Nearly three years ago, after working about a decade in the financial technology sector, Jannick Malling decided to branch out on his own. Malling was interested in making investing a more social and collaborative undertaking.
And so, he became one of the co-founders of Public, an app that officially launched last September. Through Public, any adult living in the U.S. can link up their bank account and start buying and selling equities and exchange traded funds without paying any commissions. But more than that, they can be part of a social network where they can connect with other investors, share their trading ideas and insights and seek feedback, which is what Malling says differentiates Public from the other investing apps. The financial community has taken notice.
This morning, Public announced it has raised $65 million in a Series C funding round, just eight months after the company raised $15 million in a Series B round. The company has now raised a total of $90 million.
Accel, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture capital firm, led the most recent round, as it did with the Series A and B rounds. Other investors include Lakestar, a Zurich, Switzerland, venture capital firm; Greycroft, a New York venture capital firm; and Advancit Capital, a New York investment firm.
Tony Hawk, a legendary professional skateboarder, also participated in the latest round, as did Richard Parsons, a former chief executive at Time Warner and chairman at Citigroup, and the Chainsmokers, a production and DJ duo that invested through its Mantis venture capital fund. J.J. Watt, the Houston Texansâ€™ defensive end, has also invested in Public, although he didnâ€™t partake in the Series C round.
MORE FOR YOU
Public would not disclose what the latest round values the company at or how many users it has. But it claims that 40 percent of the people on the app are women and 90 percent are first-time investors, meaning they had not invested in the stock market until they opened a Public account.
â€œA lot of people have not been able to take advantage of the stock market until now,â€ Malling said. â€œInitially, we were like, â€˜How do we build something that allows people to break through the fear and intimidation that exists in their minds?â€
Malling noted that Public has been able to attract users because of the appâ€™s simple interface and ability for people to buy fractional shares of companies and invest as little as a dollar at a time. The social aspect is a boon, as well, allowing people to interact with people they know and even professional athletes such as Paul Rabil, a longtime pro lacrosse player and co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League, and longtime investors such as Scott Galloway, an entrepreneur and New York University marketing professor who invested more than $1 million in Public earlier this year. And unlike message boards or other social networks that allow users to post anonymously, leading to vitriol, Publicâ€™s users must register using their real names and thus are unlikely to be as vile or demeaning in their comments and feedback.
â€œWeâ€™ve gone the route of building a people-first or social-first approach to investing so that instead of just being a tool and utility to execute trades, weâ€™ve become a more holistic, intertwined platform,â€ said Leif Abraham, who is Publicâ€™s co-CEO along with Malling.
For now, Public is now only open to U.S. residents. But Abraham and Malling, who grew up in Germany and Denmark, respectively, are working on getting the necessary regulatory approvals to allow people from outside the U.S. to invest through the app.
Public plans on using proceeds from the latest funding round to at least double the size of its staff of 50 people within the next year. It also is going to upgrade the app and seek more users who can provide a broader, cross-section of the population and investing community.
â€œThe app gets better the more people are on it,â€ Malling said. â€œThe more diverse voices you have in the community, the more people can curate their experience. The more different angles and views on the stock market, the better for people.â€