Venture capital isn't particularly inspiring, according to Alexa von Tobel. The founder of financial planning company LearnVest felt that other VC firms were leaving much to be desired with younger entrepreneurs, who tend to be more diverse in background and location than older founders. They were going to miss the next socially conscious Mark Zuckerberg. She wasn't.
On Tuesday, von Tobel announced Inspired Capital, her first venture firm in partnership with former US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The firm's debut fund raised $200 million from 25 separate limited partners, and was delayed over the summer when von Tobel gave birth to her daughter.
“I am not totally superhuman and I had our third child, so we decided to use that window to set up our firm operations,” von Tobel told Business Insider. “We used the summer to finish the fund raise and are officially now heads down and in business!”
Inspired Capital's debut comes on the heels of an annual study by Carta that found female founders, employees, and investors all hold less startup equity than men in the same positions. Commonly called the equity or wealth gap, the discrepancy has been a Silicon Valley boogeyman blamed for larger gender disparities in tech and beyond. It remains to be seen whether New York-based Inspired will suffer the same inequities, but von Tobel is certain that her firm's “authentic diversity” will resonate with younger entrepreneurs hoping to bring widespread change to the tech industry.
“When you would do something for free, that's usually a good sign you should do that thing for a living.”
“I'm really proud of the leadership and entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” von Tobel said. “A 22 year old is so refreshing in how they think about the world. They have such a thoughtful and moderate view of it and they want better equality and diversity.”
Part of that diversity comes from the firm's 25 limited partners, von Tobel said. Although she and her team are based in New York City, she said her investors are helping source potential investments from across the country. Although she said she is proud of New York's startup ecosystem, she felt it was necessary for the young firm to look outside major coastal cities if they want to fund the best and brightest early. The fund will concentrate on writing checks between $500,000 and $10 million for seed and Series A stage investments.
“The world is changing very rapidly, and our job is to look at everything coming down the pipe to inform our thesis and our strategies,” von Tobel said. “Different cities develop different forms of innovation, and it's important we have windows into all of them.”
At the end of the day, von Tobel knows that New York is still a crowded market for investors. So Inspired Capital will lead or co-lead any round it participates in, with the option for board seats. She said that her team has deep roots in New York's growing tech scene, and thinks they are best equipped to ensure it grows responsibly going into a new decade.
“It's a group of people who love to build businesses and we would do it for free,” von Tobel said. “And when you would do something for free, that's usually a good sign you should do that thing for a living.”