Entrepreneur: Alexa von Tobel, 27
Funding: $1.1 million in seed funding; $4.5 million from Accel Partners announced in 2010
In 2006, Alexa von Tobel was about to graduate from Harvard to work as a trader at Morgan Stanley. Eager to learn about personal finance, which she had never studied, von Tobel found few sources that started with the basics. In 2008, she took a leave of absence from Harvard Business School to create LearnVest, a website designed to help women gain control of their finances. The site helps users find tips and tools for creating and sticking to a budget. They can also enroll in online "boot camps" on personal finance basics, getting out of debt, cutting costs, and building wealth.
Wisest funding decision: "Investing my own money to start LearnVest. Using my own savings taught me real discipline around spending money for the company," she says. "When every dollar needs to go as far as possible, you are really focused on what's critical for the business. Even after we raised $4.5 million from Accel Venture Partners, I practiced the same discipline."