When Amanda Steinberg lived in New York in the last decade, she proved her Internet chops by raking in a six-figure salary. Trouble is, she was very skilled at spending all of it, too.
"I had not created any net worth," she said.
Worse, when she sought out information on how to get her financial house in order, she found much of the advice didn't apply to someone who didn't have assets to invest or address the difference between the financial situations of men and women.
On average, women tend to make 30 percent less than men, yet they are more often the "chief financial officers" of their households, she said.
As entrepreneurs do when they encounter what they see as an unmet need, Steinberg started DailyWorth.com Inc., a free, daily, personal-finance e-mail newsletter for women, in January 2009. With its mix of advice on budgeting, savings, investing, and boosting earning power as well as tips on smart spending, the newsletter has resonated with its target audience and has a subscriber base of 55,000 women now.
Just don't call her for financial advice. In fact, her postings often are lessons in how not to do things. "Let me make it clear, I'm not an expert. I started this so I could learn from experts," Steinberg said.
MP Dunleavey, who wrote the "Cost of Living" column for the New York Times and was a regular contributor to MSN Money, is editor in chief of DailyWorth and handles the growing roster of contributors to the newsletter.
But one thing Steinberg, 33, obviously is expert at is networking. Last week, DailyWorth raised its first round of funding - $850,000 - from various venture funds and wealthy individuals. The lead investor was Robin Hood Ventures, the Philadelphia angel-investor group.
John Moore, managing director of Robin Hood Ventures, said the group didn't do many deals with direct-to-consumer businesses. But Steinberg's passion, drive, and entrepreneurial experience were the clinchers, as was the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of a company investors hope will grow to many times its current size.
How big? Steinberg said she hoped to increase the number of subscribers to more than 500,000, which may sound like a lot for an e-mail newsletter. But she considers her target market to number 21 million women.
When Ideal Bite Inc., an eco-focused e-mail newsletter, was acquired by the Walt Disney Co. for a reported $20 million in June 2008, it had about 500,000 subscribers.
Steinberg said she would use the capital to expand DailyWorth's subscriber base and hire more staff. The virtual company has five full-time employees.
DailyWorth is a Philadelphia company because Steinberg lives in the city's Mount Airy neighborhood. But "virtual company" means there are no physical offices, and given the tools available to Web-based businesses, why should there be?
Steinberg's first entrepreneurial effort, the Web consultancy Soapbxx, hasn't had offices since she started it in 2006. Office space is expensive overhead, she said, and a virtual business model enables highly motivated talent to live where they want. For example, Hilary Fetter, DailyWorth's director of marketing, lives in Bozeman, Mont.
The free e-mail is supported by display advertising and regular advertorial content. With financial-services firms accounting for the largest segment of online ad spending in the United States, Steinberg said she thought her company was in the sweet spot as advertising continues to shift to the Web.
In November, eMarketer, a New York business-information service, projected U.S. online ad spending would be $25.8 billion for 2010, up 14 percent from $22.7 billion in 2009. Though Nielsen Co. hasn't released statistics for 2010, it said $117 billion was spent on all advertising in 2009, down 8 percent from 2008.
Moore said Steinberg's message of trying to help women improve their financial literacy was powerful. "Even if you enact just a couple of those things each month, you have the ability to change your personal financial picture," he said.
Powerful enough that mutual fund giant Vanguard Group invited Steinberg and Dunleavey to its corporate headquarters in February to talk with about 250 employees about how to reach out to female investors. Not bad for someone who says she's not an expert.