Still, Mr. Tenev and Mr. Bhatt viewed a more open I.P.O. as core to Robinhood’s ethos. Their app has drawn millions of new investors to the world of day trading
, and the company has repeatedly pushed boundaries with new products, frequently winding up in hot water with regulators.
This year, Robinhood introduced I.P.O. Access, a product that allows companies going public to sell pre-I.P.O. shares directly to customers. That way, people can make money on the stock price “pop” that often happens on a company’s first day of trading.
One company that Robinhood approached this year about allocating part of its public offering to everyday investors was Figs, a medical scrubs company, said its chief executive, Heather Hasson. Figs ultimately provided 1 percent of its offering to retail investors to “empower” the health care providers that buy its apparel, Ms. Hasson said.
“Our community is our brand, and our brand is our community,” she said.
But even with such a small allocation, banks such as Goldman Sachs were concerned about potential technical issues and retail investors getting hurt, a person with knowledge of the offering said. It was the first time Robinhood’s app had hosted such a deal. Figs stock has risen nearly 30 percent since its offering in May.
Robinhood’s offering is unlikely to be easily emulated because the company is unique in its size and awareness among retail investors — and is in the business of promoting retail trading, said Josh Bonnie, who helps lead capital markets at the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
“I think they are differently situated than most companies pursuing I.P.O.s,” he said.
Robinhood’s debut may have an added layer of unpredictability because its customers have shown they are willing to band together on social media to fight perceived enemies. The company alienated some of them when it halted trading during January’s “meme stock” rally, when traders who gathered on the Reddit platform sent stocks of certain companies like GameStop on a roller-coaster ride.