The company is putting its investment in Bitnet — a startup that raised $14.5 million last October — to work with this development. Bitnet, which was founded by ex-Visa execs and is rivaled by Coinbase and Bitpay, will initially be integrated into Rakuten’s U.S. marketplace to allow customers to pay in BTC.
Next up, the new payment option will roll out in Germany and Austria, with other international markets to follow. Interestingly, there’s no specific mention of when Bitnet will be integrated into Rakuten Japan, which is the most prominent of its 12 country-specific services.
Last year was a breakthrough year for bitcoin as a sea of established retailers, including Dell, Overstock and even Microsoft, hopped onto the cryptocurrency to give customers an alternative avenue for payments.
“The integration with Bitnet’s platform will make Rakuten one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world to begin accepting bitcoin,” Rakuten said in a statement with no uncertain pride.
Nonetheless, this news is notable because it not only continues the momentum for bitcoin among retailers, but it could help position Bitnet as a credible alternative to the increasingly dominant duopoly that is Coinbase and Bitpay — both of which have raised significant venture funding, and own the most lucrative bitcoin retail partnerships.
Coinbase is particularly well-floated, having raised $75 million in January in a round that featured several Wall Street institutions, including The New York Stock Exchange. Bitpay raised $30 million last summer in what was at the time the largest round ever for bitcoin startup. Coinbase has since nabbed that accolade — the U.S. company has raised more than $100 million in investor money to date.