Off Brand

The Winner of the Robinhood Backlash Is — Robinhood?

In recent weeks the stock trading app has been in reputational free fall. So why is it more popular than ever?

Rob Walker
Published in
5 min readFeb 17, 2021


An illustration of a green Robin Hood cap (the bycocket) with the Robinhood company’s  feather logo placed four times along the cap.
Illustration by Julia Moburg for Marker

One company’s misery is often another’s opportunity, and that certainly seems to be the story of Public, an under-the-radar stock-trading app that’s lately gotten hot in large part because it is not Robinhood. Just as the #DeleteUber moment boosted its rival Lyft, the Robinhood backlash that kicked in after the app temporarily halted trading in GameStop shares at the height of stonk-mania — resulting in one-star app store reviews, social media outrage, user vows to dump the app, etc. — has sent Public a flood of new customers, and fresh investor interest. But the ultimate winner of the Public vs. Robinhood faceoff may not be as obvious as you think.

Public is certainly leaning into the not-Robinhood opportunity. Most notably: One of the complaints against Robinhood is that it makes a chunk of its money by selling its “order flow” (basically, routing its customers’ trades through big Wall Street market-makers, a practice that can result in individual users getting less than the best possible price). Public sold its order flow, too — but on February 1, hot on the heels of Robinhood’s faceplant, the company announced that it would stop. Public also has a community component that the company insists is distinct from the hothouse atmosphere around other no-fee apps. “It’s not the trader bros,” co-CEO Leif Abraham told The Information.

This positioning seems to be paying off. User numbers are up. Today, TechCrunch reported that Public closed a $220 million investment round, led by investors including Greycroft, Accel, and Tiger Global Management, valuing the firm at $1.2 billion. That’s a pretty steep increase from December, when Public raised a reported $65 million at a $250 million valuation. It’s good to be not-Robinhood!