Dentist Bets Career on Mobile Payments

June 20, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

With Father’s Day now one for the history books, we can consider a common condition of fatherhood: the notion that, one day, the kid might take a job you’d rather he—or she—not. That happened to Lee Seung-gun’s father, and mother too presumably, as he left a career in dentistry to start a mobile payments app. Several apps, actually, but it’s the new mobile payments service known as Toss that’s about to make Seung-gun a household name.

Toss is the end product of seven years and eight failed apps, a process that likely made for some really awkward family functions. Now, it counts eight million registered users to its credit and a hefty $1.4 billion in transactions processed per month. It’s just picked up an additional $40 million from an investment round from Sequoia China and GIC Pte., which brings Toss’ total funding to $116 million.

Toss is described as similar to Venmo, allowing peer-to-peer (P2P) cash transfers, and its clear selling point is sheer speed. Transactions are accomplished in seconds, which is a quantum leap ahead of banks’ transfer capabilities. Toss is actually something of a rare bird in the region; much of South Korea’s economy is run by some of the biggest names around, including LG and Samsung.

The big key to Toss’ success seems to be mobile payments itself. Toss handled about 70 percent of all money transfers in the country—about $31.63 million US a day—and as such has been pushing into other fields like managing credit scores.

It’s clear that Toss had a good plan, and better yet, it had a good follow-up. It’s one thing to bring out a product that does well for today’s problems, but it’s easy—and we’ve already seen this to some extent—for competitors to step into the field and take advantage of their own advantages to push even a first-mover out of the way. Toss didn’t stop at P2P, it carried on into mobile operations beyond payments and it’s made a name for itself as a result.

So fathers, and mothers out there, don’t be concerned when your dentist sons and daughters come up with the idea to make their own mobile apps instead. It may not always work, but sometimes, you get a major new change to the way a whole country does business.