The legendary archer of Sherwood Forest is taking aim at the stock market. Robinhood is a new trading app that promises users free trades and no account minimums.
That's a big departure from the $7 to $10 fees per trade that other brokers which cater to the masses like E*Trade (ETFC) and Charles Schwab (SCHW) charge. These firms offer discounts from time to time, but only if a customer has a large account or uses other services.
Plenty of people are excited about $0 commission trades on Robinhood. The app is still in beta test phase, but nearly 340,000 people have signed up on the company's website to gain early access.
The startup knew there would be interest, but they didn't expect this kind of reception.
The roll out process is reminiscent of the early days of Gmail, Gilt Groupe and the Mailbox app: There's an aura of exclusivity, and if you refer more friends, you move up the wait list.
Perhaps it's not a surprise that Robinhood is taking this approach since Google Ventures is one of the company's key backers, and a former Mailbox app employee is now part of Robinhood's 15-person team in Redwood City, California.
In December, the company said it was targeting "early 2014" for launch. Now they plan to open the app up to more people on the wait list in the coming weeks and have it available in app stores later in the summer.
"Rest assured when you use it, it will be unbelievably cool," Baiju Bhatt, one of the co-founders, told CNNMoney.
They have worked hard to make the app easy to use on the go. For example, the home screen changes colors depending upon if the stock market is open or closed.
"Our one design principle was building an interface so it's useful in 15 to 30 second bursts like when you're standing in line waiting to order coffee," Bhatt says.
Robinhood was founded by former Stanford roommates Vladimir Tenev and Bhatt who worked on Wall Street after getting master's degrees in math.
Tenev began trading at age 14. Bhatt is a more recent "convert" and calls his own portfolio "remarkably uninteresting."
The team made its first trade on March 28, according to the @robinhoodapp Twitter feed. For now, trades are limited to U.S. stocks only.
The company's business model is to make money on margin trading, interest on cash deposits and payment for order flow, a fancy way of saying making money by trading faster or slower than others.
Tenev and Bhatt's job on Wall Street was to build high-frequency trading (HFT) platforms for financial institutions.
"At the time, HFTs were commonly paying a tenth of a penny per trade, which enabled the business model to operate with razor thin margins," Bhatt says. "We had a head scratcher moment where we asked ourselves, 'Why do we pay $10 when we trade our personal accounts?'"
There are skeptics about this approach. Robinhood would need huge volume to make money without any fees. But if the wait list is any indication, there's demand for a lower cost service.
The startup is also exploring ways to partner with other apps by sharing API access and offering premium services.
The founders chose Robinhood as the logo to underscore the spirit of bringing trading and investing to the masses.
Individual investors are jumping back into the market at a record pace, according to Fred Tomczyk, CEO of online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
"People are generally more bullish on the U.S. economy," Tomczyk told CNNMoney at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles Tuesday.
Tomczyk said that trading volume on TD Ameritrade (AMTD) hit all-time highs in the first quarter of 2014, a trend that's been echoed in earnings reports by TD MOREJesse Solomon - Apr 29, 2014 4:56 PM ET
Tesla shares (TSLA) made a run at record highs early Friday in a burst of optimism following an upgrade by Deutsche Bank.
But the stock struggled to hold the $130 level as the morning wore on, sparking a debate on StockTwits over how much the electric car maker is worth.
The sky's the limit, say the bulls.
$TSLA so the only question is... all time high before of after lunch? MORE
"There's always money in the Banana Stand!" George Bluth tells his son, Michael, in the first season of "Arrested Development."
Of course, Michael and his son, George Michael, burned the Banana Stand to the ground, along with $250,000 in illicit cash, in a botched attempt at father-son bonding.
But it looks like there's always money in Netflix -- the home of the fourth season of "Arrested Development" -- too.
The show will make MOREBen Rooney - May 15, 2013 12:50 PM ET
Knight Capital Group is back up and running Thursday, a day after a power outage knocked the company's systems offline.
As Wall Street returned to business Wednesday morning, following a two-day hurricane-related shutdown, Knight experienced a backup generator power failure at its headquarters in Jersey City, N.J. The issue affected all equities trading, as well as electronic foreign exchange and electronic fixed income trading.
The company, which plays a key role on MOREHibah Yousuf - Nov 1, 2012 9:41 AM ET
Computerized trading problems aren't unique to the United States apparently. The main stock market in Spain was halted Monday for nearly 5 hours due to a "technical glitch," according to the index operator.
The IBEX 35 was offline from 10:05 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. local time, a spokesman for the Bolsas y Mercados Españoles said. The index rallied after trading resumed, gaining 2.8%. The spokesman said he did not yet MOREBen Rooney - Aug 6, 2012 11:24 AM ET
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, and Abbott Laboratories, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.
Technology is a great thing until it runs amok. That's the plot line of scores of good (and bad) sci-fi novels and movies. But it's also the sad reality for investors.
The Knight Capital Group trading glitches MOREPaul R. La Monica - Aug 2, 2012 12:12 PM ET
Facebook said its initial public offering was fairly valued, according to a back-and-forth correspondence with regulators ahead of its IPO.
In documents released by the SEC Friday, Facebook (FB) said the difference between the company's fair value of $30.89 a share on Jan. 31 and the midpoint of its offering wasn't "meaningfully different."
In 2011, Facebook's fair value estimates went from $25.54 in March, to $30.07 in September before dropping back to MORECatherine Tymkiw - Jun 15, 2012 2:23 PM ET
The market is betting that Facebook (FB) will continue to swing wildly over the next two months, and investors in newly minted Facebook options are banking on more volatility.
Investors rushed to buy into Facebook options, which give investors the right to buy or sell a stock a certain price, on Tuesday. This was the first day that Facebook options were available.
Shares of Facebook plunged nearly 10% Tuesday. (Opening days of MOREMaureen Farrell - May 29, 2012 5:05 PM ET
So today's the day. We promised to sell our Facebook (FB) shares exactly one week after the company debuted on the Nasdaq and by golly, I'm gonna do it. I can't say I'm happy about it. Even buying in at $38.01, I'm going to lose money. And that's a shame, since we were going to donate any proceeds to CNN Heroes Top 10 nominee The Time is Now to MORECatherine Tymkiw - May 25, 2012 11:06 AM ET
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