U.S. consumer investing and trading service Robinhood announced this morning that it will acquire Say Technologies in a $140 million cash deal.
Say Technologies is a venture-backed startup, having raised $8 million in 2018, per Crunchbase data. PitchBook data indicates that the company was worth $28 million on a post-money basis following the investment, implying that the company’s backers managed a roughly 5x return on their investment.
Say was backed by Point72 Ventures, among other investors.
The deal is notable because it is Robinhood’s first major purchase since going public in late July, and because it illustrates where Robinhood may look to invest some of its newly liquid equity wealth; when a company goes public, it can more easily purchase other companies thanks to recharged cash balances and a floating stock.
In a blog post, Robinhood wrote that “Say was built on the belief that everyone should have the same access to the financial markets as Wall Street insiders.” What does that mean? In practice, Say has built a communications platform that allows even smaller shareholders to pose questions to the companies in which they invest. Sure, some companies are including retail questions in their earnings calls, but what Say has in mind is broader.
You can see how Say and Robinhood might fit together. Robinhood has a huge user pool of retail investors who like to trade and invest. Say has the technology to connect retail investors to the companies that they own. With Robinhood’s database of which retail investor owns what, and Say’s communications tech, the trading platform may be able to offer a better shareholder experience than what rival platforms can offer.
By offering to its user base a service like what Say has built, Robinhood can offer a unique twist on retail investing. This feels somewhat analogous to Spotify spending heavily to procure exclusive rights to certain podcasts; such efforts differentiate Spotify from rivals despite having a commoditized core offering. Trading is now free in many places, so Robinhood layering specialized services on top of its investing service makes good sense, perhaps helping drive user loyalty and net new-user adds.
Shares of Robinhood are off around 1.2% today, despite generally higher markets. We might say that investors were selling lightly in wake of the news, but that would be a somewhat bold read of the day’s trading.