Two years ago, Rocket Internet looked primed to go stratospheric. Europe’s e-commerce answer to Alibaba and Amazon had already created Germany’s eBay, sold off the Zalando fashion retailer and captured Asia’s online fast-food markets.
The proceeds from its €1.6 billion stock listing in October 2014 were to provide the next big boost. Since then Rocket’s successes have sputtered amid fears of a new Internet bubble, leaving the company scraping for its next big deal.
Rocket Internet began as an incubator for other online start-ups, accelerating the spread of e-commerce worldwide by replicating the online success of America’s internet giants. It’s also a cautionary tale about misjudging capricious financial markets and adjusting management practices in the progression from a small German start-up to a sprawling concern with 30,000 employees worldwide.