Rocket Internet in Asia: a primer

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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.

Rocket Internet enters Asia-Pacific

The company’s Asian invasion began with Zalora, which was started in December 2011 in Singapore and Malaysia and later expanded to other parts of Southeast Asia. Since then, Rocket Internet’s market includes 16 countries in Asia-Pacific and 11 verticals: Fashion, tourism and travel, cosmetics and toiletries, jewelry, furniture, marketing, F&B, office supplies, printing services, general e-commerce, and automobiles.

Read: In Asia, beauty box companies are the next Clone Rush

Portfolio companies by country

Countries with the most Rocket Internet companies are placed first. The chart does not include Wimdu and Pinspire, which has worldwide presence. Greyed-out logos refer to ventures that have shut down.





Hong Kong
South Korea Japan
Pakistan New Zealand


15 July 2013: The Iconic raises USD 26M from Verlinvest, Kinnevik, J.P. Morgan, and Rocket Internet
20 June 2013: Lazada gets USD100M from Holtzbrinck Ventures, Kinnevik, Summit Partners and Tengelmann Group
22 May 2013: Zalora gets USD 100M from Summit Partners, Investment AB Kinnevik, Verlinvest, and Tengelmann Group
15 May 2013: Foodpanda raises USD 26M from Kinnevik, Russia’s Phenomen Ventures, as well as Rocket Internet
12 Mar 2013: Tengelmann invests USD 26M in Zalora
23 Jan 2013: Tengelmann invests USD 20M in Lazada
6 Dec 2012: Summit Partners invests USD 26M in Lazada
12 Nov 2012: Kinnevik invests USD 40M in Lazada
25 Sep 2012: JP Morgan invests in Zalora
14 Sep 2012: JP Morgan Invests in Lazada

Timeline of Rocket Internet’s activities in Asia

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