The journey of eBates / Rakuten

By: Robert Grosshandler | April 8, 2019

What a story!

It’s hard to turn on the TV these days without seeing an ad for Rakuten, the re-branded eBates. I would be very happy if our story turned out to be similar (if shorter).

eBates was founded in 1998. It was sold, for about $1,000,000,000 (that’s Billion), in 2014, to Rakuten (a Japanese e-commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo ) – sixteen years after it was founded.

They raised a lot of money to get there (the last round was for $25,000,000 in 2013, as they were preparing to go public). Total raised appears to be between $65,000,000 and $80,000,000. Notably, it took them about four years to get profitable (and being profitable meant that they were able to survive the dot com bust of 2001).

The key takeaway for me? Remember to ignore the fact that we’re “public”; that’s mostly a distraction. Fun, but a distraction. Remember that we’re using “being public” as a newfangled way to build a company worthy of being bought (or truly “going public”) for a lot of money. And building it for a lot less capital than the traditional path.

And remember that, unlike all the unicorns in the news, and eBates after 16 years, it’s the people who are building iConsumer, our customers, who will win if the company succeeds.


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