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Digital wallet launched by dentist could be worth US$1.2b

[SEOUL] Viva Republica, operator of the South Korean digital wallet Toss, has raised US$80 million from investors including Kleiner Perkins to propel its expansion into new areas such as online stock trading.

Launched as a peer-to-peer payment app in 2015 by former Samsung Group dentist Lee Seung-gun, Toss expanded into a plethora of financial services from credit scoring to insurance and now wants to become a securities broker. Its latest round of funding also involved Ribbit Capital and valued the company at US$1.2 billion, the Seoul-based startup said in a statement.

Viva competes with Naver Corp, operator of the country's biggest online portal, and Kakao Corp, which created the most popular messaging app locally. Mr Lee's startup has taken advantage of the local market's liberalisation and now intends to explore expansion in South-east Asia. It's Kleiner's very first investment in a Korean startup, the company added.

"South Korea is one of the world's largest economies and is at the forefront of an emerging fintech movement driven by an explosion of mobile adopters," Noah Knauf, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins, said in the statement.

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The startup - which previously secured backing from PayPal Holdings Inc, Sequoia and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd - has amassed total funding of just under US$200 million. Existing backers such as Altos Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures also joined its latest financing.

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