Our History

Since our foundation in 1997, innovation has been at the core of who we are. With the mission of "empowering people and society through innovation and entrepreneurship," and in line with our vision as a Global Innovation Company, we have engaged in a wide range of businesses and services. Here are some key milestones in the history of the Rakuten Group so far.


The founding of Rakuten and the early years of internet shopping mall Rakuten Ichiba

The top page of Rakuten Ichiba at the time of foundation
The top page of Rakuten Ichiba at the time of founding.

In an era when everyone seems to be saying that people will not buy things on the internet, Rakuten Ichiba, a B2B2C marketplace, launches with just six employees, one server, 13 merchants and the strong desire to empower merchants that are small, regional or perhaps unfamiliar with computers and the internet.

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February 1997

MDM, Inc. (currently Rakuten, Inc.) is founded.

May 1997

Rakuten Ichiba, the internet shopping mall, begins service.

July 1998

Rakuten Super Auction, the predecessor service of Rakuten Auction, is launched. (It was ultimately incorporated into the Rakuma C2C flea market app in 2016.)

June 1999

MDM, Inc. is renamed as Rakuten, Inc.


IPO and expansion of Rakuten Group


Rakuten enhances its brand awareness widely while accelerating M&A activities through an IPO on the OTC market, representing a major step into the new businesses and services that will ultimately constitute the Rakuten Ecosystem.

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January 2000

Rakuten University is established to deliver the know-how of managing an internet shop for merchants on Rakuten Ichiba.

April 2000

Rakuten goes public through an IPO on the OTC market (currently TSE JASDAQ market).

September 2000

Rakuten launches the first version of the “Rakuten Ichiba” site compatible with mobile phones.

December 2000

Rakuten acquires Infoseek Japan K.K., a popular portal site and search engine.


A vision of Rakuten Group reaching 1 trillion yen in gross transaction value

Rakuten's gross transaction value status against targeting 1 trillion yen
Rakuten’s gross transaction value in comparison with the target of 1 trillion yen.

Rakuten announces the ambitious target of 1 trillion yen for gross transaction value, at a time when it has only 36 billion yen gross transaction value. (The target was achieved in Q4 of FY2006.)

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March 2001

Rakuten Travel, an online hotel reservation service, is launched.

April 2001

Rakuten Books, an online book shopping service, is launched.


Innovation of the Rakuten Ichiba business model

Launch of Rakuten Points service
Launch of Rakuten Points service

To achieve a further win-win relationship with merchants, Rakuten Ichiba launches a "pay-as-you-go program,” as well as Rakuten Points service. Rakuten Ichiba welcomes its 6,000th registered merchant, just 5 years after the service launched.

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April 2002

A new merchant fee contract system based on a "pay-as-you-go program" is introduced by Rakuten Ichiba.

November 2002

Rakuten Point Program is introduced as a new membership loyalty program, enabling users to earn points when they purchase products on Rakuten Ichiba. (Subsequently, it became possible for users to earn and use points at Rakuten Group's various services.)


Enhancement of Group synergy

Rakuten's net profit growth after M&As
Rakuten's net profit growth after M&As

Rakuten Group dramatically expands scope and scale of operations by adding new core businesses.

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April 2003

On Rakuten Ichiba, it becomes possible to make purchases using Rakuten Points.

September 2003

  • Infoseek Japan K.K. merges into Rakuten.
  • Rakuten fully acquires MyTrip.net to spearhead its online travel business.

October 2003

Rakuten Point Club is introduced, giving special benefits to users according to their accumulated Rakuten Points.

November 2003

Rakuten acquires DLJdirect SFG Securities (currently Rakuten Securities, Inc.).


Entry into Japanese professional baseball

Rakuten enters the arena of professional sports with the formation of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the first new professional Japanese baseball franchise awarded in 50 years, instantly spreading the Rakuten brand nationwide.

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May 2004

Rakuten fully acquires Minnano Shushoku Inc., an online community for job seekers. (It was ultimately incorporated into Rakuten, Inc. in 2009.)

September 2004

Rakuten fully acquires Aozora Card Co., Ltd. (currently known as Rakuten Card Co., Ltd.).

October 2004

Rakuten Baseball, Inc. is founded to manage professional sports businesses.

November 2004

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) approves the entry of "Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles" into the league.


