When Vlad Tenev and Baiju Bhatt created the stock trading app Robinhood in 2013, the entrepreneurs declared that their mission was to democratize Wall Street and make finance accessible to all. Now as they prepare to make their company public, they are taking that ethos to a new extreme. From a report: Mr. Tenev and Mr. Bhatt have long discussed how Robinhood’s initial public offering would be more open than any other offering that came before it, three people close to the company said. This week, the two founders laid out the details: Robinhood plans to sell as much as a third of its offering, or $770 million of shares, directly to customers through its app. The company added that anyone can participate in a special livestream of its investor presentations this Saturday.
The moves are highly unusual and upend the traditional I.P.O. process. No company has ever offered so many shares to everyday investors at the outset; firms typically reserve just 1 or 2 percent of their shares for customers. And investor presentations usually take place behind closed doors with Wall Street firms, which have long had the most access to public offerings. But Mr. Tenev and Mr. Bhatt have made plans since at least 2019 to change the way I.P.O.s are done, said a person familiar with the company who was not authorized to speak publicly. Robinhood also chose Goldman Sachs to lead its offering partly because of the bank’s ability to help sell pre-I.P.O. shares — normally reserved for professionally managed funds — to thousands of everyday investors on Robinhood’s app, another person involved in the offering said.