Finance

Ex-Wise employees raise $10m to build Europe’s answer to Robinhood

Two former employees of British fintech firm Wise have raised $10m to fund Europe’s answer to Robinhood, bringing on board an all-star cast of investors as their new company launches in the UK.

Lightyear, which offers stock trading alongside multi-currency banking accounts, said it has closed its first seed funding round at $10m with investment from early Monzo backer Eileen Burbidge, venture capitalists Mosaic Ventures, and Wise chief technology officer Harsh Sinha.

Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and early Skype executive Sten Tamkivi also participated via their firm Taavet+Sten, having already invested in Lightyear this summer alongside Robinhood’s former UK president Wander Rutgers and Checkout.com CTO Ott Kaukver.

It comes as the startup is to start rolling out access to its products for customers on its UK waiting list, which has grown to more than 5,000 sign-ups prior to launch, on 15 September.

Lightyear emerged out of stealth mode this summer with news of early funding from Hinrikus, Rutgers and others, having been founded in October 2020. Its team also includes ex-Robinhood UK staff, after the Silicon Valley tech giant opted to terminate its operations in the UK last year.

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“Ten months ago Lightyear was just an idea, so we’re really excited to have raised a total of $10m, hired a world-class team and to be launching the first iteration of our app. There are more people in Europe investing now than ever before, but there’s still a very long way to go,” said Martin Sokk, chief executive of Lightyear. He co-founded the business alongside Mikhel Aamer, both early Wise employees.

The Lightyear platform will feature more than 1,000 globally-listed stocks. It is attempting to provide clarity around the conversion fees that investors can face when trading by allowing customers to add, hold and invest money in multiple currencies.

The London-based firm said it plans to expand its business across Europe in the second half of next year, using its seed funding to accelerate those plans from its office in Tallinn, Estonia.

“When it comes to investing in an early-stage business, it’s crucial that the team is best in class, that I believe in the sector, and the product has global appeal,” said Burbidge, whose investment was independent of her venture capital firm Passion Capital.

Burbidge described the team as “highly motivated” and “extremely talented”, noting the increased interest in retail trading during the pandemic.

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Robinhood’s cancelled debut in the UK paved the way for other firms to fill the space, including Israeli online brokerage eToro and Freetrade.

Demand for stock investing has skyrocketed this year as retail investors globally targeted US companies with high popularity on social media, such as GameStop and AMC.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Emily Nicolle

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