* Japan's Rakuten leads $100 mln investment
* Other investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer,
* Rakuten CEO Mikitani to take advisory role at social
By A. Ananthalakshmi
May 17 Silicon Valley startup Pinterest raised
$100 million from a group led by Japanese online retailer
Rakuten Inc, valuing the company at about $1.5 billion
and underscoring the huge investor appetite for
The news comes a day before Facebook starts trading
as a public company that could be worth more than $100 billion.
Pinterest, an online scrapbook where users can "pin" images
and follow others, has grown from less than one million users in
May 2011 to about 20 million in April, according to IT research
The three-year old company, led by co-founder Ben
Silbermann, had been seeking financing for several weeks, but
many investors were wary about the billion-dollar valuation,
venture capitalists said.
That valuation puts Pinterest beyond the reach of all but a
handful of potential acquirers, probably putting it onto a path
for an eventual IPO rather than an acquisition.
Still, the company attracted many interested parties.
"It was one of the most hotly contested and sought-after
financing events in Silicon Valley in quite some time," Mike
Jaconi, a Rakuten executive who was involved in the
negotiations, told Reuters.
Jaconi said Rakuten's presence in 18 countries helped it get
a piece of Pinterest as the U.S. company was looking to expand
Rakuten's CEO Hiroshi Mikitani will take on an advisory role
at Pinterest, Jaconi said.
A Pinterest spokeswoman said the Japanese company would
integrate the "pin it" button on its websites.
Rakuten, which offers services ranging from online golf
reservations to internet banking, was joined in the investment
by existing Pinterest shareholders Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer
Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital.
Rakuten is aggressively expanding into global markets. Last
year, it bought Canadian ebook company Kobo for $315 million and
UK online shopping site Play.com for about 25 million pounds
Valuations for consumer-oriented tech startups have been
rising dramatically, as illustrated by Facebook's $1 billion
purchase of photo-sharing application Instagram last month.
Pinterest's $1.5 billion valuation is up sharply from $200
million late last year.
The company, like Instagram, has no significant revenue.
A Pinterest spokeswoman declined to disclose the company's
revenue, saying it is not focused on monetization for now.