Rakuten announces accelerator programme powered by Techstars

Internet company Rakuten and Techstars, a worldwide network aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed, recently announced the launch of Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars.

The three-month mentorship-driven Rakuten Accelerator is aimed at providing innovative start-up companies from around the world the chance to shape the future of “Messaging as a Platform” for new technologies. It includes initial funding and three months of immersed mentorship.

The inaugural class of approximately 10 start-ups of this accelerator programme will focus on disrupting and revolutionising how businesses and consumers use messaging to conduct business and stay connected. Areas considered for the program include: AI including chat bot, chat commerce, mobile wallet and cryptocurrency, ad tech, VR and AR solutions, voice recognition, image recognition, translation, content such as music and sports, chat based IoT, and enterprise integrated messaging. Rakuten Accelerator powered by Techstars will be hosted in Singapore, the location of Rakuten’s Asia Regional Head Office.

Hiroshi Takasawa (pictured), head of Rakuten’s investment arm, Rakuten Capital and newly appointed CEO, Rakuten Asia, will be one of the key executives collaborating on the global team setting the direction of the Rakuten Accelerator programme.

“We’re thrilled at the opportunity to share our business and technical expertise with the disruptive innovators of the future,” said Takasawa. “Together with Techstars, an organisation with a remarkable track record for developing start-up talent, I am very optimistic that we can strengthen the Rakuten global ecosystem and advance the culture of open innovation.”

Selected participants will receive a US$120,000 investment, access to the Techstars Network of over 5,000 founders, alumni and mentors, and 400 perks worth over US$1 million to develop their ideas, along with mentor support from top executives and leaders from Rakuten’s E-Commerce, Fintech, Digital Content, Communications, and Research and Development teams.

Participants in Rakuten Accelerator will also have access to resources from across Rakuten’s global ecosystem of more than 70 services, including Rakuten Viber messaging and voice platform.

Just under 1,200 start-ups have graduated from Techstars Accelerator Programmes across the world, including Sphero, SendGrid, and Temasek-backed ClassPass. On average companies who pass through a Techstars Accelerator Programme are said to go on to raise over US$2 million in outside funding.

David Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Techstars said: “Partnering with global tech powerhouse Rakuten to bring a Techstars Accelerator Programme to Singapore is a major milestone for us. This accelerator will be the first for Techstars in an Asian city, and ranks Singapore alongside other worldwide start-up hubs like Boulder, New York, London, and Berlin. We are delighted to be able to offer an Asian accelerator, and give founders across the region the opportunity to join our worldwide network made up of tens of thousands of community leaders, founders, mentors and investors.”

The programme kicks-off in July in Singapore where selected finalists will join mentors to develop their businesses and technologies. It will conclude with a demo day in October where each company will have the opportunity to showcase their businesses and meet industry leaders and investors from around the world.

Applications for the Rakuten Accelerator will close on April 8, 2018. More details are available .

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