Why did Rakuten invest so much in Pinterest? Integration

The Japanese e-commerce company says there's an opportunity with Pinterest to integrate its Rakuten user IDs that allow people to purchase content.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger

Pinterest surprised Silicon Valley with the announcement overnight of a $100 million funding round led by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten.

According to AllThingsDigital, more than $50 million of that sum came from Rakuten.

Why would Rakuten, which generated $4.7 billion in revenue last year, invest so much cash in Pinterest? According to TechCrunch, it may have a lot to do with Rakuten's interest in building its e-commerce business.

Rakuten offers user IDs similar to those from Amazon and Apple. Once people log in to a Rakuten or Rakuten-associated Web site, they can make purchases with the payment information associated with their Rakuten IDs.

"We want to enable our users to pin their own images with our ID," Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told TechCrunch. "Users can click and buy with it, and in the future we can create more new services."

Mikitani went on to say that he can envision a feature that would let people log in with Rakuten IDs, pin images, and then use those pins to buy products through his company's site.

For its part, Pinterest has not confirmed that it will integrate Rakuten's offering in any way, and it's possible that any such implementation would only make its way to Pinterest's Japanese site. But if nothing else, Rakuten might be trying to deliver to Pinterest a new business model -- and one that it could capitalize on.