Meet the the founder of a hot fintech startup that an old-line insurance company paid $250 million to buy

LearnVest, the six year old financial planning startup, sold itself to Northwestern Mutual in March in what some think is the biggest fintech acquisition to date: a reported $US250 million. The company, which provides education and financial planning tools for a low monthly fee, was founded by Alexa Von Tobel, a 31-year old entrepreneur. Northwestern Mutual, a venerable Midwestern insurer, gained the fast-growing, tech savvy LearnVest just as competition in the space is increasing.

Von Tobel’s risks paid off. She says she started LearnVest because even with a Harvard education and experience as a trader at Morgan Stanley, she felt she hadn’t had a sufficient education in personal finance. The company began as financial education targetting women. Over time, it added professional financial planning and its demographics have shifted to typically serve families.

LearnVest might have sold at just the right time, with increasing competition from companies like Personal Capital, Betterment, and Mint getting into the high tech advice space. And older financial firms like Charles Schwab have introduced cheap or free advice services. LearnVest now has the capital of Northwestern Mutual to try to carve out a niche in an increasingly crowded field.

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