Japan’s Rakuten Buys Viber For $900 Million. Is WhatsApp Next?
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc, controlled by billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani, buys call and messaging app provider Viber Media for $900 million.
Rakuten offers services from financing to shopping to online video on its e-commerce platform, the largest in Japan. The Viber deal will double Rakuten’s number of users.
Mister Mikitani is making smart strategic choices by trying to re-invent Rakuten as a one-stop-site for a global audience.
After Skype, Viber is now acquired.
And I think that WhatsApp will be acquired by Facebook or Google. Very, very soon.
Rakuten Buys Viber for $900 Million
Privately held Viber, run from Cyprus by Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco, will add 300 million users to Rakuten’s existing 200 million users, Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo.
Viber is one of the top five most downloaded apps, and their biggest markets are: United States, Russia and Australia. It is funded by the pockets of its founders, and several private investors from the US.
Viber competes with instant messaging apps such as WeChat, a unit of Chinese Internet firm Tencent Holdings, US rival WhatsApp, and Line, owned by Korean company Naver Corp.
Viber recently launched an instant messaging app for personal computers that allows users to make outgoing mobile calls to other Viber users and non-registered mobiles, making it a rival to Skype.
The acquisition by Rakuten is expected to be completed by the end of March, both companies said.
WhatsApp Should Be Worth $1.2 Billion
WhatsApp Inc. was founded in 2009 by American Brian Acton and Ukrainian Jan Koum (CEO), both former employees of Yahoo!, and is based in Mountain View, California.
WhatsApp Messenger is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones with Internet access. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages.
The client software is available for Google , BlackBerry OS, Apple iOS,Android selected Nokia Series 40, Symbian, selected Nokia Asha platform and Microsoft Windows Phone.
With over 400 million active users each month, and over 30 billion messages per day, WhatsApp is one of the largest social networks on our planet!
With these dazzling numbers, WhatsApp’s valuation should be around $1.2 billion.
The Remarkable Skype Story
A remarkable story is the one about Skype. Which was first released in August 2003.
Skype was written by developers Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström who had also originally developed Kazaa.
Skype had 663 million registered users as of the end of 2010. However, the company had already been acquired by eBay in 2005. For the sloppy amount of $2.6 billion. But eBay failed to integrate it.
In 2011 Microsoft paid $8.5 billion to get Skype. The last couple of years showed me that, Microsoft too, seems to have no clue at all, why it acquired Skype.
Sure Microsoft will soon integrate Skype into Outlook. But if that was really worth the amount of $8.5 billion?
My few hours desktop research about Hiroshi Mikitani and Rakuten, convinced me that the Viber acquisition is a bold and smart move.
Rakuten seems to have a crystal clear roadmap in which Viber seems to be the perfect next step.
I think that WhatsApp will soon be part of Facebook. Knowing that Facebook was willing to pay $3 billion for Snapchat, it is save for me to assume that Facebook will easily pay $15 billion for WhatsApp!
Skype? It will be part of Outlook soon. If that values $8.5 billion? Not in a billion years.
But Microsoft seems like a drifting tankship. Floating around with no course at all. Wrong focus for over a decade. And still pulling dead horses like e.g. Bing.
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What do you expect from Rakuten and Viber? And who will buy WhatsApp? We all get smarter from peer discussions, so share your opinion.
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About the Author
Igor Beuker is an acclaimed trendwatcher & pro speaker, serial entrepreneur, marketing consultant and board member at several disruptive media, technology and entertainment firms. Book Igor as keynote speaker, follow Igor on Twitter or contact him via LinkedIn.