Rakuten has confirmed that it has acquired the assets of Bitnet, a bitcoin wallet startup it invested in, which will be used to create a ‘bitcoin lab’ for the Japanese retail giant.
The transaction is undisclosed but it follows a Wall Street Journal report in July which speculated that a deal was in the works. Rakuten took part in a $14.5 million investment round for Bitnet nearly two years ago, which was led by Highland Capital Partners.
Rakuten integrated Belfast-based Bitnet’s payment option into some of its online commerce sites last summer. Bitnet was supposed to rival bitcoin payment heavyweights Coinbase and Bitpay, but after a spate of executives left and the startup reportedly laid off half of its staff to cut costs, it struggled to grow its business. That led to this strategic asset-stripping move from Rakuten.
The Japanese e-commerce giant is taking Bitnet’s IP and “assets” and two of the startup’s key personnel to create its a Belfast-located research facility to explore the potential of the blockchain. That makes a lot of sense given Rakuten’s empire of e-commerce websites and banking services in Japan and elsewhere in the world.
Bitnet CTO Stephen McNamara and former VP of Engineering Fergal Down