Rakuten has made a multi-million dollar investment in Pinterest. The move could help the content sharing service build out its global presence and expand into e-commerce.
The Japanese Internet services company, which describes itself as an online marketplace, said it is leading a $100 million investment in Pinterest. Rakuten operates e-commerce sites in Japan, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, the United States, and Europe.
"We think there are lots of ways for our companies to work together," said Neel Grover, CEO of Rakuten's Buy.com. 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 each other. For instance, Rakuten e-commerce properties give shoppers the ability to chat with friends on the site and watch videos, he said.
Rakuten, which has $14 billion in annual revenue, also owns: performance marketing company LinkShare e-books company Kobo; Rakuten Travel; Rakuten Securities; Rakuten Card, and Rakuten Bank. Its e-commerce sites include: Rakuten Ichiba in Japan; Tarad.com in Thailand; Rakuten Belanja Online in Indonesia; Rakuten Taiwan; and others.
Rakuten's investment provides some clues into how Pinterest, which is a virtual 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 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.
Rakuten did not disclose the amount of its investment in Pinterest. Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani will serve in an advisory role to Pinterest.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.