New fintech startup Lightyear has raised $1.5 million in pre-seed funding and launched a waiting list for its commission-free investment platform.
Set to start rolling out in Q3 2021, Lightyear marries multi-currency accounts with unlimited access to global markets so customers can invest freely without hidden fees or charges.
Lightyear, founded by early Wise (formerly TransferWise) employees Martin Sokk and Mihkel Aamer, is aiming to shake up the retail investment landscape in Europe, combining a low barrier to entry with a global mindset. The pair began working on the idea in the summer of 2020, after realising they shared a strong common opinion: investing in Europe is still broken.
Both regular investors themselves, Sokk and Aamer felt firsthand the frustrations of high fees, hidden costs and the complicated nature of some investing products on the market. Lightyear was born out of these barriers, so they started building a team of people who felt the same, hiring alumni from a collective of fintech giants, including Wise, Robinhood and Revolut.
The $1.5 million pre-seed funding round was led by Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise, and Sten Tamkivi, co-founder of Teleport, as the first portfolio investment of their recently formalised partnership to invest in early-stage European businesses, alongside other lead investor Jaan Tallinn (Metaplanet), the co-founder of Skype.
The round also welcomed a cohort of prominent angel investors and industry experts, including Ott Kaukver, chief technology officer at checkout.com, Wander Rutgers, the former president of Robinhood UK, and Kaarel Kotkas, founder of Veriff.
Sokk, co-founder and chief executive officer at Lightyear, says: “Investing in Europe is a very long way away from where it needs to be. Professional and experienced investors have good options open to them with clear pricing and best-in-class tools, but ordinary investors don’t have that. Lightyear is going to be Europe’s first truly commission-free investment platform, and using our experience with transforming how the world approaches currency conversion, our goal is to completely change the name of the game when it comes to investing.”
Lightyear’s minimum viable product will launch with unlimited access to more than 1,500 global stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The product has no trading, account or foreign exchange (FX) fees up to £3,000 per month. After customers exceed that, there will be a 0.35% FX fee.
With competitors across Europe charging retail investors a range of FX, custody and trading fees, upon launch Lightyear will be among the most cost-effective ways to invest.
Aamer, co-founder and chief technology officer at Lightyear, adds: “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. We’re building something that will change that by opening up investing up to everyone, whichever global market they want to invest in and however much they want to invest.”
Hinrikus, co-founder of Wise and investor, says: “Most things in our lives are available at the tap of a button or with a good internet connection, yet access to global financial markets is still murky and expensive. The potential here to open up investing for everyone, much further than just their local markets, is very exciting. Giving everybody access to the best deal when it comes to their money is in my DNA, so I’m excited to support Lightyear on this mission.”
Lightyear has launched its waiting list, inviting people to sign up and register their interest in getting early access to the app when it launches later this year.