Posted on Friday, May 12th 2017
In 2016, fintech companies raised about $12.7 billion across more than 800 deals, according to CB Insights data. Another Billion Dollar Unicorn from this sector is Robinhood, which is trying to democratize stock trading through its technology-driven brokerage.
Palo Alto-based Robinhood was founded in 2013 by co-founders Baiju Prafulkumar Bhatt and Vlad Tenev. It started with the idea that a technology-driven brokerage firm could operate with significantly less overhead. It wanted to cut out the “fat” in the form of storefront locations and manual account management that makes brokerage firms costly. It is an SEC registered broker-dealer and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), which protect Robinhood’s end users in case of financial troubles faced by Robinhood.
Robinhood claims that it democratizes access to the financial markets and enables its customers to buy and sell US-listed stocks and ETFs easily, on their own. Users wanting to trade stocks through other channels like E*Trade would need to pay anywhere from $7-$10 per transaction. Through Robinhood, customers are able to carry out such transactions without paying any fee. According to Robinhood, it has saved its users almost half a billion dollars in fees on the transactions that it has processed since inception. The mobile app has seen rapid adoption. Its user base has grown from 1 million in October 2016 to over 2 million as of April, 2017. It is adding nearly 140,000 customer accounts each month and has more than 175,000 monthly active users on the iOS platform.
Signing up for Robinhood is easy as well. Customers can open a brokerage account by submitting an application that is verified and approved based on the information provided. The account creation takes anywhere from an hour from the submission of the form to up to five trading days based on factors such as credit history.
Users can choose to open a basic account that lets consumers begin trading with up to $1,000 of the money deposited with the company. Users also have the option of choosing their premium Gold membership, which allows them to trade on leverage. A Gold subscription allows users to borrow up to double the money in their account to trade on margin with leverage. Gold subscribers also get the benefit of being able to skip the three-day waiting period for deposits and can make trades instantly. Finally, they can also select to choose a cash option that is not regulated like a margin account. Robinhood hopes to expand its services to include joint, custodial, trust, and IRA account types in the future.
Robinhood does not disclose its financials. But till recently, it wasn’t earning much in the form of revenues. Since last year, the company has been working on monetizing models. It has released a premium Gold service to earn revenues. The subscription fee ranges from $6 to $15 per month for smaller account sizes and can be as high as $200 per month when dealing with accounts that allow people to borrow up to $50,000. Critics say that Robinhood’s target market of young investors might not understand the implications of margin calls, which could quickly empty out their accounts.
Additionally, it earns revenues in the form of rebates by directing its order flow to broker dealers and as interest income on cash in its users’ accounts.
The company has been venture funded so far with $176 million raised from investors including Aaron Levie, Andreessen Horowitz, Dave Morin, DST Global, Elefund, Greenoaks Capital, GV, Howard Lindzon, Index Ventures, IT Ventures, Jared Leto, Jordan Mendell, Lee Linden, LocalGlobe, Machine Shop Ventures, Michael Liou, Nasir “Nas” Jones, New Enterprise Associates, Nurzhas Makishev, QueensBridge Venture Partners, Ribbit Capital, Rothenberg Ventures, Slow Ventures, Snoop Dogg, Social Leverage, Susa Ventures, Thrive Capital, Tim Draper, and Vaizra Investments. Last month, it added $110 million in funding in a round led by DST that valued it at $1.3 billion.
Robinhood believes that it has figured a way to reshape the brokerage industry. But I am still skeptical. The Gold subscription service opens it to a debt structure that sounds precarious. It also appears to be having a tougher time in expanding in other markets. It tied up with Baidu to expand in China, and then backed out due to the regulatory concerns.
More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.
