Top 10 Korean Fintech Startups & Companies to Watch – Best of 2019

If you visit Korea, especially Seoul, you will see that Fintech is everywhere and has now become a standard practice for many industries. Funding for the Fintech industry reached over $55 billion in 2018 and that number will increase in 2019. Korean Fintech startups and companies have made the lives of many Koreans a lot easier. Today Koreans can pay their bills, access their banks, and even shop online easier than ever through their smartphones.

Some of the top Fintech sectors include payment technologies, Robo-advisor trading, and remittance.  Many Fintech startups in Korea can focus a lot on customer’s needs. They are continuing to develop products and services that give the financial power back to the people. These days financial information and processing are readily available, which allows customers to handle their important financial matters quickly. This means they can conduct instant, frictionless, digital transactions at an unprecedented speed. Fintech has brought a lot of open innovation in Korea.

Since most Fintech startups need to deal with money it is important they gained the trust of their potential customers. We gathered a list of some of the most promising Korean Fintech startups in 2019.  We will leave out Korean Blockchains startups for another article. Which one of these 10 will become the next Korean Unicorn startup Viva Republica or Daily Financial GroupViva Republica recently became a unicorn startup after being valued at $1.2 billion.

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on 4 factors:

  • Funding
  • Market Opportunity
  • The innovation of service or product
  • Growth Potential/Scalability

Top 10 Fintech Startups in Korea

1. PeopleFund

Korean Fintech Startup PeopleFundKorean Fintech Startup PeopleFund is a Korean peer-to-peer money lender. They partnered with Jeonbuk Bank to gain access to a nationwide commercial banking database that helps it control the quality of loans.  PeopleFund currently rejects about 5 percent of all consumer loan applications. Currently, they are the fastest-growing marketplace lender in Korea in terms of loan volume. Furthermore, PeopleFund has in-house lawyers and solicits the services of external law firms on a need-basis to protect users.

PeopleFund raised over $35 million in funding to date. Their 2019 plans will be to pursue international expansion. In addition, they are partnered with Kakaopay which makes them the first marketplace lender to offer investment products directly on the Kakao messaging app. Now Kakao users can have access to affordable loans and alternative investment opportunities. Furthermore, PeopleFund has an automated proprietary credit model that can give users the best rates quickly and accurately.

“First-tier banks share blacklists of bad borrowers. By having access to such information, we can maintain quality control by weeding out borrowers who are chronically late or are deliberate defaulters,” said CEO of PeopleFund, Joey Kim.

2.  Rainist

Korean Fintech Startup RainistKorean Fintech startup Rainist is the operator of Banksalad which is a financial product recommendation service. Banksalad has attracted over 5 million customers to date. They are looking to become the next-generation asset management platform that also manages peer-to-peer investments and cryptocurrencies. Rainist is an all-in-one money management service that recommends users’ financial products and credit cards based on the user’s financial status and their spending habits. Their service links to the user’s bank accounts and credit cards to track their expenses, income, savings, bills, to help them form the best monthly budget plan.

The Bank Salad App

The app offers an open banking platform for users by pooling the user’s financial information. Therefore users can now monitor their bank balance and transactions as well as their credit card bills and loan payments on the app. In addition, Bank Salad also recommends financial products such as credit cards, savings plans, loans, insurance products, and pension plans based on the user’s financial data and spending patterns. Currently, the app handles over $12 billion a month.

“We will develop the Bank Salad app as a comprehensive platform to recommend an ideal financial solution for each customer,” said Rainist CEO Kim Tae-Hoon.

Raised $38 million in funding to date after their series C funding round. Some of their investors include Intervest, IMM Investment, and Stonebridge Ventures just to name a few. Their focus in 2019 will be to give financial information to the people in order for them to make the right decisions. Since big data is becoming a strong commodity these days, Rainist looks to continue to introduce innovative and creative services by gathering various data.

3.  SsenStone

Korean Fintech Startup SsenstoneKorean Fintech startup SsenStone is a digital security startup that offers a safer way for online credit card use. It produces a one-time credit card number that changes every time a new transaction is made.  The technology is called Virtual One Time Code (VOTC). VOTC creates a virtual number that cannot be duplicated for more than 1 million uses. In addition, the number recognizes the cardholder every time without any network connection. While there has been a lot of security improvement when it comes to offline card transactions, there are been few in the online space. More than 70% of credit card fraud cases come from online/eCommerce transactions.

“The beauty of our technology is there is no need to install extra machines or infrastructure to apply it. We can block all cases of CNP fraud, without more complicated token methods,” said SSenStone CEO Yoo Chang-Hun.

