Rocket Internet

The Rocky Road of Startups

Oliver Samwer (r), Vorstandsvorsitzender und Gründer des Berliner Internet-Beteiligungsunternehmens, hält am 02.10.2014 auf dem Parkett der Wertpapierbörse in Frankfurt am Main (Hessen) beim Börsengang der Berliner Startup-Schmiede neben Vorstandsmitglied Alexander Kudlich die Börsenglocke. Die Aktie ist mit einem Kurs von 42,50 Euro gestartet. Der Börsengang bringt dem Unternehmen gut 1,6 Milliarden Euro ein. Foto: Arne Dedert/dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Oliver Samwer, the chief executive of Rocket Internet, at his company's public listing in October 2014.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Rocket Internet is seen as a promising investment platform for Internet startups, but it has yet to prove its holdings can become profitable.

  • Facts


    • Loss-making Rocket Internet holds investments in hundreds of online startups and is most famously known for helping to grow German online fashion retailer Zalando.
    • Berlin-based Rocket Internet has replaced its supervisory board chairman, Lorenzo Grabau, who heads major shareholder Kinnevik, with the board’s deputy chairman, Marcus Englert.
    • Nine-month revenue at Rocket’s biggest online retailers jumped 120 percent to €2.17 billion, but operating losses amounted to €629 million.
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There’s irony in the name Rocket Internet. It conveys much about how German investors bypass their startups and how startups bypass their investors.

Ultimately, this is a story about misunderstandings and how Germans should recognize they lost the competition of how to use the Internet in the most clever manner.

There are large and successful companies such as SAP, which sells digital products successfully worldwide. But the essence of digitalization, which exists to build platforms open to all, remains unaccomplished. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google are companies that have mastered that function in a way Rocket has not.

It seemed like a blessing last year when Rocket Internet was listed on the stock market, a Berlin firm promising a real digital platform including one for startups. It sounded like an audacious German answer to Silicon Valley.

Our Mark Zuckerberg was Oliver Samwer, another smart entrepreneur who defied conventions. These days he talks only when he wants and invokes silence when others direct urgent questions at him. He wants Germans to believe he understands communications strategies very well. It is if he had said: ‘I live in my world and am thoroughly convinced it will change the world, if not actually replace it.’

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