Estonian-founded sold to Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten

Rakuten, a Japanese ecommerce and internet company, has acquired a 100% stake in the Estonian-founded fit preference specialist,

Rakuten said it expects the tech startup to further strengthen its ecommerce offerings and marketing solutions by providing a greater personalisation of the retail experience for shoppers.

The story began in 2009, when the Estonian entrepreneur, Heikki Haldre, got less and less time to go for fashion shopping and became a more avid online shopper. The problem he found, though, was that it wasn’t that easy to find a perfectly fitted shirt or suit when buying online – an issue made more complicated by the fact that the meaning of small and large size can be light years apart in different countries and continents. Hence he and cofounder Paul Pallin came up with an idea to invent a new solution – to find out perfect fit by creating and using specially modified robots which can change their body shape.

With a development from Maarja Kruusmaa, a professor of biorobotics at the Tallinn University of Technology, the laboratory of intelligent materials and systems at the University of Tartu, and Europe’s largest body scanning and anthropometry research company, Human Solutions GmbH in Germany, a new kind of robot was born – named “Fitbot” by entrepreneurs.

The company’s business model was based on “implanting” its software on its clients’ – usually large fashion chains – online store page, where the’s virtual fitting room would appear. An online shopper would then enter his or her basic measurements – height, neck, chest, waist, arm length and torso length. The fitting process is implemented in the software based on the thousands of shapes worked out by Fitbots – which are physically dressed in each item and each size of clothing by the retailer. Shoppers can “try on clothes” in the virtual fitting room, where they will be shown an image of a chosen item and how they fit their body shape. charges the retail chains based on the usage of their software online.

“ represents both the fun and functionality of shopping online and is a natural complement to our growing portfolio of ecommerce and marketing services,” Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said.

The startup was founded in Estonia in 2010 and financially backed by institutional investors Conor Venture Partners, Entrepreneur’s Fund, Smartcap, Contour Venture Partners and Primary Venture Partners, as well as several angel investors.

Since its founding, it has attracted over USD10 million in investment and is headquartered in London. The financial terms of the latest deal have not been disclosed.

Rakuten is a Tokyo-based electronic commerce and internet company. Its ecommerce platform, Rakuten Ichiba, is the largest ecommerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales. In 2013, the company’s revenues totaled USD5.3 billion with operating profits of about USD400 million. will continue to operate as a stand-alone business within Rakuten.


Cover: Maarja Kruusmaa, Heikki Haldre and Paul Pallin with a “Fitbot” in 2012.

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