When Zoe Barry moved to Boston a decade ago, she didn’t have many contacts but she knew she wanted to start her own company. So she became a regular at the Cambridge Innovation Center’s weekly Venture Café nights.
“I sort of built my network through the Venture Café and going there every Thursday night, which was such an incredible resource,” she told me via Zoom this week.
Her first company, ZappRx, built an online platform for specialty prescription medications. She sold it to Allscripts in 2019.
Barry, now 36, stayed in Boston as she built her next company, one that combined her deep competitive streak with some early career experiences on Wall Street.
After long arguments with her five brothers about stock investments, Barry wanted to be able to make trades and keep track of her performance alongside theirs, imagining something like a Peloton or Strava leaderboard for her portfolio. Although there were already plenty of brokerage apps aimed at the millennial crowd, led by Robinhood, none had the feature she was seeking.
“This idea is so obvious, it’s like inventing the Post-It note,” she said. “And if no one else is doing it, then you know, I’m an entrepreneur and I’m gonna go do it.”
Thus was born Zingeroo, a new entrant on the mobile app stock-trading scene. Barry announced an $8.5 million funding round this month with investors including Kayak cofounder Paul English and StockTwits cofounder Howard Lindzon.
As on other services, Zingeroo users can trade stocks, or fractional shares of a stock, for free and options for a small commission. But there’s no leverage or margin trading, at least not yet, and options trades are limited to less risky strategies (known in the business as Level 2 trading).
There’s also no bitcoin. “We don’t have crypto yet,” Barry says, with just a hint of what might be to come in her voice.
Barry doesn’t want to speak ill of the competition, but Robinhood has been under fire for making stock trading too much like a video game (though it did drop the virtual confetti bursts this year) and had to pay a big fine for misleading customers about its business model.
Zingeroo is trying to educate its Gen Y and Gen Z investors and encourage healthy dialogue about stocks without the meme-mania associated with Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum.
“People can learn how to perform and learn about the stock market in a fun, educational, approachable way, without the education being a really intense textbook on option path diagrams,” she says.
The service includes social chatting areas dubbed bullpens, which can be limited to a group of users or open to all. Barry’s own bullpen is the She Wolf Den, fitting her Zingeroo moniker: SheWolf of Wall Street. (Despite the cute nicknames, every user is a verified real person, thanks to the federal “Know Your Customer” rules that the service follows.)
Still, rivals have a big head start. Robinhood had almost 19 million monthly active users at the end of September, and Webull recently said it had 7 million account holders. Zingeroo isn’t disclosing its numbers right now.
But Lindzon, who is now managing partner at VC firm Social Leverage, says he backed Barry because the startup’s focus on competition among friends should provide a unique draw.
“We love the idea of young people learning the language of the markets,” Lindzon says. “And Zoe and team have a great angle of attack to onboarding the new generation of investors.”
Zingeroo, which already has 20 employees, is also looking at onboarding more of them with the new funding.
“If anyone is an engineer out there and reads this, give me a shout,” Barry says.