Strengthening financial businesses while making the first push outside Japan

Launch of Rakuten Card service
Launch of Rakuten Card service

Synergy of credit card and e-commerce services generates substantial profits for the Rakuten Group.

Rakuten expands overseas for the first time by acquiring U.S.-based LinkShare Corporation (currently Rakuten Marketing LLC dba Rakuten Advertising).

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June 2005

Rakuten commences credit card payment service with Rakuten Card by acquiring Kokunai Shinpan Co., Ltd. (currently KC Card Co., Ltd.; divested in 2011).

October 2005

  • Rakuten enters the U.S. affiliate marketing business by fully acquiring LinkShare Corporation (currently Rakuten Marketing LLC dba Rakuten Advertising).

December 2005

  • Rakuten establishes Rakuten Institute of Technology in Tokyo, an R&D institute focused on advanced internet technologies.


Vision of the Rakuten Ecosystem

Concept of the Rakuten Ecosystem
Concept of the Rakuten Ecosystem

Rakuten announces its vision for a "Rakuten Ecosystem" that encourages users to enjoy multiple services offered by the Rakuten Group, a one-of-a-kind member-based business model.

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July 2006

Rakuten and All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA) establish Rakuten ANA Travel Online Co., Ltd.

November 2006

Rakuten introduces "Growth Management Program" to manage the profitability and growth potential of each business unit, reorganizing its management structure into 38 business units.


Further investment in human resources

All Rakuten employees gather at a weekly morning information-sharing meeting 'ASAKAI.'
All Rakuten employees gather at a weekly morning information-sharing meeting "ASAKAI."

Rakuten deepens its commitment to investing in human resources over the following 10 years, reflecting its belief that employee development is essential for Rakuten's growth.

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April 2007

Rakuten fully acquires Rakuten Research, Inc.(currently Rakuten Insight, Inc.)

August 2007

  • Rakuten moves its corporate headquarters to the Shinagawa Seaside, Rakuten Tower (Tokyo).
  • Rakuten acquires Fusion Communications Corp. to commence IP telephony business.


First e-commerce expansion overseas

Top page of Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba
Top page of Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba

"Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba" launches as first e-commerce business outside Japan.

In Japan, the Rakuten Group intensifies its focus on improving customer service.

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May 2008

Rakuten launches a Taiwan-based internet shopping mall business, Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba, by establishing a joint venture with President Chain Store Corp, a leading retail company in Taiwan.

June 2008

The Rakuten Group expands to around 40 different businesses and services while reorganizing its business units into 11 business groups and enhancing investment efficiency by clarifying the growth and incubation businesses.

September 2008

Rakuten acquires O-net, Inc., a bridal information and service provider.


Strengthening the Rakuten Ecosystem

Expansion of the Rakuten Ecosystem
Expansion of the Rakuten Ecosystem

Rakuten further strengthens the Rakuten Ecosystem by expanding its financial services, such as banking and e-money.

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February 2009

Rakuten acquires eBank Corporation (now Rakuten Bank, Ltd.).

March 2009

Pay-per-view video service provider SHOWTIME, Inc. is made a wholly-owned subsidiary through additional stock purchase.

November 2009

Rakuten forms capital alliance with Bit Wallet, Inc. (now Rakuten Edy, Inc.), which operates e-money business.


Transforming into a truly global company

Leaders of overseas subsidiaries and alliance partners at a global business strategy conference
Leaders of overseas subsidiaries and alliance partners at a global business strategy conference

Rakuten accelerates its global business, shifting from a Japan-based venture to a global internet services company.

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January 2010

Rakuten acquires bitWallet, Inc. (now Rakuten Edy, Inc.).

May 2010

  • Rakuten acquires LinkShare Japan K.K. by merging it with TRAFFIC GATE, LTD.
  • Rakuten initiates "Englishnization" project to adopt English as its official corporate language.

June 2010

Rakuten establishes Rakuten Institute of Technology in New York, an R&D institute focused on advanced internet technologies.

July 2010

  • Rakuten fully acquires Buy.com, Inc. (now Rakuten Commerce LLC), which operates Buy.com (now Rakuten.com), an e-commerce site in the U.S.
  • Rakuten fully acquires PriceMinister S.A. (now Rakuten France S.A.S.), which operates Rakuten France, an e-commerce site in France.


