Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.

These days, there is much discussion about the rise of AI and machine learning, the use of data and the influence of technology on our daily lives. Like any tool, technology can be misused. I won’t downplay that reality. That said, I’m ultimately optimistic about the potential of technology to boost economic growth and improve our lives in real, tangible ways. I’m also optimistic that, alongside our many partners and collaborators, Rakuten can contribute to making that happen.

That’s why we’re holding Rakuten Optimism, our largest-ever group event, this week. The four-day conference and festival will be held in Yokohama from July 31 to Saturday, August 3, 2019. We’re looking forward to welcoming more guests than we’ve ever seen before at an event like this.

Our own corporate history is built on optimism. In 1997, we launched with just two employees, one server, 13 merchants and the strong desire to empower merchants of small and medium-sized businesses, particularly from regional parts of Japan – many of whom were unfamiliar with computers and the internet at the time. Today, we are one of the world’s global digital leaders, with e-commerce marketplaces empowering millions and significant investments in free messaging (Viber), cashless payment, the sharing economy and many other services.

Our company believes in a new optimistic Japan. While Japan continues to be recognized for our design quality and manufacturing standards, we are finally waking up to the newer possibilities of a digital-powered service economy. C2C apps like Rakuma have won over shoppers young and old. The rise of cashless payment has simplified and secured the purchase process. Loyalty programs like Rakuten Super Points, which can be used across a wide range of services, are rewarding members in new and powerful ways and simplifying the user experience.

From our perspective, the global outlook for innovation is boundless. Rakuten’s own drone delivery service has shown it can brings snacks and equipment to players out on the fairway, or groceries to island-hopping leisure seekers. In the future, drones could provide deliveries to sparsely populated areas and mountainous regions, or emergency supplies to disaster-struck areas. Artificial intelligence is on the brink of revolutionizing development of new medical treatments. It can support more convenient and more personalized shopping experiences. Our upcoming 4G/5G mobile network will bring down household costs for Japan’s stretched consumers and support a vast array of new services across fields from e-commerce to fintech, sports, entertainment, communications and medicine.

There’s a serious side to Optimism. Top-tier speakers will present, including tech leaders like Robert Swan, CEO of Intel Corporation, Heizo Takenaka, Professor Emeritus of Keio University and Professor of Toyo University, Tony Fernandes, AirAsia CEO, and John Zimmer, Co-founder and President of Lyft.

There’s also a fun side to Optimism. Visitors will enjoy world-class live music performances and experience next-generation interactive entertainment. Future World, the free-to-enter exhibition portion will allow visitors to discover unique experiences through a 5G lens, savor our merchants’ culinary delights and even say hello to Rakuten’s official shopping mascot, Okaimono Panda. Visitors will enjoy a cashless experience with all purchases inside the event space.

We realize that the rise of our new globalized, digital world brings with it new challenges. Tech companies must take on responsibility to keep our platforms clean of counterfeits, protect the privacy of users and compete on fair terms. Rakuten is working hard on all these fronts, never losing sight of our original mission of empowerment. But we continue to believe that the digital world has the potential to improve the lives of all of us. Forget fear. Embrace optimism.

Come and join us in Yokohama at Rakuten Optimism.


For more information about Rakuten Optimism 2019, visit here.