Japan’s largest online retailer is gearing up for possible entry into the U.S. market. Rakuten just bought an e-commerce app called Slice, which is U.S. based, in an attempt to broaden its offerings enough to compete with the likes of Amazon and eBay.
Slice compiles information from users’ emails — namely, receipts from e-commerce sites — to create a “big picture” view of their spending and purchase history. It also can send alerts about product price changes and when packages have shipped. Obviously, this is data that would be incredibly useful for Rakuten to have.
And since purchasing Slice for an undisclosed sum, the company might now have a shot at growth in the U.S.. Rakuten bought Buy.com for $250 million in 2010, but it didn’t make a move toward a U.S. launch at that time.
Rakuten’s goals for Slice seem fairly straightforward: It wants to sell info it gathers about consumers to other companies, with a particular focus on financial institutions. Slice was already working on a version of its app for use with Rakuten specifically, and that’s expected to be released sometime this year.
Slice was founded in 2010 and is based in Palo Alto, Calif. It previously received investments from Lightspeed Venture Partners and, appropriately enough, Rakuten. It currently has about 70 employees. The app is free for consumers to download and use but it charges a fee to websites to use and to access the collected customer data.
Just this past June, Rakuten revealed it had put together a $100 million VC fund to invest in startups all over the world. And back in February, it bought the Viber voice messaging app to the tune of $900 million.