Kara Swisher

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Japan’s Rakuten Ups Its Stake in the Rebranded Grommet

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Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant that is also a major investor in Pinterest, is upping its bet on the Grommet.

The Grommet, which rebranded from the Daily Grommet, declined to say how much the investment is this time, but Rakuten will become the majority stakeholder in the Lexington, Mass.-based online marketplace. Before the two Rakuten investments, the startup had raised about $6 million since its launch in 2008.

Last year, Rakuten was the lead investor in a Series B round for the Grommet, whose motto is “fresh finds, true stories.” The site highlights an unusual new daily product by featuring it with a story about its origin, using video and creative text, calling its effort “Citizen Commerce.”

Both the Grommet and Rakuten have focused on linking small- and medium-sized retailers directly with consumers, using discovery and social tools and large marketplaces.

“If I had to pick one element of the Grommet which best represents our platform, it’s our investment in ‘Citizen Commerce,’ a term we created in order to describe a new level of responsibility and ingenuity both for product development and purchasing power,” said Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of the Grommet, which she has often compared to a Kickstarter for products, in a statement. “We are proud of what this philosophy stands for and we know it will impact and restructure the consumer landscape in the coming years.”

“I’ve often spoken about omotenashi, the Japanese term that refers to the Japanese service mindset — something that’s rare to find outside Japan and hard to attain online anywhere,” added Rakuten CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani. “The Grommet brings a similar spirit to their business by discovering and launching products that delight the consumer in a warm and friendly online environment that promotes communication, creativity and purpose.”


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google