Online commerce goliath Rakuten had a busy 2014. It bought messaging app Viber for US$900 million, as well as invested in Asian companies such as Carousell, Coda Payments and Send Anywhere; all of them related to mobile commerce.
Not satisfied with just that small chunk of the world, Rakuten announced that it will launch a US$100 million global investment fund focussed on startups located in the Asia Pacific region, Israel and the US.
The funds will be based in Singapore and will be run by Rakuten Ventures’ Managing Partner Saemin Ahn.
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Investments will be tailored for startups that have ‘strategic significance’ in Rakuten’s eyes and will turn into acquisitions for itself. Ahn said that Rakuten Ventures has a broader goal of long-term investments with tech-savvy startups with potential for better user experience, and in due time will have an increased focus on growing the e-commerce ecosystem and financial returns.
“When I look at Rakuten as a whole, we are always trying to enforce a strong methodology in having a moat and castle. Our castle is e-commerce and then we have multiple moats that help keep users in the ecosystem. It’s not that different to what Google does with search as a castle, and then moats like Android and YouTube.”
It seems as though the Japanese company is planning on going toe-to-toe with other popular commerce-focussed companies such as Amazon and Coupang. The company purchased e-reader platform Kobo for US$315 million and streaming service Viki for US$200 million. Oh, and it’s also partnering up with Malaysia’s AirAsia to get into the low-cost airline business.