A new $100 million investment fund was announced by Rakuten Ventures. The global fund is to be directed towards investing in startup companies around the globe, with a focus on those in the Asia Pacific region, Israel, and the USA. This fund will use an earlier Southeast Asia fund, which was launched in 2013, as its model.
In a press release announcing the fund, Rakuten Ventures emphasized that the new fund will support the startup ecosystem in countries beyond Japan, where they have their headquarters. One of the goals is to invest in startups with potential to use technology to give users a better experience. And in time, they will increase their focus on helping to grow the startup ecosystem, improve technology, grow membership, and eventually seek financial returns.
Companies in the technology sector that have the potential to deliver a return and become relevant in a strategic way will be important, but the focus will be broad so that the fund can choose from a wide range of companies to invest in. Key ingredients to a successful company will be areas such as strong leadership and teams, value for the company, innovative technology, and desire to give a future stake to Rakuten for increased participation down the road.
Saemin Ahn, the Managing Partner of Rakuten Ventures, will act as fund manager based out of Singapore. Speaking on the ability of startups to offer new strategies for tackling long-standing problems, Samin 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 transportations 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.
Although the initial focus of the fund will be in the three geographical areas of Israel, the US, and Asia Pacific, Rakuten Ventures intends to aggressively seek more investment worldwide.