Rakuten just launched a $100M fund for startups. Here’s why the company is more than just “Japan’s Amazon”

As Alibaba prepares for its IPO and Tencent aggressively pushes its WeChat messenger all over the world, it’s easy for folks in the west to forget that there’s another Asian internet giant gunning for a broader global presence – Japan’s Rakuten. Founded in 1997, the Tokyo-based firm earned a name for itself domestically with Rakuten Ichiba, a marketplace that sells virtual store space for vendors looking to reach online customers. Rakuten Ichiba’s success helped it gain the reputation as “Japan’s Amazon,” the firm quickly proved to be about more than ecommerce – it successfully branched into the banking, securities, and travel industries. It even created a juggernaut baseball team in northern Japan.


Japanese giant Rakuten enters India, but it’s not yet joining the ecommerce war

Japanese ecommerce titan Rakuten (JSD:4755) has just announced its entry into India. To begin with, the firm has today opened a global unit called the Rakuten India Development and Operations Center (RIDOC) in Bangalore. A statement from the company says the center will focus on “infrastructure operations, processes, and resources.” For now, there’s no Rakuten India estore – instead it is working behind the scenes on developing talent in infrastructure automation, software development, and quality assurance.


Rakuten Ventures’ Saemin Ahn: “No one should tell you what your vision is about.”

On May 20 at Singapore Polytechnic, Tech in Asia hosted its monthly Meetup event by bringing in Saemin Ahn (pictured above) for a fireside chat, which was moderated by our editor, Terence Lee. Ahn is a managing partner at Rakuten Ventures, and given that he owns the entire decision-making process there, he was able to share many interesting insights on the Japanese investment scene


British analytics firm DC Storm acquired by Rakuten

Rakuten Marketing, the digital marketing arm of Japanese conglomerate Rakuten, Inc., announced the acquisition of DC Storm, a British marketing analytics firm. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Founded in 2004, DC Storm has steadily grown over the past nine years and established local headquarters in Frankfurt (2008) and New York City (2013).


Ecommerce giant Rakuten now has its own cafe in Japan, and it looks pretty snazzy

Apple set off a minor trend ten years ago when it launched its first Apple Store, inspiring other big-name tech firms to launch their own hip-looking hangout spots that double as marketing, sales, and support hubs. Now Japan’s Rakuten is jumping on the bandwagon with the launch of Rakuten CAFE, a cozy eatery that doubles as a playground all-things-Rakuten. The space is set to officially open its doors on Friday.


Korean file-sharing app Send Anywhere nabs $1M in funding from Rakuten

ESTmob, the Seoul-based team behind file-sharing app Send Anywhere (which we reviewed about a week ago) revealed today it has completed a US$1 million seed round led by Rakuten Ventures. ESTmob cofounder Suhyuk Kang tells Tech in Asia that it will use the funding to expand its userbase around the globe and ramp up the app’s feature set.


Rakuten gets approval to issue credit cards in ROC

TAIPEI — Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten (樂天) Inc. has gained regulatory approval from the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC, 金管會) to issue credit cards in Taiwan, as part of its efforts to achieve an ambitious growth target this year.  The FSC announced late Tuesday that Rakuten Card Co., a credit card subsidiary of the Japanese online retailer, had been given approval to set up Rakuten Card Taiwan Inc. with capital of NT$300 million (US$9.93 million).


Alibaba’s Alipay payment service says konichiwa to Japan as it inks deal with Rakuten

TAG indexAlipay, China’s popular third-party payment service from tech giant Alibaba, will now be integrated onto Rakuten Global Market, the international e-commerce branch of “Japan’s Amazon.” According to an official statement from Rakuten, 250 shops on Rakuten Global Market will open up transactions with Alipay, though the company intends to increase that number gradually. Currently, 10,000 of Rakuten’s 42,000 domestic vendors sell goods internationally on Rakuten Global Market.


Rakuten wants to see Viber getting a million new users per day

Last month, Rakuten (JSD:4755) acquired Viber messaging app in a $900 million deal as the Japanese ecommerce titan tries to diversify and be more social. Today, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani spoke out for the first time about the app, telling Bloomberg that “Viber is one of the most important projects for us.”


Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten strengthens its presence in Europe with new R&D center in Paris

Rakuten, the Japanese tech firm best-known for e-commerce, has announced it will develop a new center for research and development in Paris. The office will be the third of its kind for the company, with additional centers in Tokyo and New York. The company claims that the center “will commission projects to help revolutionise data analytics, fraud detection, language, recommendation systems, image processing, user interfaces, and the ‘online to offline’ transition in e-commerce.”


Viber was the enigma of the mobile messaging wars. Why did Rakuten buy it for $900 million?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce firm, will purchase Viber, the Cyprus-based mobile messaging startup for $900 million. The purchase marks a major development for both companies. Rakuten hails from an e-commerce legacy, but in recent years has sought to reach into new verticals. In late 2011 it purchased the team behind Canadian e-book reader Kobo for $315 million, and six months later invested $100 million in US-based social network Pinterest. Viber, meanwhile, was founded in 2010 and funded entirely by money from iMesh, the founders’ previous venture.


After Rakuten acquisition, Viber reveals it has 100 million active users

Earlier today, the popular messaging app Viber revealed it has been acquired by Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce titan. The $900 million deal has just been confirmed by Rakuten (JSD:4755), which means the publicly-listed company has had to divulge some interesting numbers related to Viber. Now we know that Viber has over 100 million monthly active users from its 280 million global registered users. We’ve been haranguing messaging apps and other social media to man up and tell us how many active users they have, so it’s good to have this useful metric for one of the world’s top messaging apps.