Toss the South Korean Fintech Company is still on the Rise

Korean Fintech Startup TOSS

“Can you toss it to me?” Such a remark has turned into a rather common phrase among the younger Korean generation. Toss is a simple money transfer application.  It was developed by a South Korean Fintech startup called “Viva Republica”. Since its launch in 2015, Toss has grown into a multi-billion dollar business.  They do more than $12 billion in transaction volume, have over 12 million downloads, and 6.5 million subscribers.

<Image Source; Viva Republica>

Viva Republica

In 2013, Seung Geon Lee founded Viva Republica and jumped into the startup industry.  He left behind his promising career as a dentist. Seung Geon Lee graduated from Seoul National University, known to be the most prestigious university in Korea.  Afterward, he started his dentist career at Samsung Medical Center, one of the major hospitals in Korea. Despite his successful career as a dentist, Seung Geon Lee always felt a sense of emptiness that could never be filled. In his attempt to fill this gap, Seung Geon Lee worked at a dental clinic for the disabled but to no avail. It was then that he realized that he had lived a life, which others expected from him.  Not the life that he wanted for himself. Resigning everything he had accomplished, Seung Geon Lee authored a new chapter in his life by starting his own IT company, “Viva Republica.”

<Image Source; Viva Republica>

After its foundation in 2013, Seung Geon Lee’s business had been a failed initiative after failed initiative.  Then he finally launched a successful business on his 9th try. The fruit of his repeated trials and errors is “Toss,” a convenient mobile wire transfer application.  It is currently shifting the paradigm in the Korean startup industry. Today, among the younger Korean generation, Toss has become something of a necessity.  It is used to split the bill among friends or co-workers. Citing to Seung Geon Lee’s words, “Toss’ strength lies in the fact that it is very intuitive and convenient.

What is Toss?

Toss allows you to wire money without financial authentication certificates nor security cards.  This is different from other Korean mobile banking applications. What’s more is that you only need to know the phone number of the recipient, if he or she uses Toss as well. The secret behind their wire transfer system lies in cash management service (CMS). Just as insurance and telecommunications companies automatically withdraw money from their clients’ bank accounts at the end of each month via CMS, Toss withdraws money from the bank accounts of clients, who request for wire transfer, into its own account via CMS, and sends the money in their stead. In other words, they do all the “hard” work, thereby ridding its clients of their past need for financial authentication certificates or security cards when wiring their money.

On the strength of its user-friendly interface and unprecedented convenience, their volume of monthly transactions, which used to be as little as $1000 in its initial stage, has exceeded $100 billion within a span of 2 years. Presently, They have a market share of approximately 6% within Korea’s peer-to-peer (P2P) online and mobile payment market. Furthermore, Toss recently raked in roughly $55 billion worth of investment from Paypal, America’s largest online payment company, and investors in Silicon Valley. On KPMG’s list of top 100 Fintech companies of 2017, Toss ranked 35th globally and was the only Korean Fintech company to be in the number.

John Kim
John Kim

John Kim is majoring in Management and International Law at Handong Global University. He specializes in Korean domestic tech startups (Fintech), foreign tech startups looking to break into the Korean market, and NGOs. He also covers Korean culture to familiarize readers about lifestyle and trends in Korea.

1 Comment
  1. A very interesting app and article. Thanks John! But I just have one question: what is the technical flow beneath that P2P transaction? Do they have to go through an intermediary payment service provider licensed by the Central Bank of South Korea?

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