When Rakuten made its 2012 Series B investment in Grommet, it was backing a tiny but fierce company that reminded Rakuten founder Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani of his own company’s roots. Grommet had carved out a distinctive and powerful market position, but the company was perennially starved of resources. Rakuten subsequently took a larger stake in the company and that capital gave us the fuel to soar and begin to claim our place in the world.
This breathless post about the investment, and this emotional one, written a few days later, reflecting about the constant drama we experienced in 2012, take me right back to those exciting and terrifying times.
We will forever be grateful for Mickey Mikitani’s belief and confidence in us. Grommet would probably not exist without his support. Rakuten is his life’s work and the company most responsible for bringing e-commerce to Japan, where over 40,000 companies–many of them very tiny–sell their products. He’s a visionary person who went on to build 60 different operating units whose unifying mission to empower society is enduring. It’s especially refreshing domestically, where our closest American parallel, Amazon, seems to only care about amassing monopolistic power and wealth for itself.
As these things happen, in the intervening years, Rakuten became even more of a global player with a brand and presence to build in the US. The Grommet, operating as an independent brand, no longer made sense in that equation. So we did what true entrepreneurs do — we figured it out. Together.
It’s the closing of a chapter and I want to specifically recognize a few of our Rakuten friends for their help along the way.
Beyond Mickey, the original deal happened because Tomo Torin willed it into being with sheer hard work. I will never forget the relief and happiness in his voice when he called me to tell me that the Rakuten board approved the initial investment.
CFO Yoshi Yamada‘s steady, smart presence and friendly face were always a sight for sore eyes on my trips to Tokyo. Rakuten USA President Yaz Iida has one of the hardest jobs in the company (those Americans!) and he patiently helped me navigate the complexities of Rakuten.
PMI Experts Hideyuki Kobayashi and Brenton Keath made everything just work and I marveled at their ability to navigate the dramatic differences between our little Boston company and a Japanese powerhouse.
Board members Seichu Kobayashi, David Winslow, Kevin Johnson, and Takayuki Iwao are friends for life. For. Life. I’ve had them to my home, introduced them to my family, and I look forward to continuing those relationships.
When Rakuten invested, I chose them over an American company alternative. I liked what I heard from Mickey and I loved what I saw in their history. It’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made and the Grommet team will forever be the beneficiaries of Rakuten’s love and support.