Message from the Chairperson of Rakuten Technology Conference 2018 Executive Committee

, Madhawa Bandara, RTC

   There is about one month for one of the biggest technology events in Asia region, Rakuten Technology Conference 2018(RTC), focusing on new technology trends like blockchain, AI, Bigdata and how the startups in these fields could benefit from the huge datasets that Rakuten owns and maintains within the Rakuten Ecosystem. The conference preparation team has been working hard to give the best possible experience for the attendees and make it the best and the biggest RTC so far and they have geared up the as we get close to the event with over a thousand of early registrations. So, if you haven’t still registered, please get registered at https://tech.rakuten.co.jp/ to save your spot for this valuable opportunity for free!

    The main person behind this big effort Mr. Mori, the Chairperson of RTC 2018 Executive Committee, has some valuable insights and messages to share with the public about the conference content and preparations.

Message from the Chairperson

    Thanks to your continued support, this is the 12th consecutive year we have held Rakuten Technology Conference since its launch in 2007. This conference is planned and executed by members of Rakuten’s Tech Community each year with a theme relative to disruptive trends.

    In the last couple of decades, as we have moved through the advent of the internet and social networking services, technology has allowed people to express their diversity more clearly. Different people basically always have different interests, so internet services have been focusing on developing personalized functions, and we believe we should provide a variety of services more suitable for each individual. Having said that, it is not easy to live up to the expectations of each user. We deal in 250 million items on the Rakuten Ichiba E-Commerce platform and have 20 million active users who purchased something in the last 3 months. The possible combinations of items and users are endless. So, we may want to develop big data platforms, enhance AI technologies such as machine learning, and analyze the details of customer behaviors by gathering data scientists and researchers. Besides, Rakuten Institute of Technology (RIT) has conducted academic collaboration and contributed very much to satisfying user’s various needs in many terms. However, it’s not enough. We need to accelerate the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies and then think out of the box to re-design our business. We are always exploring novel ways.

    In the past, new services tended to be developed mainly by web engineers. However, currently this has been shifting from web engineering-centric to startup-centric services. Groundbreaking services now are created based on the idea of startup companies. Related to that, some internet companies in the world renewed or are renewing their strategy and company formation, for example by establishing a holding company or creating a strategic sister company to promote venture businesses with, like driverless cars or pilotless drones, the sharing economy business, crypto-currencies, KYC or smart contracts on blockchain, etc. They are now bringing about new businesses by driving individual companies. You see this kind of trend not only in internet companies, but in many other industries globally. Along with it, you also see many buzzwords like FinTech, InsurTech, EdTech, AgriTech, Real Estate Tech, Sport Tech, and so on. This is the end of trying new businesses within your own company. It’s the dynamic shift to innovation through collaboration with start-ups and external investors on the run.

    On a related note, the Rakuten group changed its mission statement from “To become the No 1. internet service company in the world” to “To be a global innovation company”, expressing our new resolve to actively launch new businesses. We also think that interaction between startups and existing businesses plays a significant role in starting an innovative business. What we may want to pay attentions to is, while startups can experiment with totally new projects, they don’t have so much data to work with. Therefore it is important that they partner with data platformers who have a well-organized management system of data utilization. On the other hand, some old enterprises have a huge quantity of data, but they don’t have as much capacity for generating ideas and innovations as startups do. Naturally, it is a very significant strategy to connect both of these.

    In that context, we come to think it is great to put spotlight on startups which are new challengers to social value creation, and would like to include the concept focusing on how to interact or interplay between startup technologies and our own technologies.

    That’s why we have chosen as our theme for this year:

“Rakuten Tech & Startup Tech”.

    We will reflect those thoughts in the actual sessions. Under that vision, we will cover topics on our next challenges, with various speakers and panels from startups on AI, data science, robotics, education, AR/VR/MR, blockchain, cloudnative to world-class OSS, and more. Rakuten speakers will also be giving talks. You can also hear about overseas group companies, the achievements by Rakuten engineers, and the latest research by RIT. Plus, we plan to have exhibitions. You will enjoy seeing the passion of challengers.

    Come to think of it, we have taken on lots of challenges for innovation so far. Cloud computing has emerged. And as smart devices have become common and social network services have grown, big data with data science are spreading. Service development is becoming complicated. We have implemented globally-distributed development, agile methodologies and DevOps. Now, IoT is becoming increasingly popular. AI, deep learning, and now adversarial networks, are garnering attention. They are enabling groundbreaking technologies such as various robots, UGV, autonomous ships, and transforming industries inside out. AR, VR and MR are also evolving. Just thinking about changes in the coming 10 years can be overwhelming.

    However, it is not enough. It never ends. We should keep running. We would like to keep abreast of new challengers and embody the venture spirit for innovations through interplays and collaborations with startups.

    Join us to see the future and hopefully you will feel the excitement between Rakuten and startups. We are looking forward to seeing you!

Masaya Mori
Executive Committee Chair
Rakuten Technology Conference 2018