Rakuten announces accelerator programme powered by Techstars

  • Selected participants will receive funding, mentorship and perks
  • Newly appointed Rakuten Asia CEO a key executive on the programme

Rakuten announces accelerator programme powered by Techstars

Rakuten, Techstars, Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars, Techstars Accelerator Program, Hiroshi Takasawa, David Brown, Viber, AI, e-commerce, chat botGlobal innovation leader Rakuten, Inc and worldwide startup accelerator Techstars announces today the launch of Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars. The three-month mentorship-driven Rakuten Accelerator is aimed at providing innovative startup companies from around the world the chance to shape the future of “messaging as a platform” for new technologies. It includes initial funding and three months of immersed mentorship.

The accelerator programme’s inaugural class of approximately 10 startups will focus on disrupting and revolutionising how businesses and consumers use messaging to conduct business and stay connected.

Areas considered for the programme include: AI including chat bot, chat commerce, mobile wallet and crypto currency, ad tech, VR and AR solutions, voice recognition, image recognition, translation, content such as music and sports, chat-based IoT, and enterprise integrated messaging.

Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars will be hosted in Singapore, the location of Rakuten’s Asia Regional Head Office (Rakuten is headquartered in Tokyo). 

Hiroshi Takasawa, head of Rakuten’s investment arm Rakuten Capital and newly appointed chief executive officer at Rakuten Asia’s regional head office, will be one of the key executives collaborating on the global team setting the direction of the Rakuten Accelerator programme.

Since joining Rakuten in 2005, Takasawa has been actively leading several fintech businesses, including venture and private equity investments and contributed to merger and acquisition deals and post-merger integration processes. Prior to holding executive positions at Rakuten Inc, Rakuten Securities and Rakuten Life Insurance, he also worked for Nomura Securities in Tokyo and New York.

“We’re thrilled at the opportunity to share our business and technical expertise with the disruptive innovators of the future,” said Takasawa. 

“Together with Techstars, an organisation with a remarkable track record for developing startup talent, I am very optimistic that we can strengthen the Rakuten global ecosystem and advance the culture of open innovation.”

Selected participants will receive a US$120,000 investment, access to the Techstars Network of more than 5,000 founders, alumni and mentors, and 400 perks worth more than US$1 million to develop their ideas, along with mentor support from top executives and leaders from Rakuten’s E-Commerce, Fintech, Digital Content, Communications, and Research and Development teams.

Participants in Rakuten Accelerator will also have access to resources from across Rakuten’s global ecosystem of more than 70 services, including Rakuten Viber messaging and voice platform.

With hundreds of millions of users around the world, Viber recently became the official communication channel of professional football club FC Barcelona, Official Instant Messaging and Calling App Partner of American professional basketball team the Golden State Warriors and an official platform for North American men’s professional basketball league the National Basketball Association.

Just under 1,200 startups have graduated from Techstars Accelerator Programs across the world, including Sphero, SendGrid, and Temasek-backed ClassPass. On average, companies who pass through a Techstars Accelerator Program go on to raise more than US$2 million in outside funding.  

Partnering with global tech powerhouse Rakuten to bring a Techstars Accelerator Program to Singapore is a major milestone for us. This accelerator will be the first for Techstars in an Asian city, and ranks Singapore alongside other worldwide startup hubs like Boulder, New York, London, and Berlin,” said co-founder and co-CEO of Techstars David Brown.

“We are delighted to be able to offer an Asian accelerator and give founders across the region the opportunity to join our worldwide network made up of tens of thousands of community leaders, founders, mentors, and investors,” he said. 

Applications for Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars open on Jan 8 2018 and the program kicks-off in July in Singapore where selected finalists will join mentors to develop their businesses and technologies

The programme will conclude with a demo day in October where each company will have the opportunity to showcase their businesses and meet industry leaders and investors from around the world.

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