This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns
. How Marketo Is Faring In The Public Market . Workday's Ramp to Multi-Billion Valuation . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 1) . ServiceNow's Expanding Market Opportunity . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 2) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 3) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 4) . Tableau's Valuation Increases to $6 Billion . A Rare Media Venture Called Vice . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 5)More »» . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 6) . Gaurav Dhillon, Founder of Informatica and SnapLogic (Part 7) . Will Box Implode Post IPO? . Net-a-Porter Cracks The Luxury Fashion Market . Outbrain Prepares for an IPO . Palantir's Skyrocketing Valuation May Be Justified . Online Education Player Lynda.com . Pluralsight's Impressive Rise . Snapchat Explores Revenue Generating Options . Analysts Project Revenue for Pinterest . The Market Awaits Etsy's IPO . Taboola's Content Marketing Growth . Egnyte Eyes IPO in 18 Months . Web 3.0 and E-Commerce Investment Thesis of 3 VCs . Cleversafe's Unique IP Strategy . Cloud Investment Thesis of 5 VCs . GoDaddy Shying Away from IPO, Yet Again . Can Square Sustain Its Valuation? . Zulily Tumbles . MuleSoft Will Be Joining Soon . Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later . ShopClues in India Shows Unicorn Characteristics . What Have You Learned? . ASOS Shines From London . Xiaomi Overtakes Samsung in China . eClinicalWorks Bootstraps With A Paycheck . Strategies From 5 Entrepreneurs . Lending Club Focuses on Growth Post IPO . Slack Speeds Its Way To The Mark . Eventbrite Shies Away from an IPO . Meituan Leads China's Group Buying Market . Gilt Groupe Delays IPO . Veeam Wants To Stay Private . Nextdoor's Valuation Skyrocketing With No Sign of Revenues . Stripe Exploring Tie-Ups for Growth . HubSpot Sustains Solid Growth Post IPO . Shazam Makes it to the Club . OnDeck Scoring in Small Businesses Instant Loans . Fat Startup Adaptive Insights Leading in Cloud CPM . Cloudera Leverages Open-Source Hadoop to Create a Multi-Billion Dollar Business . Evernote Cracks the Freemium Model . Rocket Fuel Crashes on Results . MongoDB Rises High on NoSQL Databases . Shopify Preparing for an IPO . JustFab Getting Ready for an IPO . Kabam to Stay Private? . Adyen Bootstraps to Multi-Billion Valuations . RetailMeNot Worries About Mobile Monetization . Elance-oDesk Taking on the Freelance World . Farfetch Connecting Designers with Consumers . The Impressive Story of Airpush . athenahealth Enters the EHR Market . Privalia Dominates the Latin America Markets . Niche E-Commerce Works for Fanatics . Powa Puts London on the Map . RealReal Shows How to Consign Luxury Products . Vancl On A Roller Coaster Ride . Didi Dache is China's Uber . Dafiti Leading E-Commerce in Latin America . ServiceNow Expands Addressable Market . Flipboard Focuses on Monetization . Hootsuite Eyes an IPO . GoodData Riding High on Big Data Analytics Market Growth . Cheetah Mobile Part Of Chinese Contingent . Hortonworks Needs To Deliver Results . Clarabridge Wins by Analyzing Customer Sentiment . Tableau Continues its Precise Execution . Will Cloudera Sustain $5 Billion Valuation Post IPO? . Freshdesk is a Prospect . InMobi Wants to IPO in India . Zendesk Targets the Live Chat Market . New Relic Getting Ready to Battle with Microsoft . Twilio is Revolutionizing Telecommunications . Funding Circle is UK's Latest Entry to the Club . Luxury Retailer Moda Operandi on the Club's Runway . Splunk is Now Targeting the SMB Segment . Capital-Efficient StartApp Is A Prospect . AppNexus In The IPO 2015 Pipeline . Druva Poised to Produce an Indian Unicorn . MapR Readies IPO . Lookout Getting Ready for an IPO . Anaplan Gets Ready to Enter the Club . Blue Apron Simplifies DIY Gourmet