Rakuten Ichiba exceeds 1 trillion yen in gross transaction value

Rakuten Ichiba gross transaction value
Rakuten Ichiba gross transaction value

After 14 years, Rakuten Ichiba achieves over 1 trillion yen in gross transaction value and 38,000 online merchants.

Rakuten intensifies membership-based e-commerce business worldwide.

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January 2011

Rakuten establishes the San Francisco Agile Development Center in the U.S. as a development center for Rakuten Group's various services worldwide.

June 2011

Rakuten acquires Ikeda Internet Software Ltda. (now Rakuten Brasil Internet Service Ltda.), an e-commerce provider in Brazil.

July 2011

Rakuten acquires Tradoria GmbH. (now Rakuten Deutschland GmbH), which operates Tradoria (now Rakuten.de), an e-commerce site in Germany.

December 2011

Rakuten Ichiba achieves 1 trillion yen in gross transaction value.


Entering the eBook business and the official start of "Englishnization"

Rakuten enters the e-Book market
Rakuten enters the eBook market

Rakuten enters the eBook business by acquiring Kobo Inc. (currently Rakuten Kobo Inc.) in Canada and launching the kobo eBook service in Japan.

Englishnization initiatives accelerate the smooth integration of group companies worldwide.

Rakuten Ichiba passes 100,000,000 product SKUs.

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January 2012

Rakuten fully acquires Canadian eBook Company Kobo, Inc. (currently Rakuten Kobo Inc.), a world leader in eReading.

April 2012

Rakuten launches internet shopping mall Rakuten.com.br Shopping in Brazil through its group company Rakuten Brasil Internet Service Ltda.

May 2012

Rakuten forms a business and capital alliance with Stylife Corporation, which operates an e-commerce business in the fashion/apparel sector.

June 2012

  • Rakuten fully acquires Wuaki.TV, S.L. (now Wuaki.TV, S.L.U.), a video streaming service based in Spain.
  • Rakuten acquires Kenko.com. Inc., which operates an online health care goods shopping site.

July 2012

  • Rakuten designates English as its official corporate language after successful completion of two-year transition.
  • Rakuten launches the kobo eBook service in Japan.

October 2012

Rakuten acquires AIRIO Life Insurance Co., Ltd. (now Rakuten Life Insurance Co., Ltd.).

November 2012

Rakuten fully acquires Alpha Direct Services S.A.S, a logistics company based in France.


Rakuten Eagles achieves their first ever Japan Series Championship. Rakuten, Inc. is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The Rakuten Eagles' first ever Japan Series Championship
The Rakuten Eagles' first ever Japan Series Championship
Ceremony for Rakuten's listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's First Section
Ceremony for Rakuten's listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's First Section

Rakuten Eagles achieve first ever Japan Series Championship.

Rakuten changes the listing of its shares from the JASDAQ (Standard) market to the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, aiming to further expand business operations and improve corporate value.

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April 2013

Rakuten Group rebrands AIRIO Life Insurance as Rakuten Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

June 2013

  • Rakuten fully acquires Webgistix Corp., (now Rakuten Super Logistics, Inc.), a logistics company based in the U.S.
  • Rakuten launches Rakuten Energy, the energy service business of the Rakuten Group.

September 2013

Rakuten fully acquires Viki, Inc., an emerging global provider of video streaming service based in the U.S.

November 2013

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles win the Japan Series Championship for the first time in their history.

December 2013

Rakuten changes the listing of its shares from the JASDAQ (Standard) market to the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


Strengthening telecommunications and O2O Services


With its acquisition of Viber and the launch of low-cost calling service "Rakuten Mobile," Rakuten strengthens its telecommunications and communications services.

Rakuten launches various new services including O2O services.

Rakuten expands its global gross transaction value, adding next generation shopping mall Ebates.

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February 2014

Rakuten opens the third Rakuten Institute of Technology, in Paris, the first in Europe.

March 2014

Rakuten fully acquires Viber Media Ltd., which operates mobile messaging and VoIP service "Viber" worldwide.

May 2014

Rakuten opens a permanent "Rakuten CAFE" in Shibuya, allowing patrons to experience a variety of Rakuten services.

June 2014

  • Rakuten opens its fourth Development and Operations Center, in India.
  • Rakuten launches ROOM, a curation service in which users can collect and share products from "Rakuten Ichiba" on their own exclusive page.

August 2014

Rakuten fully acquires Slice Technologies, Inc., provider of app service "Slice," which aggregates users’ purchase history by analyzing emails from several major e-commerce sites.