SsenStone hopes to license out their technology to cred card companies and form a strategic partnership with online payment service providers and security companies. In addition, they developed the next-generation authentication solution called Fast Identity Online or FIDO-certified platform called StonePASS. Furthermore, the company made over $45 million in 2018 and have gotten investments from Sparklabs and Lotte Accelerator.

4.  Honest Fund

Korean Fintech Startup Honest FundKorean Fintech startup Honest Fund is a peer-to-peer personal loan and investment service provider. They provide customers and investors alternative investment and lending services across many asset classes, including real estate, infrastructure financing, and unsecured personal loans. Furthermore, Honest Fund has raised over $18 million in funding and closed its latest Series B round at $10 million. In 2019, Honest Fund will focus on enhancing its services through big data, AI, and recruiting to create an all-in-one investment platform.

“We strive to become Korea’s leading alternative investment platform and a technology’driven financial firm that keeps innovating the loan sector,” said CEO of Honest Fund, Seo Sang-Hoon.

5. QARA

Korean Startup QaraKorean Fintech startup QARA uses AI and deep-learning technology (KOSHO) to analyze and predict the financial market. It is a Robo advisor that offers market predictions for the upcoming week. They base their prediction on over 400 million financial market indicators from the previous 30 years. QARA’s deep learning engine called Market Dreamer analyzes the stock markets in countries such as Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the US. They are also using Market Dreamer to predict the crypto market.

KOSHO has over 150,000 downloads to date and is available in 5 languages. In addition, their analytics tool Whatisfund.ia will allow users to compare stocks and financial news through related keywords. The technology behind the search engine tool for Whatisfund.ai uses Word2Vec and FastText, both strong AI deep learning algorithms.

“Through Whatisfund.ai, we hope to dramatically increase efficiency and ultimately help financial companies build autonomy and convenience in allocating global assets, thereby building their overall competitiveness in the market,” said CEO of QARA Luke Byun.

6.  WireBarley

Korean Fintech StartupKorean fin-tech startup WireBarley is a leading money transfer startup that provides mobile/online based cross-border remittance service in the Asia-Pacific region. WireBarley is one of the very first pioneers that started the business in Australia. Now they are quickly expanding into other countries in the Asia-Pacific.

WireBarley has certified remittance licenses in Australia, New Zealand, U.S., and Hong Kong as well as Korea. This means WireBarley is providing the remittance service for the customers in many countries. Therefore they have a competitive cost structure from the sophisticated financial skills by an “aggregator” model.

WireBarley has a treasury center in Hong Kong for optimizing the fund flow among countries. Therefore they have competitiveness of fund flow, liquidity management, and forex hedging. They have more than 110,000 user base and 200,000 app downloads. Recently they entered the US market for the Koreans and other Asians living there who want to send money back to their home countries. This means their compliance standards are satisfactory to US regulatory authorities, which is most strict in the world. In the future, they have plans to expand into Canada and Singapore.  In addition, they plan to enter into B2B markets and to become the leading cross-border Fintech platform.

“One of our core design principles is terrific money service capabilities that are easy to use,” said John Joongwon Yoo, the CEO at WireBarley.

They have raised over $6 million from VCs and angels so far and are planning to raise their Series B round this year.

Partnership with SSGPay

South Korea’s retail giant Shinsegae has its very own mobile payment service unit called SSGPay. They will be introducing an overseas remittance service in partnership with WireBarley. SSGPay mobile wallet users will be able to wire money to 16 countries around the world including the United States, Europe, Japan, and Singapore to name a few.

7.  Finda

Korean Fintech Startup FindaKorean Fintech Startup Finda is a paperless loan platform that is powered by big data. The loan platform allows users to get the maximum loan amount and the lowest loan interest possible through their mobile app.  In addition, the app allows the user to take out loans according to those conditions. They were able to raise $3.7 million for their series A round from Korean VC firms Intervest and Mega Investment. Their focus for 2019 will be to enhance their service and keep providing information on their web portal regarding financial products. They have already teamed up with over 50 institutions in Korea.

“We will continue to enhance our service to have none of financial customers lose out of financial information they can fully take advantage of,” said CEO of Finda, Lee Hye-Min

8.  Sentbe

Korean Fintech StartupKorean Fintech startup Sentbe makes it easy to send money overseas. This is a huge problem for many Koreans that want to send money abroad. Sentbe is a remittance company that offers quick delivery times (24 hr average), low fees (95% cheaper than banks), and easy to use functions. Currently, Sentbe remits to 14 countries including the US and China. They have over 10,000 monthly active users and 30,000 remittances from Korea every month. Customers have collectively saved $10.5M USD (12B KRW) in transfer commission fees. Sentbe takes up to 2% of the remitted amount on average.

