Viva Republica, developer of Korean financial super app Toss, raises $410M at a $7.4B valuation – TechCrunch

by Jeremy

Viva Republica, the Seoul-based fintech company behind Toss, a nifty app with more than 40 financial services, announced today it had raised $410 million at a post-money valuation of $7.4 billion. The new funding was led by Alkon Capital, an American investment firm, and included new investors like Korea Development Bank and returning backers Altos Ventures and Greyhound Capital.

The company plans to launch Toss Bank, a neobank, in September 2021, which it describes as “the final key component” of its super app strategy. It will also use the funding to expand overseas markets, including Vietnam, where Toss launched last year.

Viva Republica, which hit unicorn status in 2018, has raised over $940 million in equity funding.

Founder and chief executive officer SG Lee told TechCrunch that Toss Bank would focus on lending and offer savings accounts with competitive interest rates.

“A lot of challenger banks and neobanks are focusing on the banking experience, such as cards, so their main revenue source is interchange fees,” he said. “Toss is quite different because we already cover all that. We cover P2P payments, money transfers, cards, and various services. So we are focusing on unsecured loans, mortgages, and all sorts of loans. We will use this vehicle to give users the most competitive interest rates, and Toss Bank will not have a separate app since we have a super app strategy.”

Toss founder SG Lee

One of the reasons Toss Bank is focusing on loans is because if someone has a mediocre credit score, many South Korean banks will only offer them loans at subprime interest rates, Lee said. Toss Bank will offer better rates because its risk-scoring model leverages data from millions of users.

Toss now claims a total of 20 million users (or more than a third of South Korea’s 51.7 population); of that amount, 11 million are monthly active users.

The app launched as a Venmo-like peer-to-peer money transfer platform in 2015 before adding more services. Now its users can use the app for almost all their financial needs.

Merchants can use Toss Payments to send and receive online payments and manage their business finances. For example, they can check their bank and credit card balances on a dashboard. Other features include budgeting tools, bill payments, a credit score tracker, and insurance plans. Lee said more than 20% of bank accounts and credit cards in South Korea are already registered on Toss.

As a super financial app, Toss Bank can supplement information from South Korea’s leading credit rating agencies with its data about user transactions: for example, where they spend money, how often they consume, their cash flow, and balances.

Lee added that one of South Korea’s leading credit bureaus, KCB (Korea Credit Bureau), backtested Toss’ engine with data from over two million users. It turned out to be 150% better in differential power analysis and 30% lower in delinquency rates. “This is the first engine that counts this asset-related data, and no machine-learning technologies have been used in credit evaluation,” South Korea said. “Toss Bank is well-positioned to disrupt the whole loan market.”

In March, Toss also launched a Toss Securities investment service to make stock trading accessible to new investors who shy away from traditional brokerages. Over the past three months, more than 3.5 million users have signed up.

Viva Republica launched Toss in Vietnam, its first international market, in 2020. The app now has no-fee money transfers, debit cards, and a financial dashboard through a partnership with CIMB Bank. Toss currently claims more than three million monthly active users in Vietnam and says it adds more than 500,000 active users every month. Toss is planning to enter other Southeast Asian markets, too.

Toss hasn’t finalized a timeline, but it is targeting Malaysia as its next market by the end of this year. “The product that we built for Vietnam is quite scalable across all Southeast Asia markets, so it’s a matter of time,” Lee said. “But we want to focus on the Vietnam market because it’s scaling increasingly fast, and we must cover the growth.”

As for the possibility of holding an initial public offering or finding another exit opportunity, Lee said the company is still finalizing its plans. “As an Asian company, reaching a $7.4 billion valuation is pretty high, and I think at some point we will be unable to do more fundraising in the private market. So we’re targeting to raise once more by the end of this year or early next year for over $300 million. That will be our last private fundraising, and then we’re thinking a timeline of three years, and we are reviewing not only for a Korean listing but also a U.S. listing.”

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