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Robinhood raises $200M as IPO speculation swirls

August 17, 2020, 3:00 PM UTC

The popular stock trading app Robinhood announced on Monday that it raised a $200 million Series G funding round from a new investor, D1 Capital Partners.

According to Robinhood, the new cash infusion values the startup at $11.2 billion—a significant jump from the $8.6 billion valuation it received last month when it raised $320 million.

All of this comes amid chatter about Robinhood going public in coming months, as well as scrutiny of how the company makes money. Since it launched in 2013, Robinhood has shaken up the brokerage industry by pioneering zero-commission trades, and by relying on a slick mobile interface.

In the absence of revenue from commissions, Robinhood relies heavily on generating income from “payment for order flow,” a controversial practice that involves selling blocks of customer orders to market makers like Citadel Securities.

While critics say such arrangements are a disservice to customers, some observers have made the case that payment for order flow can benefit retail investors by securing them more favorable prices.

In any case, the practice has proved lucrative for Robinhood, earning the startup $180 million in the second quarter alone. Payment for order flow brings in the lion’s share of the company’s revenue, but Robinhood also makes money in a number of other ways. Those include subscription income from its premium Robinhood Gold product; interest on cash in customers’ accounts; lending stock; and fees from use of its debit card.

The company has not disclosed whether it is profitable.

The new $11.2 billion valuation also represents a vote of confidence in Robinhood, which has incurred a number of setbacks earlier this year. These include technical meltdowns that knocked the company’s website offline during periods of high trading in March.

Robinhood has also come in for significant criticism over what detractors describe as a casino-like interface—including displays of confetti when customers make a trade—that encourages irresponsible trading. This criticism peaked earlier this summer after a 20-year-old committed suicide after incurring a negative balance of $730,000 while engaging in complicated options trading.

In response, Robinhood has placed new emphasis on educating investors on its platforms in an attempt to prevent customers from getting in over their heads. In announcing the Series G funding round, the company noted that the number of customers using its educational Resources page has increased 250% in recent months.

The company did not provide specifics on how it will use the new $200 million in funding, beyond stating that the money will be used to improve its products and customer experience.

With the Series G round, Robinhood has raised a total of $1.7 billion to date, according to Crunchbase. The company’s founders have long pledged to pursue an IPO, and Robinhood has appeared on numerous lists of startups expected to go public this year, but the company has yet to offer specific details of these plans.