Walk Together: Rakuten CEO shares vision for the future at Rakuten Optimism in San Francisco

“Our philosophy is to ‘walk together.’ We want to be more collaborative. To work together. To help each other.”

Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani’s closing words at the Rakuten Optimism 2019 event in San Francisco reinforced the sentiment of his keynote address: Across the board, Rakuten companies are working alongside partners to realize mission-focused projects. Whether it’s empowering smaller businesses in their relationships with customers, building groundbreaking 5G mobile networks, sponsoring much-loved local sports teams or helping patients conquer cancer, the organization is committed to finding new opportunities with benefits that extend beyond its own boundaries.

Take the newly rebranded Rakuten Medical. An idea born out of Mickey’s drive to find a treatment for his father’s cancer, the company now works at the forefront of cancer technology with Rakuten Medical’s Illuminox — a proprietary platform for the development of new cancer therapeutics. As a result of Mickey’s determination and a partnership with pioneering healthcare experts, a world of patients may soon have access to therapeutics developed on this platform.

Mickey reminded the Rakuten Optimism crowd of the similarly meteoric rise of Rakuten itself. From its humble beginnings in 1997 as an early online marketplace with just 13 merchants and $2,900 gross sales, to a global network of businesses with a gross transaction value of $139 billion and approximately 1.3 billion members.

Partnering to realize dreams

According to Mikitani, Rakuten’s success is — and always has been — contingent on the organization’s efforts to work closely with partners and be the catalyst for them to realize their dreams.

Often this means facilitating the critical connections small- and medium-sized businesses have with their customers. Unlike other platforms that seek to mask or obscure this relationship, Mickey shared with attendees that Rakuten prides itself on ensuring merchants can cultivate those real connections and build recognition among their online shoppers.

It’s about being a true partner and standing together.

Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani explained how Rakuten is walking together with partners to build a brighter future for society.
Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani explained how Rakuten is walking together with partners to build a brighter future for millions around the world.

This is so much of a core value that it is embedded into the company’s visual brand. Mickey told delegates that the line underneath the logo represents the Japanese character for “one”, and represents Rakuten’s values of unity, and succeeding together.

That brand stands as a symbol of mutual success no more vividly than on the jerseys of some of the globe’s most prestigious sports teams, including FC Barcelona and – local to the Optimism event – the Golden State Warriors. Mickey also drew attention to a new sports partnership forged this year with the world-renowned tennis event, the Davis Cup. This is yet another opportunity for Rakuten to facilitate dreams and create winners.

Building a global brand

Like these sporting icons, Rakuten is now a global name and employs a global team at its Japan headquarters that is drawn from over 70 countries and regions. Nevertheless, Mikitani was keen to tell the home crowd about business successes in the Americas. Rakuten Marketing, for example, has facilitated no fewer than 152 million orders for businesses in the last year, and Rakuten Intelligence has enjoyed an incredible 38% growth in clients — partnering with gold standard research organizations like Nielsen to supply business customers with unparalleled insight.

Perhaps the biggest focus of this address, however, was Rakuten’s ambitious plans for the world’s first fully virtualized, cloud-native, 5G-ready network. This bold new solution launched in Japan in October and promises to revolutionize mobile communications and IoT connectivity.

Mikitani confirmed global aspirations for this new project, meaning that huge numbers of businesses will eventually have access to next-generation processing speed and data capacity. Once again, Rakuten’s efforts are honed on taking the friction out of doing business. As with the Rakuten Medical example, this mission to create a fast and efficient network is demonstrative of a company-wide culture of picking a big goal and shooting for it.

Whether it’s cancer therapeutics or mobile connectivity, there’s a vision of a much bigger picture at the heart of every Rakuten effort. A vision that recognizes the importance of others and of shared goals. A vision for a more optimistic tomorrow—where it’s clear that a better future can be achieved when we walk together.

For more about Rakuten Optimism, visit here.

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