Robinhood, the app that lets you trade stocks without paying any fees, is now valued at a whopping $US1.3 billion after taking on $US110 million in fresh funding, cofounder Baiju Bhatt told Business Insider.
The Series C round was led by Yuri Milner’s investment arm, DST Global, and included Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital. Robinhood’s total funding is now $176 million.
Robinhood launched in December 2014 and quickly became a favourite among younger people looking to invest without paying $US7 or more per trade. The app itself is stylish and simple, which helped lure the first-time investors that made up Robinhood’s first big wave of users. Robinhood now has over two million accounts, and crossed $US50 billion in transactions, Bhatt said.
In September, Robinhood launched its first premium product, Robinhood Gold, which starts at $US10 per month and gives users access to features like a line of credit and after-hours trading. Part of the enthusiastic valuation in this round springs from Robinhood Gold’s 17% month-over-month sign-up growth.
“Over 50% of our trading volume comes from Robinhood Gold,” Bhatt said. It also showed both investors and users who might be worried Robinhood would start charging per-trade fees how the company could grow revenue. “This is how we make money,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt said that Robinhood is committed to “unconditional free trading” forever. That’s “what makes it hard, but also makes it magical,” he said. That’s also what he thinks will protect Robinhood from big incumbents flooding the market with their own products, as has happened in the robo-advisor space.
“Free is pretty difficult,” he said, as it requires a level of automation that is hard to get to. Of Robinhood’s team of over 100 people, most are software engineers. By design, Robinhood will never offer a high-touch product that involves regular human interaction. “Our consumers don’t want that,” Bhatt said. And it gets expensive.
As to where Robinhood is going next, the broad idea is to take most financial services, and “drive the cost down to absolute zero,” Bhatt said. Today it is trading, and Robinhood is very transactional, but the company is looking at other areas. “Lots of people who will never invest in the stock market,” he said. Robinhood thinks it’s figured out something for them too.
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