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Rakuten Acquires Bitnet, Establishes Blockchain Lab For Fintech And E-Commerce

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM

E-commerce giant Rakuten has acquired the IP assets of the Bitnet payment platform and opened a blockchain lab in Belfast, U.K.

Rakuten Blockchain Lab (RBL) will be a research and development organization focused on blockchain technology and its applications to fintech and e-commerce. Rakuten invested in Bitnet Technologies Ltd., a blockchain-powered digital payments platform, in 2014.

Rakuten began accepting bitcoin payments last year using Bitnet, CCN.com reported. Rakuten.com is similar to Amazon in that it serves as a platform for multiple merchants, all of whom have been able to accept bitcoin through the Bitnet partnership.

Bitnet Veterans To Run Lab

Stephen McNamara, Bitnet’s chief technology officer, and Fergal Downey, vice president of engineering, will oversee RBL’s  day-to-day operations. The lab will be part of Rakuten’s ecosystem services organization under its technology division, led by Fernando Paulo, Rakuten executive officer.

“Drawing on the significant IP assets and deep engineering expertise of the Bitnet team and combining that with Rakuten’s leadership in fintech and support of innovative solutions, the new Rakuten Blockchain Lab will be our first step toward unlocking blockchain’s potential to revolutionize the way that financial and e-commerce transactions are conducted,” said Yasufumi Hirai, group executive vice president, chief information officer, chief information security officer and head of Rakuten’s technology division.

Focus: Fintech And E-Commerce

“We are delighted that Rakuten has chosen to open their new Blockchain lab here in Belfast,” said Downey. “There are so many great opportunities for blockchain technologies inside Rakuten and the newly created lab will be instrumental in delivering new and innovative solutions.”

Rakuten’s reach into payments, banking, insurance and digital services positions the company as a fintech leader, McNamara noted in a Rakuten blog . “We’re looking forward to exploring and creating many new interesting applications of blockchain technology for Rakuten and their customers,” he said.

Downey noted Belfast has a strong engineering community in Belfast that the lab will benefit from.

Rakuten Seeks Pioneering Role

Hirai said it is possible that blockchain will revolutionize financial and e-commerce transactions. “We want to not only prepare for that change, but take a leading role in making it happen,” he said.

Paulo said no specific applications are planned yet. The idea is to use the lab to experiment.

“Rakuten is already known for its leadership position in fintech in Japan, and the launch of the new Rakuten Blockchain Lab represents a fantastic opportunity for us to quickly grow our in-house blockchain capabilities,” said Oskar Miel, managing partner of Rakuten Fintech Fund, who in 2014 led Rakuten’s minority investment in Bitnet.