Rocket Internet — Leaving a Legacy Behind in SEA

It had been a decade since a “Rocket” company was founded, a venture built by 3 Samwer brothers from Belgium that rely on the technology advancement of the internet that started to get more accessibility around the globe. It goes by a business model that implements proven working ideas and transfer them into an untapped market in emerging countries such as Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America.

Founded just under a hundred companies and hundreds of following round funding are in their track record. They had their IPO date in 2014. Lazada and Zalora were the shining pioneers of the e-commerce industry, foodpanda were also started to claw the food delivery business in the region and more. The future was theirs.

Fast forward, 2018, they had been quite and unheard of. They also left a lot of graduates.

What went wrong?

  1. Culture

They will recruit co-founders to run the operation of their ideas on the country. The team were not built upon the track record of references and how well they know each other. They hire the best people, fast. Matrix and KPIs were only the keys to tie people together, there were fewer relationships based inside the working space. People were drained, exhausted and tense.

2. Funding

Money was never a problem for young CEOs from Rocket Internet, they had the budgets and authorities, as well as enormous responsibilities. Money was there to support them; to hire, to expand operations and allow, high employees churn rate. Quoting from a question on TIA panel of Rocket Internet, the graduates became “ao”. Ego boosts were given at an instant.

3. Growth

They live up by the name. Launch like a rocket, the growth was as fast as a lightning speed, they had the dream “hockey-stick” growth that attracts investors. Execute and result are only the language; by any means work as hard as possible without time leisure to formulate. Speed, trial and error, growth. Growth was monitored daily. It’s a sprint, for a long period of time. Conquering and building a castle at the same time.

4. Business Model

They will not second guess, they were solid businesses success in other countries. It “must” work. Revenue was to be thought of and implemented since customer 1 and continue to be tracked. They were less likely tailored their products and approach in a cultural manner, in a special and unique way that might relevant to the target market. It was the exact same model. Given it was Indonesia vs the USA.

5. Marketing

All channels, by doing both offline and online work. It was to maximize conversion rate and to sell. Although it still lacking deep understanding of the market itself, which was less product flexibility on feedbacks.

Despite all those, they were tough soldiers. KPIs are battles and regions to be won. Nadiem Makarim himself is a graduate, before focusing on Go-Jek, biggest ride-hailing unicorn in Indonesia. Qraved, Vela Asia, Bobobo and Lolabox are also results of startups born from ex-Rocket.

Rocket Internet has taught young founders and early startup employees to respects metrics and fight for their companies. Responsibilities and hard work, also which company culture are and are not to implement in their next startup company.

We still owe Rocket Company for its blueprint; what it means to be a startup company, its culture, ecosystem and C-level candidates in the vast, diverse and upcoming startups in South East Asia.