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Robinhood's disruptive force: The good, the bad and the controversy

Mount Equity Group Tokyo, Japan > News > Tech > Robinhood's disruptive force: The good, the bad and the controversy

This illustration photo shows a person checking the three month GameStop stock graph on a smartphone on February 17, 2021 in Los Angeles as the Reddit, Citadel, Robinhood and Melvin Capital logos are seen on the background ahead of the virtual hearing involving GameStop stocks.Chris Delmas | AFP | Getty Images

Tech-driven disruption in business is rarely a force for good or bad alone. Robinhood is a good example of the rocky, disruptive force that sits between the absolutes.

The brokerage industry disruptor exemplifies the way that technology can turn an industry with gatekeepers into a more open platform and force the established giants to innovate and expand. That is why Robinhood earned the top spot on this year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, pressing Wall Street and investment giants to lower trading costs — in many cases, to nothing — and consolidate to better withstand an accelerating digital threat.

And this year, the company and its CEO, Vlad Tenev, were at the center of a stock market and cultural phenomenon. In January, conversation in Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum about squeezing hedge fund investors drove the seemingly irrational buying up of GameStop and AMC Entertainment shares. That trading happened largely on Robinhood — and it