Rakuten Ventures Launches $100M Fund, Expands Scope To NE Asia Israel & USA

Rakuten Ventures today announced the launch of a $100M global investment fund. This fund builds on the success of the Southeast Asia fund, which was launched in 2013 and counts Carousell, Visenze, Coda Payments and Send Anywhere among its investment portfolio. The investment in Send Anywhere is Rakuten’s first investment in a company outside South East Asia and their first in a South Korean startup, ESTMob.

Rakuten Ventures $100M Global Fund

Rakuten Ventures Portfolio and Growth

The new fund will target investments in startups and companies in Israel, Asia Pacific, and the USA. Saemin Ahn, Managing Partner of Rakuten explained:

“The larger global fund gives us the opportunity to empower the startup ecosystem beyond Japan and Southeast Asia and positively affect Internet services globally, while giving the fund more avenues for growth. It also supports our broader goal of long-term investments with startups that have the technology and potential to enable better user experience and facilitation.”

Ahn sees a great opportunity to expand the Rakuten portfolio in Korea, and has witnessed that Korean entrepreneurs are particularly tech-focused and have the skills and hunger to build great products for a global user-base.

When I asked him why Korean startups have begun to attract more attention from overseas investors, he explained that it is not so much that Korean startups are better than they were, but rather that their concept of market size is now far more global than before. “Koreans are now building services for global, not just Korea. That makes them more attractive deals than before,” he said. In addition, Korean culture now has a global audience, which helps to add credence to the ‘Made in Korea’ label of local startups.

Rakuten’s new fund will focus broadly on early stage investments in companies from the technology industry that are able to deliver financial returns with strategic relevance. This broader focus will give the fund a wider horizon for the type of startups and companies it interacts with, and how it interacts with them. This will include having a “laser focus on value for company, investing in strong teams, leaders, technology and passion to give Rakuten a stake in future user interaction,” according to Ahn. He also explained that with the growth in the fund his key investment principals will remain the same, including plans to invest in around one company per quarter, and also to continue to offer exceptional value to their portfolio through their networks and high-value mentorship.

The fund operations will continue to be run out of Singapore, with Ahn acting as fund advisor. Commenting on the emergence of startups offering innovative solutions to old problems, Ahn said “If you just look at the last couple of years, companies like Waze and Viber are great examples of companies taking on massive issues like transport and communications, breaking them down to their basics, and providing an engaging and sticky user experience that people have come to love and depend on. More Asia-based VCs are venturing out into different regions to look at investment as long-term growth vehicles. Since 2013, Rakuten Ventures has been one of such VCs to aggressively invest larger amounts into younger companies, to enable them to focus on product and service development.” While the fund’s immediate focus will be on companies in Israel, Asia Pacific and the US, Rakuten Ventures plans to take an aggressive approach in expanding operations around the globe.

About Rakuten Ventures: Rakuten Ventures is an early stage corporate venture capital fund focused on empowering the startup ecosystem to positively affect Internet services globally. The fund was originally launched in 2013 and counts Carousell, Visenze, Coda Payments and Send Anywhere among its investment portfolio. In June 2014, Rakuten Ventures launched a US$100 million global fund to target startups and companies in Israel, Asia Pacific, and the USA, with a focus on companies that can enable better user experience and facilitation. For more information, please contact globalrv@mail.rakuten.com

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