This article was written after substantial discussions with Bernard Leong.
Rocket Internet appears to be in transition. According to Business Insider, the clone factory has not been churning out copies of US startups for months, opting instead to consolidate its existing ventures and build on them.
With the Samwer brothers’ new USD 193M fund, we might even see Rocket Internet source for its own dealflow rather than copy successful US consumer internet companies.
As for its existing businesses, building them towards a public offering suddenly becomes a viable option — if done right, the Samwer brothers could end up becoming far wealthier than they already are now.
Rocket Internet is unlikely to go public with its entire suite of ventures. That would severely handcuff the company, curbing its ability to start new businesses without incurring shareholder’s wrath. Read more
Entrepreneurship, investments, business management — the Samwer brothers, on the backs of Rocket Internet and Europeans Founders Fund, have succeeded in them all. But there’s more to come for these German copy kings, particularly in the area of venture capital investments.
Today, we see further glimpse of their global ambition with the launch of Global Founders Capital (GFC), a new investment firm started by two of the brothers — Oliver and Mark Samwer — as well as Fabian Siegel, a Germany-based entrepreneur that founded Delivery Hero, an online food delivery service with a presence in 12 countries.
In a press release, GFC states that it will invest in all stages — from seed to late (idea stage startups need not apply) — in businesses that can scale to a large size either in one market or by expanding to other countries. The Munich-headquartered fund will be EUR 150M (USD 193M) in size. Read more
Following an announcement of its expansion into Taiwan, Singapore’s VanityTrove has today revealed that it has acquired Glossybox Taiwan for an undisclosed sum. For Glossybox, a Rocket Internet company, this move completes its exit from several countries in the region in order to focus its efforts on larger markets in Europe and North Asia.
Both Glossybox and VanityTrove are subscription commerce companies modeled after Birchbox. Every month, they deliver ‘beauty boxes’ containing cosmetic samples to subscribers, while at the same time acting as a marketing platform for cosmetic brands. Read more
Lazada, Rocket Internet’s Amazon clone which is active in Southeast Asia, announced yesterday that it has received an investment from German retail group Tengelmann, a regular Rocket Internet investor. According to TechCrunch, the funding amount is close to USD 20M.
The e-commerce company has been raising money at a furious clip. In September last year, it received an estimated USD 50M to USD 100M from investment bank JP Morgan. This was followed by USD 40M from Swedish investment firm Kinnevik and another USD 26M from Summit Partners. Read more
Glossybox, a beauty box clone by Rocket Internet, is by many metrics a wild success. The subscription commerce company recently revealed that it had shipped 2 million boxes to customers in its first 1.5 years of operations. To date, it has raised USD 72.3M from Holtzbrinck Ventures, Kinnevik and Rocket Internet itself.
Two million boxes is a whole lot of revenue. Here’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation: Assuming every subscriber has signed up for Glossybox’s recurring 3-month package for one year — the company would easily pocket an annual revenue of about USD 26M.
||What is subscription commerce?
||A new e-commerce model where consumers typically pay subscription fees to have products sent to their doorsteps on a regular basis.
There are a couple of catches though. First, we don’t know what Glossybox’s global operating costs and profits are. It could be that the venture is in the red since it would have pumped tons of money into global expansion just to get to its market-leading position.
Second, Glossybox has had some missteps. Namely, it entered Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Australia, only to withdraw after realizing the markets aren’t as plump as it thought they would be. Apparently, the Samwer Brothers are capable of misjudgments. Read more
Rocket Internet is a Berlin headquartered company that is well-known for cloning successful online startups (usually from the US), replicating them elsewhere, and turning them into million-dollar businesses. It was founded in 2007 by the Samwer brothers — Alexander, Marc, and Oliver, who have together created and sold a number of successful Internet businesses before starting Rocket Internet. Most of their businesses are e-commerce related.
The company tends to hire MBA-trained executives and management consultants to become ‘founder’ and ‘managing director’ of its businesses. However, unlike startup founders, they do not hold as much equity or have as much decision-making power to shape the direction of their companies. They are primarily executors who could be fired for underperforming.
Rocket Internet has polarized observers in the startup and technology community for its practices. Critics pour scorn on the company for blatant copying, mischaracterizing its ventures as startups, an over-aggressive and results-oriented corporate culture, and rapid turnover rates. At the same time, it is widely admired for its rapid execution ability. Read more
After raising USD40M from Kinnevik and tens of millions from JP Morgan, Lazada has done it again, announcing yesterday a USD26M investment from Summit Partners. The funds will be used for developing growth initiatives and expanding its product offering.
Lazada, which is Rocket Internet’s version of Amazon, claims to be the largest online department store in Southeast Asia. It operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We seek to invest in companies that build long-term value, and Lazada has shown dynamic growth in a short period of time,” said Scott Collins, a managing director and head of Summit Partners London.
On 21 November, Lazada launched a new fashion marketplace platform in Malaysia that caters to offline retailers that want online distribution and marketing services but desire control over logistics and operations. It plans to rollout this platform in all its markets and expand the number of retailers on it. Read more
Following a high-profile investment by JP Morgan earlier this year, the Samwer Brother’s Amazon clone Lazada has secured another substantial round of funding, reported TechCrunch. This time, the investor is Kinnevik, a Swedish investment firm which owns a 25 percent stake in Rocket Internet. This latest round is worth USD40M.
Lazada is shaping up to be a leading player in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce scene. Launched in March 2012, Lazada now operates in Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. It currently sells items in the books, consumer electronics, household goods, toys and sports equipment categories.
What’s unclear at this point is how well the company is doing in each of these countries, since Rocket Internet is predictably tight-lipped about it.
Regardless, Lazada has a huge war chest to play with. Combined with the JP Morgan investment – said to be worth between USD50M and USD100M — the company’s total funds received overshadows any amount that e-commerce startups in Southeast Asia can muster. Read more
Rocket Internet has launched Pricepanda, their online price comparison service, in Singapore and Malaysia. The new service has been anticipated since May, when word first got out about it.
For now, the site contains only consumer electronics and software like the Samsung Galaxy S3, cameras from Canon and Nikon, and software from Microsoft. Once users click on an item, they will be directed to a price comparison page which leads to the online retailers’ sites. Read more
This article was first published on the author’s blog at saumilnanavati.com.
Recently, my fellow Chalkboard co-founder Bernard Leong penned an article about Rocket Internet. He argued about both the good and bad sides of the Samwer Brothers’ involvement in Asia.
However, I believe there’s a bit more to the story that hasn’t been fleshed out in the debates about whether Rocket Internet is innovative and bringing real value to the market.
In an opinion piece, published at Tech In Asia (and my blog), I discussed the need for innovation versus ROI. I stated that a good and profitable business doesn’t necessarily have to be good innovators (though it does give a competitive advantage).
Going along this line of thinking, Rocket Internet may not be innovators, but there is another dimension to consider within the Asian context: Disruption. Read more