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Japanese E-commerce Giant Rakuten to Accept Bitcoin Through Bitnet

Op-ed - Japanese E-commerce Giant Rakuten to Accept Bitcoin Through Bitnet

Rakuten announced that it plans to enable customers to choose bitcoin as a payment option by integrating Bitnet’s payment processing platform on a number of its marketplaces.

The Internet services giant will begin accepting the new payment method first in the United States, then in Germany and Austria. The integration with Bitnet’s platform will make Rakuten one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world to accept bitcoin payments.

“Rakuten’s mission is to empower the world through the Internet,” said Yaz Iida, President of Rakuten USA. “Not only can bitcoin support this vision by helping our merchants better compete globally, but it also has the potential to benefit society by enhancing the security, privacy and convenience of financial transactions. This is one of the reasons why we invested in Bitnet last year and we look forward to working with them on our U.S. marketplace.”

Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce company founded in 1997 by current CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, operates the largest e-commerce site in Japan and one of the world’s largest by sales, immediately behind Amazon, eBay and Alibaba. The company provides a variety of products and services for consumers and businesses, with a focus on e-commerce, finance and digital content.

Since 2012, Rakuten has been ranked among the world’s “Top 20 Most Innovative Companies” in Forbes magazine’s annual list. Rakuten is expanding worldwide and currently operates throughout Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania.

Rakuten sells basically everything online – electronics, computers, fashion and beauty products, books, movies, music, household items, toys, health products, etc. – so the Rakuten online shop can provide a one-stop destination for all needs besides food and rent. That will facilitate the global adoption of bitcoin as an Internet currency that can be used to pay for all sorts of useful things online.

Rakuten has been open and passionate about bitcoin’s potential use, hosting several panel talks dedicated to the subject at a recent financial conference hosted by the company, The Wall Street Journalreports.

Bitcoin payments will be launched first in the United States, Germany and Austria, but Rakuten’s biggest sales are in the Japanese e-commerce site, which isn’t open to bitcoin yet. Mikitani said last month that he plans to roll out the bitcoin function to the Japanese market as well, but didn’t specify a target date.

In October, Rakuten participated in a $14.5 million Series A funding round for Bitcoin payment processor Bitnet, led by Highland Capital Partners. TechCrunchnotes that, with this development, Rakuten is putting its investment in Bitnet to work. This news is notable because it not only continues the trend toward bitcoin acceptance among retailers, but it could help position Bitnet as a credible alternative to leading bitcoin payment processors Coinbase and BitPay.

Another possible and important consequence of this development is that it could stimulate the adoption of bitcoin payments by the three global e-commerce operators bigger than Rakuten: Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. EBay is considering taking bitcoin payments, and its subsidiary PayPal, the main online payments provider accepted by all e-commerce sites, is taking steps toward accepting bitcoin payments.

Image of Yaz Iida via LinkedIn.