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.
Now, the company is betting on startups with a new US$100 million fund under its Rakuten Ventures investment branch.
In an effort to understand the Rakuten Ventures and its relationship to its domestic parent company, Tech in Asia sat down with Ahn to discuss Rakuten’s legacy in Japan, it’s global ambitions, and why an e-commerce firm might invest in a messaging app.
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