Rakuten’s head of Asia marketing, Shin Hasegawa, told me that Singapore was chosen because of its close proximity to other Southeast Asian countries, and access to talented people. Interestingly, Rakuten also chose Singapore as a base because it believes it is the gateway to interact with the region’s startups.
Rakuten does invest in startups. Most prominently, it was the lead investor in Pinterest’s latest financing round. Like most of its Japanese counterparts such as GREE and CyberAgent who have set up corporate venture arms to invest in startups across Southeast Asia, Rakuten could also follow the same path. When asked about the possibility of having a ‘Rakuten Venture Fund’, Hasegawa told me that it could potentially be part of the big plan. But regardless, Rakuten is already investing in startups whether or not there’s a dedicated venture fund.