Cooking . GoFundMe Bootstraps till the Half-Way Point . Containers Gives Docker Entry into the Club . Can Kaltura Be A Public Unicorn? . The Ride-Sharing Industry Continues to Deliver Unjustifiable Valuations . MarkLogic Making Waves in Enterprise NoSQL . CloudFlare Offers Website Security over the Cloud . Mixpanel Provides Advanced Analytics for SMBs . Spotify Gearing up to Face Apple Music . Auction.com in Expansion Mode . Nutanix Gives VMWare Tough Competition . Houzz Bootstraps in a Niche Space to Join the Club . Rapid7 Delivers a Successful IPO . Coinbase Tries To Capitalize on BitCoins . Expect Acquisitions From ServiceNow . Zendesk and Freshdesk in Expansion Mode . Zulily Attempts to Make a Turnaround . Etsy Continues to Fumble . Lufax May be Risky, But Valuations Remain Lofty . Will IBM Acquire FireEye? . Mode Media Takes on Video Streaming . New Relic Moves Deeper into Enterprise . Delivery Hero Gets Multi-Billion Dollar Valuation for Food Delivery . Splunk Beefs Up Cyber Security . Garena Secures Singapore's Entry to the Club . Dianping is Thriving in China with its Local Reviews Business . Box Struggles in its Public Avatar . Coupang Raises the Banner for South Korea . InsideSales.com Bootstraps First, Raises Money Later . Pinterest Eyes E-Commerce . Klarna Takes the Risk out of E-Commerce . VNG Grows While Remaining Focused on Vietnam . Good, Bad and Ugly . Sprinklr Rolls up Social Media Management Software Before IPO . ContextLogic Marries Wish Lists to Vendors . Beepi Disintermediates Used Car Dealerships . Snapchat Experiments With Revenues . Tanium Simplifies Cyber Security . Avant is Revolutionizing Consumer Credit . Adyen is on a Roll . Apttus Ready for IPO . ZScaler Takes Security to the Cloud . Bullhorn is in the Making . Sogou a Unicorn, But Yet to Find its Mojo . Evernote Trying to Recover Lost Ground . Modernizing Medicine Is A Prospect . Instacart Looks Shaky . Mogujie's E-Commerce Pivot Pays Off . Zalando Takes the Lead in European Etail . BlaBlaCar Expands Internationally with Acquisitions . Square Files for IPO Below Last Round of Financing . Secretive Infinidat Makes its Way to the Club . FanDuel Creates a Billion Dollar Company out of Fantasy Sports . Kabbage Latest Unicorn in Slowing Online Lending Sector . Atlassian Now Prepping for a US Listing . Match.com Looking to Court the Stock Market Now . Ele.Me Shows Online-2-Offline Works . Alteryx is a Prospect . Machine Zone Translates Multi-Player Games to Multi-Billion Valuation . ZocDoc Should Be Able To Withstand Public Market Scrutiny . Thumbtack Joins the Ranks . Beibei the Baby of the Club . Online Lender SoFi Puts Off IPO Plans . Warby Parker Joins the Club . DraftKings Looks Worried as Fantasy Sports Come Under Scrutiny . Tujia Offers Vacation Rentals in China . Hortonworks Struggles to Stay in the Club . Atlassian, A Legitimate One, Delivers A Great IPO . Reconsider Your Aspirations . Will Docker Sustain? . Veeva Delivers Strong Fundamentals . OfferUp Still Needs to Figure out Revenue Model . Mozido Delivers Mobile Payment to Non-Banking Customers . SimpliVity a Prospect . WePiao Succeeds in Online Ticketing in China . Uptake Joins the Club . For Magic Leap, Unicorn Status No Longer Virtual . Udacity Leans on Industry Giants for Monetization . ForeScout Does Not Want To Go Public Yet . ShopClues Joins the Club . Age of Learning Monetizing in Educational Apps . Square Post Its IPO . Decolar is the Latin American Entry to the Club . Japan's Mercari Joins the Club . Yello Mobile Acquires its Way into the Club . TutorGroup Enters the Club . Souq.com the Middle East Entry to the Club . WeWork Riding the Sharing Economy Wave . Moderna Therapeutics A Promising, Unproven Bet . GitHub Faces Growing Pains . Africa Internet Group the First African Entry to the Club . Paytm Plans Rapid Expansion . Oscar Plans to Expand Its Network . Razer Leads the Gaming Accessory