Last month, Rakuten (JSD:4755) acquired Viber messaging app in a $900 million deal as the Japanese ecommerce titan tries to diversify and be more social. Today, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani spoke out for the first time about the app, telling Bloomberg that “Viber is one of the most important projects for us.”
Mikitani – perhaps after too much caffeine – wheeled out some big numbers for Bloomberg, saying that he wants Viber to reach two billion users. That’s double the target Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set for its newly acquired WhatsApp. But Mikitani managed to lay out some more realistic numbers by saying that he wants Viber to pick up a million new users per day. It’s currently adding 600,000 new users daily.
Rakuten – which has 200 million registered users across its own online marketplaces – will look to more mergers and acquisitions to boost Viber towards Mikitani’s grand goal. Mikitani points to gaming as being a “natural fit with Viber.” Rival messaging apps created in Asia, such as WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk, have social gaming platforms.
No changes at Viber
While Rakuten and the Viber team mull new features for the Israeli startup’s app, Viber is going on as normal. A Viber representative tells Tech in Asia that the same management is in place at the same locations. The key is that Rakuten will “accelerate Viber” while its strategy remains the same.
Viber won’t detail what it’s working on next, but the first step – before a potential social gaming platform – seems to be integrating some form of online store for Viber (aside from the sticker store it has already). Since that’s Rakuten’s speciality, it’ll likely involve ecommerce in much the same way that Line is being used by some brands to sell products.
While WhatsApp has a large lead with 450 million active users, Viber and Line – both closely matched – are chasing hard. China-made WeChat, which is growing slower than its peers outside of China, is playing catch-up.
(Editing by Paul Bischoff)
Fun fact: If it’s picking up one million new users per day, it’ll take Viber nearly five years to grow to two billion users from its current user-base. We’ll probably be doing telepathic messaging via skull implants by 2020. ↩