’Tis the season for giving, and true to the holiday spirit, Rakuten has announced a brand new accelerator program to support startups around the globe.

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

“Together with Techstars, an organization with a remarkable track record for developing startup talent, we look forward to not only supporting these promising groups, but learning from them as well,” said Rakuten’s Hiroshi Takasawa.

Dubbed “Rakuten Accelerator,” the new program will identify and support the work of early-stage entrepreneurs with a focus on those capable of leveraging a global messaging platform.

Rakuten is in a unique position to be able to help ambitious startups thrive. The company owns global messaging and voice app Rakuten Viber, an official communication channel of FC Barcelona, Official Instant Messaging and Calling App Partner of the Golden State Warriors and an official platform for the National Basketball Association. The Tel Aviv-based Viber has hundreds of millions of registered users around the world.

Rakuten also operates an ecosystem of services covering everything from e-commerce to securities, banking, insurance, card & payment, leisure and media. Mentors from all corners of the Rakuten world, including Viber, will be available to work closely with startups selected for the program.

In operating the accelerator program, Rakuten is collaborating with a powerful ally: Colorado-based Techstars, a worldwide accelerator operator that to date has worked with more than 1,200 companies, 90% of which are still active or have been acquired.

Rakuten’s initial three-month mentorship-driven accelerator will be based in Singapore, the location of the company’s Asia Regional Head Office, and will focus on disrupting and revolutionizing how businesses and consumers use messaging to conduct business and stay connected. Areas considered for the program include:

  • AI, including chat bots
  • Chat commerce
  • Mobile wallets and crypto currency
  • Ad tech
  • VR and AR solutions
  • Voice recognition
  • Image recognition
  • Translation
  • Content such as music and sports
  • Chat-based IoT
  • Enterprise-integrated messaging

“We’re thrilled at the opportunity to share our business and technical expertise with the disruptive innovators of the future,” said Hiroshi Takasawa, President of Rakuten Capital and CEO of Rakuten Asia. “Together with Techstars, an organization with a remarkable track record for developing startup talent, we look forward to not only supporting these promising groups, but learning from them as well.”

The Rakuten Accelerator will identify and support the work of early-stage entrepreneurs with a focus on those who can leverage a global messaging platform.

The Rakuten Accelerator will identify and support the work of early-stage entrepreneurs with a focus on those capable of leveraging a global messaging platform.

Applications for the Rakuten Accelerator open on January 8, 2018, with the program kicking off in July 2018. Ten startups will be selected, with team members from each being invited to Singapore as part of the three-month intensive program. The program will conclude with a Demo Day at which participants will be able to pitch their businesses to hundreds of investors from all over the world.

“At the core of Rakuten’s philosophy is the idea that we are contributing to society by creating value through innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Takasawa. “Through this accelerator program, I am very optimistic that we can strengthen the Rakuten Global Ecosystem and advance the culture of innovation in Asia and around the world.”