Seoul-based mobile payments startup CHAI raised US$ 60M in Series B funding on 9 December 2020.
The funding round was led by Hanhwa Investment & Securities. Other participants include SoftBank Ventures Asia (the early-stage venture capital arm of SoftBank Group), SK Networks, Aarden Partners and other strategic partners. The funding round has brought CHAI’s total funding to US$ 75 million. It had raised US$ 15 million Series A funding in February.
Founded in 2019, CHAI provides an API (Application Programming Interface) solution that enables companies to accept over 20 payment systems. As the demand for contactless payments and e-commerce has grown significantly in not only South Korea but worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this has helped payment service operators. But since the market is very fragmented, adding payment options is a time-consuming process for many merchants, and CHAI fixes it with its API.
According to a report released by the Bank of Korea, South Korea’s central bank, contactless payments in Korea have increased 17% year-over-year since the start of COVID-19.
“CHAI is a latecomer to Korea’s digital payments market, but we saw a unique opportunity to offer value. The CHAI Card offers merchants a lower transaction fee than other cards and users typically check its app about 20 times to see new cashback offers and other rewards based on how often they pay with their cards or digital wallet,” said CEO of CHAI Daniel Shin.
CHAI provides e-commerce companies with an API called I’mport, that allows them to accept payments from over 20 options, including debit and credit cards through local payment gateways, digital wallets, wire transfers, carrier billings and PayPal. Businesses don’t have to integrate each kind of online payment type separately, as I’mport saves their clients a lot of time. The company claims that CHAI’s API is now used by 2,200 merchants, including Nike Korea and Philip Morris Korea.
CHAI also offers its own digital wallet and debit card called the CHAI Card, which launched in June 2019 and now has 2.5 million users, a small number compared with South Korea’s leading digital wallets, which include Samsung Pay, Naver Pay, Kakao Pay and Toss.
“We’ve digitized the plastic card experience, and this is the first step towards creating a robust online rewards platform,” said Daniel Shin.
What Investors have to say
Hanhwa Investment & Securities director SeungYoung Oh director said, “I’mport has reduced what once took e-commerce businesses weeks to complete into a simple copy-and-paste task, radically reducing costs. It is a first-of-its-kind business model in Korea, and I have no doubt that CHAI will continue to grow this service into an essential infrastructure of the global fintech landscape.”
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