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PayPal Invests in $48 Million Series C of Korean Fintech Payments Startup

Last Updated October 6, 2020 8:28 AM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated October 6, 2020 8:28 AM

South Korean Fintech firm Viva Republica has closed a KRW 55 billion ($48 million) Series C round of funding with participation from PayPal and other noteworthy backers.

Viva Republic is the developer of Toss, a popular peer-to-peer payments application launched in February 2015. Devised as a P2P transfers app originally, Toss has since included other features including financing and credit monitoring for a more rounded, financial services application in a South Korean payments market that was described as “archaic” by chief executive SeungGun (SG) Lee. Toss has now partnered with 18 of Korea’s 19 major banks, granting it direct access to 98% of Korea’s banking customers and has become Korea’s leading payments app.

Formerly a dentist, Lee grew frustrated of the web and mobile banking systems in Korea and set out to carve a simpler and straightforward means of personal banking.

Blaming “strict regulations and a traditional banking system” for the inefficient user experience in financial applications in spite of Korea’s traditionally technology-forward stance, Lee added in a statement:

Before Toss, users required five passwords and around 37 clicks to transfer $10. With Toss, users need just one password and three steps to transfer up to KRW 500,000 (approx. $430). The process is quick and simple.

Viva Republica claims that since its public release two years ago, Toss has racked up 6 million users and has processed over $3 billion in money transfers. Notably, Toss has grown 13-fold in the last 12 months alone.

The Viva Republica Team

It’s latest Series C round includes the likes of PayPal and Silicon Valley firms Goodwater Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners. Viva Republica has now raised over $77 million in total funding since its founding in 2013.

Viva Republica’s efforts to pull in backers outside Korea’s borders is a part of the company’s wider endeavor to expand in regions beyond Korea.

Speaking of PayPal’s participation specifically, Lee added:

They are the number one player in online payments globally. Their participation shows that they recognize our potential. With their help, we can advance to the next level, globally and at speed.

“We’ve done extremely well-attracting millennials to Toss,” added Lee in press statements. “Now we’re developing services that will appeal to an older audience, for example, a range of financial management services.” The funding will be used to expand its services within the Korean market, Lee confirmed.

FinTech Disruption

Hosting the world’s fastest consumer broadband speeds, South Korea is also home to a population with the highest smartphone adoption rate (a staggering 88% in 2015 figures) in the world. With a solid technology infrastructure and a demanding, technology-hungry population, a lot of industries, including financial services, are ripe for disruption. Investors are taking notice.

South Korean messaging platform Kakao Corp gained a $200 million investment in its mobile payment subsidiary from China’s Ant Financial, the world’s most valuable Fintech company.

“South Korea is an important market for Ant Financial in its global expansion, and we see many opportunities in the market for innovative services and growth in mobile payments,” stated Douglas Feagin, president of Ant Financial International following last month’s Fintech mega-deal.

Viva’s Lee has brushed aside concerns of competition by Kakao Pay, which has over 14 million members in South Korea. Unlike Toss, Kakao is gearing toward mobile payments rather than mobile money transfers, according to Lee.

He further stated in an interview:

KakaoPay is primarily a B2B play, focusing on acquiring merchants. That strategy requires an enormous marketing budget that doesn’t leave much in terms of margins. Toss is a B2C offering, focusing on providing a range of financial services to its users.

Toss has now partnered with 18 of Korea’s 19 major banks, granting it direct access to 98% of Korea’s banking customers.

Images from Viva Republica.