Two ex-Wise employees launch investment fintech Lightyear
Lightyear is making its debut with a US$1.5m pre-seed funding round and plans to roll out for the European market in Q3 of 2021.
Calling itself the region’s “first truly commission-free investment platform,” the company will strive to bring simple and affordable investment options to the masses. Although still currently at the ‘waiting list’ stage, users can look forward to:
- No trading fees
- A multi-currency account with no maintenance charges
- Investing as little as £1
The passion of Lightyear’s mission apparently stems from Sokk (CEO) and Aamer’s (CTO) first-hand experiences with investment, which included high fees, hidden costs, and opaque product offerings.
“Investing in Europe is a very long way away from where it needs to be. Professional and experienced investors have good options open to them with clear pricing and best-in-class tools, but ordinary investors don’t have that,” said Sokk
“Lightyear is going to be Europe’s first truly commission-free investment platform, and using our experience with transforming how the world approaches currency conversion, our goal is to completely change the name of the game when it comes to investing.”
Conceiving the initial idea in summer 2020, the duo combined their experience with targeted hires from leading fintechs such as Wise, Robinhood, and Revolut. The aforementioned pre-seed round will also bring on board Taavet Hinrikus, Co-Founder of Wise, and Sten Tamkivi, Co-Founder of Teleport, as joint leaders.
A host of angel investors and tech experts will also be joining Lightyear’s investment, including Jaan Tallinn, Co-Founder of Skype; Ott Kaukver, CTO of checkout.com; Wander Rutgers, former President of Robinhood UK; and Kaarel Kotkas, Founder of Veriff.
Retail investing: The good, the bad, and the ugly
The Gamestop short squeeze in January 2021 has given the possibilities of retail investing new prominence. Power is being given to the people and the old paradigm for the sector, which placed the tools and knowledge of investment in the hands of a select few, has been broken.
Lightyear’s capacity to fuel its metamorphosis even further is clear, but Aamer claims there is still a lot of sector development to come:
“Having spent my career in financial services, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe retail investing in Europe is still very much ‘the ugly’ - we’re talking about sneaky fees, less access, and complicated products remaining as the status quo.
“We’re building something that will change that by opening up investing up to everyone, whichever global market they want to invest in and however much they want to invest.”
Indeed, one of the taglines for Lightyear - ‘The world is yours’ - exposes its creator’s far-reaching ambition. In the digital era, customers are accustomed to services being fast, simple, and more engaging than ever before. Hinrikus commented that Lightyear’s ability to meet this demand was what drew him to invest:
“The potential here to open up investing for everyone, much further than just their local markets, is very exciting. Giving everybody access to the best deal when it comes to their money is in my DNA, so I’m excited to support Lightyear on this mission.”
Image source: Lightyear
Findexable: COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down fintech investment
The release of Findexable’s 2021 Global Fintech Rankings report seems to confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic has had no deleterious effect on sector growth.
Compiled annually, Findexable’s report provides one of the most comprehensive surveys of global fintech. From regions to countries and individual cities, it compiles and analyses key performance data and gives insight into the leaders and up-and-comers.
In total, the company explored 264 cities across 83 countries and incorporated data from various media outlets, SEO databases, and over 60 fintech associations. CEO Simon Hardie spoke enthusiastically of the findings:
“The level of investment and activity in the fintech sector is hugely gratifying for those of us who have been championing the industry. It is especially good to see that the pandemic didn’t slow down, and may have in fact accelerated, the adoption of fintech in parts of the world that have previously been underserved.”
The leading hubs
Notably, there has been no movement in the 2021 list’s top three fintech hubs. While most others made incremental gains, it was Tel Aviv that made the most significant leap from 20th to 5th. Meanwhile, in a surprising shift, Singapore slipped from 4th to 10th:
- San Francisco Bay (same as 2020)
- London (same as 2020)
- New York (same as 2020)
- São Paulo (+1)
- Tel Aviv Area (+15)
- Berlin (+3)
- Boston (+1)
- Los Angeles (-2)
- Hong Kong (+2)
- Singapore (-6)
The leading countries
Findexable’s top 10 countries for fintech reflect the generally incremental shift observed among the hubs:
- US (same as 2020)
- UK (same as 2020)
- Israel (+9)
- Singapore (-1)
- Switzerland (same as 2020)
- Australia (+2)
- Sweden (same as 2020)
- The Netherlands (-2)
- Germany (+3)
- Lithuania (-6)
UK fintech has continued to ramp up at an accelerated pace: three new cities entered Findexable’s index for the first time, bringing the country’s total up to 13. The country remains fairly secure as Europe’s fintech leader, particularly as strong competitors like Lithuania fell in the rankings. However, Germany’s ascendance to the top 10 could indicate the beginning of a new challenger.
In North America, the US remains practically unchallenged by Canada. Meanwhile, both Australia and China have gained on Singapore, with the former seeming to be a likely APAC leader by 2022 if current trends continue.
As can be observed from the top countries and hubs, Israel’s fintech output has been proportionally one of the most impressive exhibited. It has claimed the top spot for MEA, followed by the UAE and Kenya - both of which also made significant gains. Finally, Brazil and Uruguay lead Latin America and the Caribbean.
Fintech: The global revolution
Reviewing the statistics compiled in Findexable’s report lends credence to Hardie’s words: fintech is greater than ever before and not even one of the world’s most disruptive events (COVID-19) has been able to prevent its growth.
Elliott Limb, Chief Customer Officer of Mambu, which sponsored the report, called every fintech part of a “global revolution” that is transforming financial services for the better.
“They are changing the way we save, spend, borrow, and invest money. Whether competing, cooperating or supporting traditional financial institutions, they are reshaping digital services for a real-time, on-demand world.
“Whether it is an aspiring unicorn, a neobank seeking new markets, a provider that wants to go digital, or a financial institution that wants to act like a fintech, you need a roadmap [...] a guide to where to begin and where to go. This is why a ranking system is important.