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Techstars is bringing its global accelerator program to Asia for the first time in partnership with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and its chat app Viber.

The companies will run a three-month program in Singapore starting in July, according to a joint announcement made today. The focus will be on social messaging and, in particular, technologies and startups that align with Viber, the mobile messaging service that Rakuten acquired for $900 million in 2014.

“Areas considered for the program include: AI including chat bot, chat commerce, mobile wallet and crypto currency, ad tech, VR and AR solutions, voice recognition, image recognition, translation, content such as music and sports, chat based IoT, and enterprise integrated messaging,” the companies explained.

Techstars will provide mentoring via its network of 5,000 mentors and alumnus, while Rakuten will offer representatives from its business and the opportunity to integrate technologies with Viber.

Companies that are selected for the program will also earn financial rewards. The allocation includes $20,000 in equity investment and the option of a $100,000 convertible note. Techstars has an impressive record for enabling funding — the organization claims its graduates go on to raise an average of over $2 million from outside investors.

The program will be open to startups from across the world and it will culminate in a demo day held in October. The window for applications is due to open on January 8 on the Techstars website, Oko Davaasuren — Techstars’ Regional Director in APAC — told TechCrunch.

Techstars was founded 10 years ago and it has operated accelerator programs in 10 countries to date with over 30 corporate partners. Aside from community events, the Rakuten venture marks its first foray into Asia — although it does have business in the wider APAC region via a program in Adelaide, Australia.

“Singapore being a huge hub, we’ve been really working hard to put the program together and bring our investment activities to this side of the region,” Davaasuren said in an interview. “Rakuten is a really good match and a good entry point for Techstars to establish ourself here.”

“Together with Techstars, an organization with a remarkable track record for developing startup talent, I am very optimistic that we can strengthen the Rakuten global ecosystem and advance the culture of open innovation,” added Hiroshi Takasawa, who leads Rakuten Capital and recently become the firm’s Asia CEO, in a statement.

Rakuten and Techstars have agreed to a three-year deal. In most cases, Techstars and its corporate partners maintain the same focus for subsequent programs so we can expect the Japanese e-commerce giant to again double down on messaging and its Viber business.

A roadshow to promote the program and scout for potential applicants will begin soon and be focused on the U.S., Southeast Asia and the wider Southeast Asia region.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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