October 2014

  • Rakuten launches the Rakuten Point Card service, allowing members to use their Rakuten Points in actual stores throughout Japan.
  • Rakuten fully acquires Ebates Inc., provider of leading membership-based online cash-back site Ebates in the U.S.
  • Rakuten Group fully enters the mobile phone industry with the launch of the MVNO service "Rakuten Mobile."

November 2014

Rakuten launches "Rakuma," a new C2C app that enables transactions between individuals via smartphone.


Strengthening sports and culture businesses. Expanding overseas financial services


Rakuten strengthens sports and culture businesses by adding Vissel Kobe to the Rakuten Group.
Rakuten expands overseas financial services, starts to issue "Taiwan Rakuten Card."

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January 2015

  • Rakuten fully acquires Vissel Kobe, entering into Japan Professional Football League (J-League).
  • Rakuten Card Co., Ltd. issues its own credit card, Taiwan Rakuten Card, outside Japan for the first time.

April 2015

Rakuten fully acquires OverDrive Holdings, Inc., a leading eBook content provider primarily for libraries.

June 2015

Rakuten begins relocation to new global headquarters Rakuten Crimson House in Futako Tamagawa, Tokyo.

July 2015

  • Rakuten fully acquires Fits.me Holdings Limited, a provider of virtual fitting room technology.
  • Rakuten opens new branches of Rakuten Institute of Technology in Singapore and Boston, bringing the total number of branches to five across four countries.


Developing new businesses, promoting diversity


Rakuten further explores new business models, such as a C2C marketplace and an open e-commerce platform, while also conducting a trial drone delivery service.

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March 2016

Rakuten releases the Rakuma consumer mobile e-commerce app in Taiwan.

April 2016

Rakuten launches Sora Raku, a delivery service utilizing drones.

July 2016

  • Rakuten introduces a company-system organization to assure service quality and maximize customer satisfaction.
  • Rakuten extends employee and services benefits to include same-sex partners.

August 2016

  • Rakuten opens Rakuten Blockchain Lab (R.B.L.), a dedicated research and development organization.
  • Rakuten fully acquires Fablic, provider of C2C marketplace app FRIL.

October 2016

Rakuten acquires Soukai Drug Co., Ltd., which operates an online household goods shopping site.

November 2016

  • Rakuten acquires ReDucate, Inc., which operates educational services.
  • Rakuten announces that it will become football team FC Barcelona’s Main Global Partner from the 2017-2018 La Liga season.


Building Rakuten brand overseas through global partnership


Rakuten launches its global partnership with FC Barcelona, one of the most iconic and beloved football clubs in the world.

Rakuten strengthens the Rakuten gloablly through brand unification.

Total number of Rakuten Points awarded exceeds 1 trillion.

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January 2017

Establishment of Rakuten Europe Bank announced.

February 2017

  • Registration as retail electricity provider completed, enabling official start of electricity retail business.
  • Car park sharing service Rakupa launched (now Rakuten Parking).

March 2017

Joint venture Rakuten AirMap established to provide unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform in Japan.

April 2017

  • Agriculture service Rakuten Farm (formerly Rakuten Ragri) launched.
  • Rakuten enters English education business with the launch of Rakuten Super English.

June 2017

Vacation rental business Rakuten LIFULL STAY established through joint investment by Rakuten and LIFULL.

July 2017

  • Merger between Kenko.com and Soukai Drug establishes Rakuten Direct.
  • Rakuten Life Insurance Technology Laboratory established, specializing in insurtech research.
  • Logos of Rakuten Group services around the world unified under "Rakuten" brand in order to strengthen brand awareness globally.
  • Rakuten becomes the Main Global Partner and first-ever Official Innovation & Entertainment Partner of FC Barcelona.
  • Total number of Rakuten Points awarded exceeds 1 trillion.
  • Rakuten Data Marketing jointly established by Rakuten and Dentsu to offer marketing solutions utilizing big data.

August 2017

Rakuten becomes Official EC Platform Partner of the J.League, relaunching the J.League Online Store.

September 2017

Partnership formed with NBA team Golden State Warriors.

October 2017

Rakuten and NBA announce partnership to provide comprehensive live NBA coverage in Japan.

November 2017

Rakuten acquires Plus One Marketing's domestic MVNO cellular service provider Freetel.

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