This disruptive fintech firm is Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. It is run by a woman. It was built by women. It is now also funded by women (and some guys who get it), including tennis superstar and gender-pay-gap-closer Venus Williams; one of Time's 100 Most Influential People, Mellody Hobson; and investing super-stars Theresia Gouw, Jennifer Fonstad, and Sonja Perkins, among others.
This is practically man-bites-dog sort of stuff in the startup world.
Ellevest's mission is to completely rethink investing for women and ultimately close the gender investing gap. No, not to "pink it and shrink it" or provide remedial financial education, but to give women an investing experience built expressly for them. The gender investing gap can cost some women tens of thousands -- for some, even millions -- of dollars, in part because existing investing offerings have not fully met their needs. That can be life-changing stuff.
Ellevest was conceived of and co-founded by Wall Street veteran-turned-entrepreneur Sallie Krawcheck, who has made it her life's mission to help women close their gender money gaps. Lest you be compelled to describe women as a "niche market," they are 50 percent of the U.S. population, control $5.1 trillion in wealth, and will control up to two-thirds of U.S. wealth by 2030. And yet they still report being poorly served by existing offerings. To bridge this gap, Ellevest conducted hundreds of hours of research with women to "co-create" with them a platform that better serves them. This includes a proprietary algorithm that incorporates women's unique salary peaks and longer lifespans. Also, based on this research, the platform offers clients a goals-based investment plan, for goals such as starting a business, retiring well or buying a home, and highly customized investment portfolios built to get them to those goals in the majority of markets. There is no "set it and forget it," but rather active shifting in the investment portfolio over time to increase the chance of clients reaching their goals, and active monitoring of their portfolios to let clients know if they fall off track.
"This incredible group of individuals is investing in other women to promote the message about the importance of taking financial control," said Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest. "They have each broken down barriers in their own careers and are now turning to closing the gender investing gap; we're thrilled to have them as investors in Ellevest."
- Venus Williams — The first black American woman to become a World No. 1 tennis champion, Venus fought for equal prize money for female tennis pros and has been active in a number of social causes, including working closely with UNESCO on promoting gender equality throughout the world.
- Mellody Hobson — Businesswoman and a current director for the Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Starbucks Corporation, Mellody is president of Ariel Investments, for which she also serves as chairman of the board of trustees. She was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2015.
- Aspect Ventures — Led by Theresia Gouw, an engineer, entrepreneur and successful investor in the new mobility space, and Jennifer Fonstad, a mobile and software investor who has been named to the Forbes Midas list twice.
- Ulu Ventures — Led by Miriam Rivera, formerly deputy general counsel at Google. She is currently the co-founder and managing partner of IT investment fund Ulu Ventures and co-founder and co-president of Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, an open source network of Stanford alumni investors and entrepreneurs.
- Nellie and Max Levchin — Angel investors and partners at HVF Investments, Nellie and Max Levchin have spent their careers growing businesses and investing in high-growth startups.
- Individuals from Broadway Angels, an angel investment group made up of world-class female investors and business executives, including Sonja Perkins, youngest-ever general partner at Menlo Ventures; and Karen Boezi, co-founder and former partner at venture capital firm Thomas, McNerney & Partners.
- Astia Angels — This international network invests in startups and ventures founded and led by women. Since 2013, Astia Angels has invested more than $11 million into 38 companies. Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia Angels' parent company, is the lead on the Ellevest investment.
- Khosla Ventures — This leading venture capital firm on the West Coast focuses on early-stage investing in technology, computing and internet sectors.
- Morningstar, Inc. — An investment research firm based in Chicago, Morningstar led Ellevest's Series A funding in 2015.
The Ellevest platform, which has multiple patents pending, announced its Series A round of funding last September. That $10 million round was led by Morningstar, Inc. with participation from Contour Ventures and heavy-hitters like Karen Finerman, co-founder of Metropolitan Capital Advisors and panelist on CNBC's "Fast Money"; Andrea Jung, CEO of Grameen America and former CEO of Avon Products, Inc.; Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz and the former CEO of PIMCO; Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard; Brian Finn, former president of Credit Suisse First Boston; and Robert Druskin, executive chairman of the DTCC.
To learn more about Ellevest and to begin investing, please visit www.ellevest.com.
Ellevest, a federally registered investment adviser, offers a digital investment platform that is reimagining investing for women with a practical, goals-based approach. Ellevest gives women the tools they need to take financial control: a straightforward, full-picture investment plan that reflects real life. Ellevest does not guarantee investment performance. All investing entails risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time. For more information, visit www.ellevest.com.
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