Foreigners working and living in Korea will get the most benefit out of Sentbe. Most of their users are Philippinos living in Korea. Therefore, 40% of their remittance goes to the Philippines.

They use a pooling method which means they send a large amount of money overseas to save on currency exchange and processing fees. So far they have been able to raise $3.5 million in funding. In 2019 they look to focus on helping Korean startups and enterprises easily accept payments from companies abroad at low costs.

Partnership with MoneyGram

Sentbe became the first MoneyGram virtual agent in South Korea. They will work together to further improve financial inclusion in South Korea.

“We are now in an even better position to meet the demand for tech-savvy solutions within this space and look forward to the change this will bring to the diverse community we serve,” said Alex Choi, CEO of Sentbe.

9. DeepSearch

Korean Fintech Startup DeepSearchKorean Fintech startup DeepSearch is developing a platform with a search engine and a computational engine that is powered by financial big data. Furthermore, their platform enables investors to delve into desired datasets and topics they want to analyze. They will be able to build an investment hypothesis and test it without the complex calculations required by traditional approaches. All you have to do is enter a topic or a keyword phrase and their platform will handle the rest. In addition, they provide B2B financial information services to businesses and industries. Last year they partnered with Samsung to integrate their services onto Bixby, Samsung’s personal assistant.

“Our job is to impose a structure on raw financial data so that investors would find significance in the database,” said Kim Jae-Yun, CEO at DeepSearch.

10. Lendit

Korean Fintech Startup LenditKorean Fintech Startup Lendit is a Korean peer-to-peer lending marketplace where investors provide loans (APR 4.5~15%) to creditworthy borrowers in exchange for the interest income (over 6% annual return). It leverages technologies to lower the cost of the traditional banking system. In addition, it reduces the volatility of returns through diversification based on machine learning. In addition, the adoption of what is equivalent to the US P2P financing platform Lending Club’s secondary market, FolioFN, will enable the higher liquidity of Lendit’s platform. Currently, investors in the Lendit platform cannot retrieve any of the principal of their investments or any interest earned until the notes from borrowers reach their maturity date.

HONORABLE MENTION

Mobidoo

Korean Fintech Startup MobidooKorean Fintech startup Mobidoo’s SmartSound technology sends data over a sound wave that cannot be heard by humans. This is done to enable contactless mobile payment on any phone. This technology solves the connectivity problems of existing technologies and enriches experience in everyday life. SmartSound utilizes existing speakers of payment devices, and thus connects devices without requiring extra hardware. Therefore, this makes it perfect for mobile payments. In the past, this form of payment required retailers to install machines to read the QR Codes.  What makes Mobidoo so innovative is that they use ultrasonic sound waves that allow all machines attached with speakers into credit card readers.

Current network technologies like Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth have limitations in connecting the devices due to high costs. Using ultrasonic technology will make the connections easier and secure. Furthermore, Mobidoo’s solution has already been deployed in Lotte Group’s mobile payment solution L.Pay. It will be used at the retail giant’s department and supermarket stores across the nation. In addition, they are making more than 150,000 transactions per month. In 2019 they will focus on overseas markets such as Finland and Indonesia.

Moin

Korean Fintech Startup MoinKorean Fintech Startup Moin focuses on the problems in interbank remittance. Conventional interbank wire transfers have high commission fees and take a long time to process. Moin has a license as remittance service providers from the Financial Supervisory Service. They provide their services using either pooling or pairing schemes. A pooling scheme uses a pool of money made up of both Korean and partner nation’s respective local currencies. A pairing scheme is a way to settle the outgoing and incoming amount of money by pairing them.

Moin users can remit up to $30,000 per year and $3,000 per transfer. The volume of money remitted through Moin’s platform has increased by about 140 percent each quarter. Furthermore, their focus for 2019 will be cryptocurrencies devoted to remittances (Ripple or Stellar). In addition they will look to partner with countries in Southeast Asia.

AIM

Korean Fintech Startup AIMKorean Fintech startup AIM is an automated investment management platform. They combine advanced know-how in mobile technology with big data and computer algorithms. Their system works with existing investment institutions to allow users in Korea to make trades and investments via their smartphone. In addition, AIM claims they can reduce the cost of trading to 1/40th. This is possible because AIM outsources trading to brokers, who cover the licensing and compliance fees. Their service is called Esther. It made an average of 10%-15% in yearly return on investment.

Users will be asked a few questions so that Esther can get a behavioral bias for their automated investment plan. Therefore, the questions include the user’s age, annual income, investment experience, employment status, investment period, the volume of assets, and their risk intelligence. Their 2019 plan is to target Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore.