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OneSignal Push Notifications Startup Get’s Seed Funding From Rakuten Ventures

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Rakuten Ventures, the investment arm of the Japan-based ecommerce titan, announced today that it has made an undisclosed seed investment in a US startup that’s made a push notification platform aimed at mobile app and game developers.

That startup is OneSignal, which today rebrands from GameThrive. It’s a Y Combinator alum that’s been mostly keeping its head down since it graduated in 2011

While it sounds like OneSignal’s push notification system – which works on iOS, Android, and Windows – would make a great fit for Rakuten-owned messaging app Viber which recently ventured into social gaming, Rakuten Ventures managing partner SaeMin Ahn tells Tech in Asia that’s not necessarily the case. “There’s always an element of synergy that can be derived – with Rakuten Group – from the investments Rakuten Ventures makes but this is more a “side effect” of picking companies that are technologically relevant to the times and picking teams that have the forward thinking mentality of building a great product,” says Ahn.

“If the opportunity arises, Rakuten Ventures would love to see the [OneSignal] team partner up with Rakuten Group to utilize the company’s capabilities,” he adds.

Viber, which Rakuten acquired in February 2014, has 236 million monthly active users at the last count, surpassing the much-hyped Line app.

Pushy

Aside from the three main mobile OSes, OneSignal’s system can be integrated with gaming engines like Unity 3D. The startup makes money with three pricing tiers for developers based on how many devices and monthly notifications they want to hit. If it’s less than one million devices, there’s a free tier for smaller devs to try out before expanding.

While most people are coming to hate spammy push notifications as much as banner ads, they’re still considered by many mobile app developers as a great tool for engagement – to give people a little nudge and some kind of enticement to get back into their app or game. The simple fact is that monetization is a lot harder if people don’t open your app all that often.

“Push notifications are a key part of every single mobile application since they are easy to use, have low barriers for user opt-in, and have significantly higher visibility than email messages,” explains George Deglin, the CEO of OneSignal. “Most of our clients use our service to send occasional messages to their users to re-engage users by encouraging them to complete an action or to tell them about new features. We also have many clients using our service for transactional notifications, such as telling users when it’s their turn in a multiplayer game.”

The team has recently been working on HTML5 push notification support in Google Chrome and Firefox. “With this, our developer audience will soon expand outside of mobile to include anyone with a website,” adds Deglin.

This is Rakuten Ventures’ third investment in a non-Asian startup. It’s something we’ll be seeing a lot more of after the VC firm launched a US$100 million startup fund last summer. That has much more of a global perspective than Rakuten Venture’s first ever US$10 million fund in 2013, which was aimed at Southeast Asia.

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Written by TimeOdd

TimeOdd is a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.

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