Meet Lightyear, a new London-based startup coming out of stealth today. The company is building a stock trading app with a focus on creating a truly commission-free app. In addition to waving account fees and trading fees, Lightyear doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees either — up to a certain point.
The two founders met when they were working at Wise — then known as TransferWise. That’s why it makes sense that Lightyear wants to stand out from the crowd with lower foreign exchange fees.
Martin Sokk, co-founder and CEO of Lightyear, worked at Wise between 2012 and 2017. He held various roles, such as head of product, head of people and head of operations. Mihkel Aamer, Lightyear’s other co-founder and CTO, was an engineering lead at Wise between 2013 and 2019.
“Having spent my career in financial services, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe retail investing in Europe is still very much ‘the ugly’ — we’re talking about sneaky fees, less access and complicated products remaining as the status quo,” Aamer said in a statement. “We’re building something that will change that by opening up investing to everyone, whichever global market they want to invest in and however much they want to invest.”
As a user, you can expect a mobile app that lets you buy and sell shares and ETFs. There will be 1,500 stocks and ETFs from multiple markets at launch. Customers won’t pay any account fees, trading fees and foreign exchange fees. But there will be a limit on foreign exchange fees. After £3,000 per month, users will pay 0.35% in FX fees.
The app isn’t quite ready just yet, as Lightyear is opening up a waitlist today. The product should roll out at some point during the third quarter of this year.
Lightyear has raised a $1.5 million pre-seed funding round co-led by the new unnamed fund formed by Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Teleport co-founder Sten Tamkivi. This is their first investment through this new venture. Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn is also co-leading the fund through Metaplanet. There are also several business angels participating in today’s funding round, including Checkout.com CTO Ott Kaukver, former president of Robinhood U.K. Wander Rutgers and Veriff founder Kaarel Kotkas.
It’s a nice list of investors, but the company will face tough competition from other startups — you’ll likely end up paying more fees if you use one of these competitors, but they’re already well established. For instance, Berlin-based stock trading app Trade Republic has recently raised $900 million. In the U.K., Freetrade has also managed to attract 600,000 users.
And yet, more importantly, Lightyear also competes with legacy brokers. Unlike in the U.S., the vast majority of retail investors still rely on traditional banks and web platforms for stock trading. There will be room for more than one company in this space. So let’s see how Lightyear executes in the coming months.