A Japanese company that owns Buy.com and other e-commerce properties have made a multi-million dollar investment in Pinterest. The move could help the social network expand into e-commerce and expand its presence outside the United States.
Rakuten, which describes itself as an online marketplace, said it is leading a $100 million investment in Pinterest. "We think there are lots of ways for our companies to work together," Buy.com CEO Neel Grover said in an interview with ClickZ. He said he didn't expect there will be dramatic changes to either sites - such as e-commerce coming to Pinterest - in coming months.
"We both believe in giving our users an entertaining and social experience," he said, adding that the properties complement one another. For instance, Rakuten e-commerce properties give shoppers the ability to chat with friends on the site and watch videos, he said.
Still, big e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay - and Buy.com - now include Pinterest share buttons on their sites, allowing people to easily post images of products to their Pinterest boards.
Rakuten, which has $14 billion in annual revenue, operates e-commerce marketplaces Buy.com in the United States and Canada, Play.com in the U.K., Rakuten Ichiba in Japan, Rakuten Brazil, and other properties. Rakuten also owns performance marketing company LinkShare, e-books company Kobo, and other businesses.
In the United States, Buy.com sells merchandise from third parties such as Petco, Toys R Us, and OfficeMax.
The investment provides some clues into how Pinterest, which is a virtual scrapbook or pinboard, may evolve. "An investment from the largest e-commerce business in Asia makes it pretty clear where they view their niche. It's around e-commerce, product discovery...people are using it for shopping and their wish lists," said Adam Berke, president of ad tech company, AdRoll, in response to a question from ClickZ. AdRoll, which specializes in retargeting display advertising for retailers and other verticals, does not have any affiliation with Pinterest.
Existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital, as well as angel investors, also contributed in this funding round.
Pinterest and its investors did not disclose how much Rakuten contributed to the investment round. One observer said Pinterest may have negotiated a 10 percent stake to investors in this round, which would mean that Pinterest is worth $1 billion.
Kate Kaye contributed.
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March 19, 2014