Richard Branson backs Lightyear as UK equity trading platform launches in Europe – TechCrunch

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Light yeara British fintech startup that promises consumers commission-free trading in US and European stocks, is officially expanding to Europe from today.

To fuel the expansion, which will see Lightyear land in 19 new markets, including the Baltics and many more from Western Europe, London-based Lightyear also raised $25m in a Seres A funding round led by US venture capital firm Lightspeed, with participation from other notable backers . including the Virgin Groupwhich counts Richard Branson as sole shareholder.

Trading stocks

Lightyear is one of many up-and-coming stock exchanges to emerge on the scene, promising the general public an easy breakthrough to invest their money in some of the world’s biggest companies, from Apple and Alibaba to Spotify and Tesla. In addition to this, users can invest in so-called exchange-traded funds (ETFss), which are essentially investment funds.

Launched on stealth initially in the UK last year, Lightyear has entered a space that includes local incumbents such as well-funded Freetrade, not to mention long-established players across the Atlantic such as Robinhood, which has canned its UK launch plans in 2020.

Lightyear touts its large USP as its business model, as it doesn’t charge account fees or transaction commissions. Instead, it relies solely on exchange fees – but even then it only charges 0.35% on conversions over £3,000 ($3,500) per month. But once a user has converted, they then hold their money in a local currency account from which they continue to trade without incurring additional fees on every trade they make.

In many ways, it’s similar to how other fintechs such as Wise (formerly TransferWise) work, allowing users to receive and pay money in multiple currencies without incurring exorbitant fees. And that similarity is more than a coincidence, given that Lightyear is the work of early Wise employees Martin Sokk and Mihkel Aamer, while Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus is also a Lightyear investor.

Founders of Lightyear. Picture credits: Tom Harrison

several light years

Things might get a little confusing given the slew of startups that have launched in recent years with the exact same name. There’s another UK-based fintech called Lightyearalthough it focuses on accounting, while the Dutch venture-backed startup called Lightyear is all about electric cars. And let’s not forget New York-based Lightyear, a telecommunications services sourcing service.

But that interesting quirk aside, Lightyear (the stock market) probably has enough differentiators to stand out in what is a crowded field, with the promise of simplicity and transparency at its core. And less than a year after it first launched to early UK users, it has now increased its potential user base by an order of magnitude.

Lightyear’s expansion includes the following markets: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

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