Top 5 Fintech: Silicon Valley Might Meets South Korean Finesse

Smiling woman with a yellow pencilLast week we observed an upsurge in collaborations between startups and financial institutions, but this week is all startup glory.

There are some old pros still doing us proud with 9-figure rounds, like Affirm, but a major Korean vital force is not far behind, in the form of e-commerce and seriously chill P2P software origination. Tag along for a quick tour of this week’s best venture rounds.

1. Affirm, the point-of-sale (POS) installment-loans-provider, just raised $100 million in a series D round, bringing its total funds up to an intimidating $400 million. Founded in 2012, the San Francisco-based company’s ability to offer borrowers the ability to repay by installments enables a broader range of customers to borrow, partially because each loan is processed according to a credit score regenerated upon each successive loan. This rotating door loan system is all the rage right now, as in the case of Yodlee’s recently implemented credit-evaluating software Risk Insight, and the Israeli startup SplitIt.

2. Ticket Monster (TMON), one of the leading e-commerce companies in Korea, just raised $40 million in one venture round this month, bringing it to nearly $51 million. Founded in 2010, by 2014 70% of TMON’s transactions were completed on mobile devices, spurring its customer base to expand into many age segments. Its three key verticals, — Goods, Local and Travel — connect users with 15,000 merchants.

Formerly purchased by Groupon, the e-commerce firm is  soon to trade into the hands of KKR, after the investment firm signed a definitive agreement to acquire a controlling stake of TMON from Groupon.

3. Viva Republica is a fintech startup created to provide P2P money transfer services through a mobile application called “Toss.” Having raised $23 million in a series A round, Viva Republica is the only fintech startup in South Korea that developed its own P2P money transfer service, a demo of which is accompanied by the chillest electro-funk in fintech. Founded in 2013, the fintech startup is cooperating with four to five major banks in Korea, and plans to expand its business into lending in the near future.

4. Twiggle raised $12.5 million in a series A funding round. An Israeli company that aims to change the way people perform e-commerce  searches by bringing context to e-commerce searches. Co-founded in 2013 by CEO Dr. Amir Konigsberg, formerly a member of Google’s emerging markets operations and also once managing director of MySupermarket.com, and Dr. Adi Avidor, once engineering tech-lead at Google.

Twiggle offers to cloak the difference in how a human will employs syntax to relate a group of words versus how a search engine, which often incorrectly provides its own context. This can be an obstruction to online shoppers, e.g. searching “iPhone with best battery” will return items as embarrassing as back-up external batteries.

Twiggle collects and analyzes data about products and converts it into information readily available for customer use. This is made possible by mapping the totality of ‘commerce knowledge’ available on the internet, revealing the contingent infrastructure of billions of products’ similarities and differences.

5. Even is the wealth management/loan hybrid we love to love, and they just raised $9 million in a venture round last week. Based in Oakland, California, Even’s app provides its users with the same, consistent paycheck every week. It does this by reserving some money in another account on good weeks, and giving you interest-free credit in bad weeks. When unexpected expenses come to ruin your financial situ, Even advances extra money to ensure the worst needn’t happen.

Also of note: Accion’s undisclosed investment in UK-based AI underwriting startup Aire, and Alibaba’s now-controlling stake in southeast Asian commerce player Lazada, and Transactiss’s largely bank-funded Series E.

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