Rakuten Acquires Bitcoin Startup Team for Blockchain Lab Launch

Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten has acqui-hired bitcoin startup Bitnet as part of a bid to staff its new blockchain development lab in the UK.

AccessTimeIconAug 18, 2016 at 4:06 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:27 p.m. UTC

Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten is opening a blockchain development lab in the UK, a move that follows its acquisition of former employees at bitcoin payments startup Bitnet.

Former Bitnet employees Stephen McNamara and Fergal Downey will spearhead the Belfast-based operation, which Rakuten said today will be focused on blockchain technology and FinTech more broadly.

The move comes more than a year after the e-retailer began accepting bitcoin, becoming one of the more noteworthy firms in the Asia-Pacific region to explore adopting the digital currency as a payment method.

It was around this time that Rakuten first moved to invest in Bitnet, with word emerging last month that acquisition talks had begun between the two camps, according to The Wall Street Journal. Bitnet raised $14.5m in 2014 to compete in the then-growing market for digital currency payments processing.

With the news, Ratuken joins a growing number of established companies to found laboratories dedicated wholly or in part to blockchain research. Since the start of this year, companies like Intel, Philips and Hitachi have undertaken similar efforts.

Yasufumi Hirai, who serves as CIO and CISO for Rakuten, as well as the head of its technology division, said in a statement:

"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."

The lab is expected to open on 22nd August, according to the firm.

Image Credit: Gil C / Shutterstock.com


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.