. She took her company public in June. --Kimberly Weisul

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Alli Webb

Squeeze

She's bringing her successful Drybar model of providing expensive beauty treatments at a reduced cost to the massage industry.

Alli Webb. Courtesy subject

In March 2019, Alli Webb and her team opened Squeeze, a massage shop that lets patrons book and pay by way of an app, giving them a seamless experience when they arrive for their rubdown at spaces designed by the architect behind Drybar, her runaway-success hair care chain. Webb says she plans to build Squeeze, where massages cost $39 to $129, on a franchise model, "because it's really gratifying to be able to give [entrepreneurs] the keys to the kingdom.” Webb isn’t a college graduate, and that untraditional path is something she hopes will inspire other entrepreneurial women. “There are a lot of different pathways to success,” she says. On the Drybar side, Webb has been focusing on building the product line, adding a mini-brush hair straightener and a quick-dry blowout serum, among other items. Drybar products will be in more than 2,700 retail doors by 2020, including 128 Drybar shops. The company will add some 25 locations by the end of 2019. --Anna Meyer

Industry
Consumer Services
Year Founded
2019
Location
Studio City, California
Industry
Fitness Nation
Co-founders
Brittany Driscoll, Michael Landau, Cameron Webb, Sarah Landau
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In March 2019, Alli Webb and her team opened Squeeze, a massage shop that lets patrons book and pay by way of an app, giving them a seamless experience when they arrive for their rubdown at spaces designed by the architect behind Drybar, her runaway-success hair care chain. Webb says she plans to build Squeeze, where massages cost $39 to $129, on a franchise model, "because it's really gratifying to be able to give [entrepreneurs] the keys to the kingdom.” Webb isn’t a college graduate, and that untraditional path is something she hopes will inspire other entrepreneurial women. “There are a lot of different pathways to success,” she says. On the Drybar side, Webb has been focusing on building the product line, adding a mini-brush hair straightener and a quick-dry blowout serum, among other items. Drybar products will be in more than 2,700 retail doors by 2020, including 128 Drybar shops. The company will add some 25 locations by the end of 2019. --Anna Meyer

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