Japanese peer-to-peer marketplace app Mercari to acquire Asia-focused auction site Smaoku

Tue Feb 21, 2017 - 3:40am GMT+0000

Mercari Inc., the first Japanese startup to be valued at more than US$1 billion, announced on February 17 that it has acquired Zawatt, the startup running Japan-based online auction site catering brand goods Smaoku.

Financial details of the transaction were not revealed but the deal will take effect as of February 27. Upon the acquisition, Zawatt co-founder and CEO Daisaku Harada will join Mercari while Smaoku will continue its operations run by the current staff.

Short for smart auction, Smaoku allows users to interact with other users to buy and sell authentic second-hand items. Last May, English and traditional Chinese interfaces were made available in addition to the original Japanese platform, aiming to serve U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Singaporean buyers.

In addition to Smaoku, Zawatt since its inception in 2011 has also released several web services including WebScope, a social list bulletin board and Ohako, a karaoke companion finder. The company launched Smaoku in October 2013 and won KDDI Mugen Labo’s 5th batch demo day for its real-time auction concept which makes users feel as if they are at a real auction site when buying items online.

In 2015, Zawatt raised 250 million yen (US$ 2 million) from IMJ Investment Partners along with China’s SIG Asia Investments and its partner VC firm MS Capital of Japan which are among some of the investors who will exit with this merger.

Mercari, on the other hand, is a Japanese peer-to-peer marketplace app that is gaining popularity in the U.S. as an alternative to Amazon or eBay. It has claimed the title of Japan’s first pre-IPO startup unicorn after raising 8.4 billion yen (about US$75 million) in its first Series D which brings its valuation of over US$1 billion.

Speaking on the acquisition, Daisaku Harada said, “Mercari’s vision of creating a worldwide marketplace that creates new values for pre-loved items is exactly consistent with the aim of Smaoku. With this M&A, we will work towards further development and expansion of the C2C business in the luxury good genre which has a high demand worldwide.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media