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How Rakuten, the Amazon.com of Japan, plans to make a name for itself in the US

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Rakuten logo
Rakuten logo

You might not have heard of Rakuten, but with multi-billion dollar revenues the company is the largest e-commerce site in Japan — and it's been expanding with the purchase of Buy.com in 2010 and Kobo in 2011. (It also led a funding round for Pinterest last year.) Those moves are part of the company's play at gaining a larger foothold globally, but in an interview with Wired, founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani says that the approach that brought success in Japan will be key to further expansion. "We are a bazaar. We are not a supermarket," Mikitani said in the interview. "We are creating a first-class shopping district instead of being a retailer ourselves." Others like eBay and increasingly Amazon are working with third party retailers, but Rakuten focuses on allowing them to closely curate and personalize their storefronts — a stark difference from the barebones looks of Amazon.com.