Obama administration Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker says there is work in the future—we just need to help more people adapt.
Stuart Isett—Fortune
By Polina Marinova
February 8, 2019

In January, SEC filings revealed that LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel will raise $200 million for a new early-stage venture capital fund called Inspired Capital Partners. Now, a source familiar with the nascent fund tells Fortune that billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker will join the venture as a founding partner. Both von Tobel and Pritzker declined to comment, citing SEC regulations.

Pritzker, whose family is behind the Hyatt Hotels chain, is the founder and chairman of investment firm PSP Partners. PSP has approximately 70 employees, and it deploys capital into real estate, mature private companies, and other investment funds.

But recently, she’s taken more of an interest in startups and added a venture capital arm to the firm called PSP Growth, which focuses on investing in fast-growing tech businesses. Its portfolio companies include Beachfront Media, a mobile-advertising platform; House Canary, a real estate analytics and valuation firm; and Measure, a drone inspection-services provider.

“I’ve always had an interest in innovation,” Pritzker told Crain’s Chicago Business in 2018. “I decided (technology) would become an area of focus for me after my time at the [U.S. Department of] Commerce. I’m a nerd at heart. Tech is affecting every aspect of our economy. My approach is to jump in with both feet.”

The duo met when Pritzker served as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. Von Tobel was a member of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, which was a collaboration between entrepreneurs and the White House. The pair took a trip together to Morocco on behalf of the White House and discovered they shared a passion for building companies, according to the source.

Von Tobel and Pritzker both have operating backgrounds.

Von Tobel founded LearnVest in 2008, which is a financial planning service platform. Northwest Mutual acquired the startup in 2015 for $350 million. Von Tobel then joined Northwestern Mutual as the chief innovation officer and left in January to pursue her next act as a venture capitalist.

Pritzker founded Vi Senior Living (formerly known as Classic Residence by Hyatt) and co-founded an off airport parking company called The Parking Spot. She also sits on the boards of Microsoft and The Harvard Corporation.

It’s unclear what types of companies Inspired Capital Partners will back, but based on Von Tobel’s angel investments, it’s likely the firm will focus on startups within the financial technology sector.


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