Why We Invested in Lightyear

Published on
September 15, 2021
Simon Levene
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Why We Invested in Lightyear

About a year ago, via our friend and co-investor Taavet Hinrikus, we learnt about a promising pair of ex-Wise (formerly TransferWise) executives who were under the radar, on a mission to democratise retail investment in Europe. At the time, in “stealth mode” the project was called Gandalf. As longtime consumer fintech geeks and Tolkien fans, we were doubly intrigued.

When we finally connected with Estonian co-founders Martin Sokk and Mihkel Aamer, we were impressed by their mission, obsession with product, and the killer team they were already in the process of assembling. Over the course of multiple conversations, we felt increasingly drawn to their dream to create a next generation, trusted platform for retail investors. There is an evident gap in the market across Europe, and they had the vision and determination to fill it. Gandalf was retired by a 21st century balrog, and Lightyear was born in its place.

Now is the time
The boom in global self-directed investment has seen trading volumes hit record highs, providing tailwinds for a new wave of brokers to better serve the demands of today’s retail investors. Yet there is no leading European brand, including in the UK, where the retail investment market is most developed. Increasing customer friendly regulation (RDR and MiFID II) and improved transparency provides an opportunity for customers to compare fees and seek out better services, with broader product access using a cleaner UI. This is where Lightyear will be positioned.

Democratising retail investment, globally
Lightyear offers retail investors access to global capital markets in a simple, approachable and transparent way. Martin and Mihkel are focused on building trust and educating the public while offering access to a wide range of products currently offered by other challengers. Lightyear offers low to no trading fees, a multi-currency account solution, and the ability to trade in different currencies, fractional shares, across US and European markets.

Its simple-to-use interface is easily navigable by both beginners and experienced investors alike, bridging the gap between generations and every level of financial literacy. The latter is an element of the Lightyear platform that we are especially excited about. Through embedded education in the app, Lightyear is committed to help inexperienced investors responsibly learn the capital markets. By explaining underlying market trends, companies’ performance, and different paths to invest, Lightyear hopes to develop a long-term relationship with its users alongside their different life and financial stages ... a solution that is light years (ahem) ahead of anything else.

An experienced team that, at Wise, already helped to build and scale a leading global fintech service
This is not Martin and Mihkel’s first rodeo. Having had various longtime Exec roles in Product, Operations, Engineering and People at Wise, they are now assembling a hand-picked team, including with relevant prior experience (from Wise of course, but also Revolut, Robinhood, and Pipedrive) for this mission. We are thrilled to partner with them as the company emerges from stealth and launches the service — initially in the UK. If you are interested, sign up here!

Simon, María and Charles