Market . GuaHao Targets China's Healthcare . AUTO1 Group Plans International Expansion . TransferWise Makes Money Transfer Simpler and Cheaper . Ping An Good Doctor Is Largest Chinese Healthcare Unicorn . MindMaze Channels Virtual Reality into Healing . Driverless Car Startup Zoox Joins The Club . Cylance Uses Machine Learning as Cyber Security Tool . SMS Assist Brings a Lackluster Industry to the Club . Unity Technologies a Strong VR Gaming Bet . Square Eyeing Large Sellers . Airbnb Continues to Soar . Xiaohongshu Leverages Social Commerce to Join the Club . iCarbonX Wants to Create a Digital You . Liepin, China's Homegrown Recruitment Platform . Hike is the Latest Entrant from India . Go-Jek Hails its Way into the Club . Quanergy Rides Into the Club . Aiwujiwu Rides High on Chinese Real Estate Sector . Zeta Interactive Counts on Inorganic Growth . Line Delivers a Successful IPO . Grab from Singapore is the Next Big One . Didi Chuxing Monopolizing Chinese Ride-Sharing Market? . Blippar Bets on Its Visual Browser . Two Years Post the IPO, Globant Continues to Soar . Nutanix Delivers a Strong Performance in the First Week of Listing . Coupa Has a Successful IPO . Online-to-Offline Focus Helps Huimin Enter the Club . Real Estate Platform Compass Joins the Club . LeSports Cashes in on Niche Video Streaming . Flipkart's Valuation Bodes Unsteady Future . Russian Avito Gearing up to go Public . Guazi Leading the Chinese Online Used Car Market . Slack Delays IPO to Next Year . Sprinklr Acquiring to take on Big Brands . Infor Accumulates ERP Providers to Build an Empire . Royole Corporation Flexes its Way into the Club . Rong360.com Joins the Club . Stripe’s Skyrocketing Valuation . Hulu Gears up to Stream Cable . Nutanix Delivers Upbeat Performance, Stock Still Down . Procore Joins the Club . JetSmarter Flies Into the Club . Opendoor Labs Opens the Door to the Club . Neo Technology Takes Databases to the Next Level . Kabam Struggles to Stay Alive . Careem is the Latest Middle East Unicorn . Huochebang is the Uber of Trucks in China . SimpliVity Exits in HPE's Arms . Kendra Scott Shows that Women CAN Build Unicorns . Zhihu Imitates Quora to Build a Valuation Without Revenue Company . Putting Flipkart's Struggles in Perspective . BlackLine Continues to Grow Post IPO . Global Switch Wants to be Leader in Data Centers . AppDynamics Sold Before IPO . MuleSoft Delivers Successful IPO . Alteryx has a Successful IPO . Airbnb is in no Rush to IPO . Actifio Focuses on Profitability, not IPO . In Uptake, Groupon Founder Shows He Has Learnt His Lesson . Will Cisco buy Nutanix? . Zoom Video Communications Enters the Club . C3 IoT Joins the Club . Robinhood Joins the Club . Veeva Systems Executes Systematically . Modernizing Medicine Crosses $100 Million Revenue Threshold . Stripe is in no Rush to List . Cloudera Fails to Keep the Market Happy . Stitch Fix Delivers a Surprisingly Fresh Take on Shopping for Fashion . Bill.com Has Scaled Quietly . Toutiao Snags a Big Round, But Growth and Revenues Remain Tricky . Taboola and Outbrain Exploring a Merger . Looker Counts on Big Data Analytics . Katerra Tackles the Construction Industry with Technology . Peloton Cycles Into the Club . Yello Mobile Delays IPO . Kuaishou to Focus on AI . Garena Files Privately in New Avatar . Clover Health Reaches Milestone Valuation . Careem Focused on MENA . DraftKings Faces Hurdles . Sales AI Startup Afiniti Considering IPO . Ticket Monster To Invest In Groceries . Yext Makes it to the Club and on the Exchange . Rubrik Gears up to go Public . Pinterest Delays its IPO Plans . Valuation Without Revenue Nextdoor Trying to Monetize . Delivery Hero Goes Public Albeit Huge Losses . Newly Public Redfin Wants to be the Amazon of Real Estate . VIPKid is the Newest Kid in the Club . Nutanix Making a Comeback . Fanatics now Eyeing Asia . Valuation for Unity Technologies Keeps Soaring