Freetrade, the U.K. challenger stockbroker that offers commission-free investing, has closed $15 million in Series A funding. The round includes a $7.5 million investment from Draper Esprit, the U.K. publicly listed venture capital firm, along with previously announced equity crowdfunding via Crowdcube.
The funding will be used by Freetrade for further growth and product development, including “doubling down” on engineering hires. The firm, which claims more than 50,000 customers, is also planning to expand to Europe next year.
In addition, Adam Dodds, CEO and founder of Freetrade, tells me there will be a marketing and content push to help reach more of the challenger stockbroker’s target millennial customers and help educate the market as a whole that investing in the stock market doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive or complicated.
Amongst a number of new stock trading and investment apps in the U.K., London-based Freetrade was first out of the gate as a bona fide “challenger broker” after deciding early on to build its own brokerage. This included obtaining a full broker license from the FCA, rather than simply partnering with an established broker.
The Freetrade app lets you invest in stocks and ETFs. Trades are “fee-free” if you are happy for your buy or sell trades to execute at the close of business each day. If you want to execute immediately, the startup charges a low £1 per trade. The idea is to put the heat on the larger incumbents that can charge up to £12 per trade, which is off-putting to people wanting to only invest a small amount or regularly refresh a modestly sized portfolio.
Meanwhile, Dodds says that next on the product roadmap will be a new investment platform that will give users the option to purchase U.K. and European “fractional” shares, not just U.S. ones, which he claims will be a first.
With that said, competition has been steadily increasing since Freetrade set up shop. Silicon Valley’s Robinhood is gearing up for a U.K. launch, having recently received regulatory approval. Bux has also recently launched commission-free trading and now bills itself as a challenger broker just like Freetrade. Then, of course, there’s Revolut, the fast-growing challenger bank that tentatively launched fee-free stock investing in August.
Noteworthy, André Mohamed, previously CTO and a co-founder of Freetrade, joined Revolut as its new head of Wealth & Trading Product, adding a bit of extra spice to that rivalry. As I wrote at the time, the circumstances that saw Mohamed depart Freetrade remain unclear. According to my sources, his contract was terminated last year and the two parties settled, with Freetrade accepting no liability.
“Freetrade are on a mission to open up investment opportunities for everyone, as are we,” says Simon Cook, CEO of Draper Esprit, in a statement. “In this sense, their mission is totally aligned with our own, as a rare tech-focused VC listed on the stock exchange. The company have shown exceptional growth in the short time since they first launched the platform last year. We could not be more delighted to support Adam, Viktor, Ian and their wider team as they enable Europe’s 100 million millennials to benefit from the world’s economic growth.”