‘Social’ trading platform Zingeroo lands $8.5 million investment

With retail investors flocking to the markets for the first time during the pandemic, brokerages are striving to make their platforms fun—and social—to keep customers around. Trading platforms have trotted out everything from digital drop claws, community feeds, and copy trading—not to mention the free stocks and referral bonuses to enhance engagement.

Venture capital funding has been pouring into the retail brokerage market for years, inflating Robinhood to a $12 billion valuation prior to its IPO and a $32 billion market cap post-IPO. But there’s still more funding on its way. One of the latest entrants to the retail brokerage sector is Zingeroo, which tells Fortune it has raised $8.5 million in funding from investors including Streamlined Ventures, SquareOne Capital, Rackhouse Ventures, and Underscore VC as well as angel investors including Social Leverage’s Howard Lindzon and Ed Baker, the former vice president of product and growth at Uber. Zingeroo launched its app after securing its brokerage license earlier this year

The brokerage’s aim is to teach investors how to enter the markets by making trading fun, according to its founder, Zoë Barry, who had a brief stint as an analyst at an investment firm prior to launching several startups and becoming an angel investor. (Barry is also involved in a ‘scout’ program at Underscore VC, where she makes small investments on behalf of the firm.)

“If you really want to teach someone something, the best way to do that is to create some sort of competition,” Barry says.

The idea for Zingeroo stemmed from a dinner table argument among her and her brothers over who was the best trader, Barry tells Fortune. “We had one stock we were looking at—we all had a different idea for what we wanted to do to set up our trades,” she says. But there wasn’t a great way to compare performance, she says.

Enter Zingeroo, where investors can trade fractional or whole equity shares, ETFs, and options. Users will be able to enter “zones” to compare their portfolio returns with one another over month-long competitions (the zone feature isn’t released yet), and they can chat in the “bullpen,” to message friends about their investments and share their personal trades with one another. The platform is meant to attract millennials and Gen Z investors, as well as those who tend towards fantasy sports, Barry says. Zingeroo, which uses Apex Clearing for asset custody like many other small retail brokerages, plans to start charging tiered subscription fees in 2022 that will start at $6.99 a month.

Zingeroo isn’t sharing its number of users since launch, but it may find it difficult to scale: The retail brokerage space, which now effectively all offers commission-free trading, is crowded with long-time incumbents and newcomers alike. Brokerages like Vanguard, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Robinhood dominate the market. There’s plenty of others—Interactive Brokers, eToro, Public, SoFi, and TradeStation, to name a few—also battling for market share.

“It’s become very busy,” Mathias Schilling, a founding partner at venture capital firm Headline, which is an investor in savings and retirement planning app Acorns, says of the retail financial services market. While many companies may offer a unique edge that differentiates them, he has found that most of the companies ultimately offer similar services, he says. It tends to be a hyper-competitive and saturated market—and startups often have high marketing costs to acquire customers.

Not to mention, it’s a highly regulated industry—and both the SEC and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees broker-dealers, are looking at “gamification” features at retail brokerages, particularly after the GameStop saga that shook the markets at the beginning of this year.

Barry says Zingeroo is focused on teaching investors first, through things like educational content, and it’s taking a regulatory-friendly approach, with its engineers showing products to regulators and seeking feedback, she says.

“What regulators are really worried about is when you have things like gamification, where you have confetti and nudges to trade more—but there’s no education that goes along with that,” Barry says.

Zingeroo, along with its subsidiary broker-dealer, Z-Squared, is based out of Salem, Mass. and had raised $9 million in funding prior to this round, per Pitchbook data.

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