Inspired by the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement, Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt founded a no-free trading app called Robinhood. They wanted to “democratize access to the financial markets.”
Robinhood launched in December as an iPhone and Apple Watch app. It lets people — primarily first-time investors — buy and sell stocks without being charged commission fees, which usually run between $US7 and $US10.
Unlike regular trading, Robinhood is mobile-first. This cuts out the cost of paying human traders.
On Thursday, Robinhood announced the company had raised a $US50 million round led by NEA. Vaizra Investments joined the round with existing investors Index Ventures, Social Leverage, & Ribbit Capital, bringing Robinhood’s total funding to date to $US66 million. Previous investors in the company include Snoop Dogg and Marc Andreessen.
The company will use the new funding to grow its team. The founders hope to double Robinhood’s Palo Alto headcount of 30 employees by the end of the year. In addition, they will be launching an Android app later in 2015.
In addition, Robinhood will begin expanding to international markets, beginning with Australia. Australians will be able to access US listed stocks and ETFs. A spokesperson for Robinhood says the company is seeing “huge demand” from the country already.
When you use Robinhood, you don’t pay traditional brokerage commission fees, which Robinhood’s founders see as prohibitive to new investors. You also don’t have to put down a minimum deposit.
“Imagine you’re a first-time investor in your early 20s. You have a few hundred dollars — maybe a thousand dollars — to put in the market. You want to learn how it works. Seven to 10 dollars eats into that quite a bit,” cofounder Vladimir Tenev told us back in December.
Robinhood follows a freemium model — it allows customers to buy and sell US stocks and ETFs, customise watchlists, place market orders, and track data in real time. However, if you’re looking for premium services like margin lending, you’ll have to pay a fee.
The company says that since December, they have seen over $US500 million transacted through the Robinhood platform. Robinhood has “hundreds of thousands” of customers since its launch five months ago. 25% of Robinhood customers are first-time investors, and the average age of a Robinhood customer is 26.
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