[THE INVESTOR] Following its success in Korea, fintech startup Viva Republica, the operator of peer-to-peer money transfer app Toss, has set its sights on the larger Southeast Asian market.
“We are very interested in the Southeast Asian market for overseas expansion, especially in the Philippines and Vietnam,” Lee Seung-gun, Viva Republica founder and CEO, told reporters on Dec. 5 at the firm’s first press conference at its headquarters in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul.
“We have been meeting with local banks, prospective partners and government authorities, with hopes to kick off services sometime next year.”
Viva Republica CEO Lee Seung-gun
[INTERVIEW] Toss, making finances infinitely easier
The 35-year-old dentist turned entrepreneur is ambitious, with goals to become Korea’s leading fintech firm in the global market via the simple and safe financial service platform Toss.
So far, Toss has been doing quite well. As of November, the total transaction volume reached 10 trillion won (US$9.23 billion) since its launch in 2015. There were more than a whopping 12 million downloads and 6.5 million users. This year, it projects to post 20 billion won in annual sales, and hit break-even point next year.
But the startup stressed it will not remain a simple money-transfer app and continue to innovate.
“We strive to become a financial service firm. More than half of our users sign up on Toss to use services other than to transfer money,” the CEO said. “Toss is a financial service platform that provides all financial needs, including manage credit ratings, savings accounts, payment, loans, investments, and insurance, as well as bitcoin trade.”
Following are key questions and answers at the news conference.
Q: How can Toss stand out from its competitors such as Kakao Bank or other traditional banks that offer similar apps?
Lee: The numbers really say it all. When internet banks like Kakao Bank entered the market around April, Toss grew exponentially even at that time. We don’t spend too much money on marketing, but we have already become the category-killer. Toss is expanding continuously. We care less about our competitors but more on how to provide good services for our users.
Q: Can you break down the sales into business categories?
Lee: I cannot give you the exact figures for each sector. But various areas of investment are leading the sales, as well as money-transfer services.
Q: Do you have plans to go for an IPO?
Lee: At the moment, we are not really considering an IPO. We just began our services, so an IPO is not really on the radar yet.
Q: Toss provides money-transfer services in the domestic market. Do you have plans to offer international money-transfers?
Lee: At the moment, we have no plans to provide international wire transfer for users.
Q: You have clinched about 87.5 billion won in investment from major global players including PayPal, Bessemer Venture Partners and Altos Ventures. Do you have plans for attracting more funds?
Lee: Right now, we are not really short on cash. But next year, as we are planning to enter global markets, additional investments may be necessary, if there is a need to expand marketing for new services.
Q: What are your plans on expanding to overseas markets?
Lee: We are very interested in the Southeast Asian market for overseas expansion, especially Philippines and Vietnam. The Southeast Asian market is similar to Korea with more than 70 percent mobile phone penetration. We have been meeting with local banks, prospective partners and government authorities, with hope to kick off services sometime next year.
Q: Do you have plans to utilize accumulated data from your services to launch new business?
Lee: We have collected a lot of data through our various services, including on credit ratings, money transfers and credit card services. We are still learning about consumer spending behavior. And maybe next year, we hope to provide services by utilizing these data.
Q: Can you explain more about your bitcoin trading service?
Lee: Users can buy and sell bitcoins at Toss, but it is more aimed at providing experiences. That’s why we put a limit of 2 million won a day.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)