Reddit users intent on taking GameStop and other heavily shorted stocks to the moon this week are bringing Webull along for the ride.
The upstart trading platform saw a huge bump on Thursday after its more established competitor, Robinhood, restricted trading of a number of stocks caught up in this week’s market frenzy. By late afternoon, Webull had reached No. 2 among free iPhone apps in the United States, its highest-ever ranking, according to Sensor Tower.
Webull, founded in 2017 by Alibaba alumni Wang Anquan, had already been seeing huge growth this year. Its January installs are up 88% when compared to the previous month and more than 400% when compared to the same period last year, Sensor Tower said. The firm estimates that Webull has seen nine million global installs across Apple and Google’s app stores since it launched, with the majority coming from the United States.
However, Thursday’s bump was not quite big enough to knock Robinhood from its perch, as the app was still ranked No. 1 among free iPhone apps as of Friday morning.
Robinhood faced criticism on Thursday when it halted trades of GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Blackberry, and others, but still allowed shares to be sold. Retail investors, mostly congregating on the popular WallStreetBets subreddit, have been pumping the price of those stocks at the expense of institutional short sellers who had been betting against them.
Robinhood, which cited “recent volatility” and financial compliance obligations in its reasoning, was not the only brokerage to restrict trading on Thursday, but it appeared to bear the brunt of trader backlash, perhaps because it built its image around democratizing access to the markets and providing free tools for individual traders—robbing from the rich to give to the poor, so to speak.
Webull also restricted trades of GameStop and other stocks on Thursday, although it had reversed the move by midday. Robinhood, meanwhile, now says it will offer “limited buys” of the restricted stocks on Friday and monitor the situation as it unfolds.
While shares of GameStop had dipped yesterday as brokerage restrictions rolled out, they were up more than 75% in pre-market trading on Friday. What happens next is anyone’s guess.