If you're creating a career platform for aspiring Gen-Y women, it's smart to line up star businesswomen as angel investors. Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Gilt Groupe's Susan Lyne, and serial entrepreneur Gina Bianchini invested slivers of the $1.25 million that Levo League has raised to get off the ground, but so what that their stakes are tiny? The two young entrepreneurs behind the new site know how to ask for help and how to get attention as well.
Attention toward Levo League is high right now because co-founders Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot are officially launching their site today. Fortune is the new company's exclusive media partner.
Fortune has no money in the venture but saw an opportunity because Levo League aims to be a sort of LinkedIn (LNKD) for rising-star women. Ghosn, who is 25 years old and the daughter of Nissan (NSANF) and Renault (RNSDF) CEO Carlos Ghosn, met Pouchot, 26, when they both worked as consultants at McKinsey & Co. The two twentysomethings were surprised -- and frustrated -- that the web offered no go-to hub for smart, career-driven types like them.
"We want women who want to be on the Most Powerful Women's list," says Pouchot, referring to the Fortune Most Powerful Women rankings, about Levo League's mission. This is actually the second try at a startup for her and Ghosn. Their first venture, PYP (Pretty Young Professionals), had similar goals as Levo, but infighting led to a split from two other partners. Levo (the Latin root of "elevate") is going more smoothly. With five full-time employees, Ghosn and Pouchot have convinced 100 companies, including AOL (AOL), Pfizer (PFE), and Teach for America, to post job openings on their site. The companies pay a fee, but job-seekers and other visitors use Levo for free.
How did these two twentysomethings get those star businesswomen to invest? Classic networking. A McKinsey colleague introduced Ghosn and Pouchot to Sandberg, who had worked at McKinsey pre-Google (GOOG) and Facebook. A friend of a friend's mom knew Bianchini, who co-founded Ning and is now CEO of Mightybell, another social site. Bianchini introduced the Levo founders to Lyne.
In the next few weeks, you can go on the Levo League site and access select Fortune content about Most Powerful Women, including last October's cover story about Lyne. While Levo is likely to draw mainly a female audience, men are most welcome. Among Levo's 10 investors are a couple of guys who see opportunity. And yes, Carlos Ghosn is betting his money, too.
"The 18-to-30 age group is the first truly global generation. Forty percent of them have passports. They're more likely to call themselves citizens of the planet earth than citizens of America."
-- Pollster John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, whose insights apply to corporate marketers as well as to Presidential candidatesPatricia Sellers - Jul 7, 2008 11:52 AM ET
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