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 is readily available, which allows for customers to handle their important financial matters quickly.  This means they can conduct instant, frictionless, digital transactions at an unprecedented speed.

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 Viva Republica or Daily Financial GroupViva Republica recently became a unicorn startup after being valued at $1.2 billion.

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 which can give users the best rates quickly and accurately.

2.  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.

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.

3.  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.

4.  Rainist

Korean Fintech Startup RainistKorean Fintech startup Rainist is the operator of Banksalad which is a financial products recommendation service.  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.

Raised $16 million in funding to date.  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.

5.  Balance Hero (True Balance)

True Balance Korean Fintech StartupBalance Hero is a fintech startup in Korea that operates True Balance an app for mobile prepaid billing management and top-up payments.  They recently came out with the True Balance Gift Card where users can enter the serial number of their gift card into their smartphones.  Then users will be able to get points which can be used just like cash.  Therefore, True Balance offers a new payment option for those that do not have bank accounts.  Truce Balance is a huge hit in India.  Hundreds of millions of people in India lack access to fin-tech services.  Balance Hero has offices in Seoul, Gurugram, and India.

True Balance offers cashback to both Prepaid and Post-paid users.  Their focus for 2019 will mainly be on the gift cards which is aimed to address customer needs for recharging phones and payments all under a single interactive interface.

6. QARA

Korean Startup QaraKorean Fintech startup QARA uses AI and deep-learning technology to analyze and predict the financial market.  Their app is called Kosho.  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.

7.  WireBarley

Korean FinTech Startup WireBarleyKorean fin-tech startup WireBarley is a cross-border remittance service that offers money transfers services at an 80% discount compared to traditional banks.  Customers can use WireBarley both via online and mobile app.  Their app has over 50,000 active users.  WireBarley offers customer service in English, Korean, and 10 other languages.  Users can transfer money to over 20 countries.    They have raised over $6 million from VCs and angels.  Their focus for 2019 will be to expand its presence in Southeast Asia and the U.S.

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.

9.  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, reduce 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.

10.  Mobidoo

Korean Fintech Startup MobidooKorean Fintech startup Mobidoo developed an easy to use mobile content management system (CMS).  This system allows you to create a new professional mobile website.  As well as, convert your existing desktop website to mobile.  What makes them a Fintech company is that created a service that offers a link between the offline world and the online world by integrating QR Codes.  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 to 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.

Honorable Mention

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 $20,000 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 looking into cryptocurrencies devoted to remittances, such as ripple or stellar and 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.