Enough with the “c” word – is it time to put the German clone debate to bed?

C word
C word

C word

Startup Camp 2012’s cloning debate will hopefully be the last time we hear about this subject for a while…

The attendee list at the weekend’s Startup Camp 2012 read like a who’s who in Europe’s Startup scene. From big-shot investors to hungry startups, this was the place to network in the Berlin business scene… for this weekend at least.

Topics ranged from lean startups to social commerce, scalability to crowd funding and cloud computing, but with wearying inevitability, one of the biggest topics of the weekend remained  Germany’s reputation for copycatting digital ventures, and its trio of poster boys, the Samwer brothers.

Don’t mention the “c” word, or the Samwers

But should we waste any more brain calories or breath on this subject? Is it even a relevant question any more? Do the Samwers deserve their reputation as the pantomime villains in our startup utopia?

David Khalil, founder of eDarling and part of the Rocket Internet stable thinks not: “It’s difficult and challenging working with Rocket, but they are simply the best entrepreneurs that I have ever met.”

christian weiss

Being best is your protection, but #2 is fine too

Ex-Rocket founding CEO Christian Weiss and now co-founder of splinter incubator Project A is also surprisingly defensive of his old alma mater: “The Samwers are top because they are incredibly good at what they do. Being the best is your protection against being beaten by clones.

“But there’s also no point being discouraged by the size of companies such as Rocket – you can be really strong second or third….” A viewpoint that seems to be the official Project A line.

paul jozefak

“Passion is key, even passion for cloning”

The subject earned its own round-table debate at SCB12, even if most of the panel were debating that the subject is dead – Paul Jozefak, Liquid Labs’ MD and no stranger to controversial soundbites expressed his weariness of the subject: “I’m sick and tired of this discussion. High-street stores copy high-end fashion. It’s just business. Passion about execution is the key factor – if entrepreneurs are passionate, whether that be for a new launch or for deployment of a copycat, it’s that passion for deployment that counts.”

stefan tirtey

Keep on rockin’ in the free world

Stefan Tirtey, an active European VC and investor in Soundcloud said that while he always looks for innovation in investments, ideas are only the beginning – entrepreneurs need to trailblaze when it comes to deployment: “With Zalando, the talent came in executing fast to enjoy economies of scale, so there’s a different risk.

“It’s ironic that the free-market US is accusing socialist Germany of copycatting. If US founders are not prepared to rollout in Europe then fine, we’ll do our own versions.”

Trail-blazing in the afterglow

There’s no denying that cloning may have brought Germany into the global limelight for all the wrong reasons and stirred emotions more than any other topic. It has also undoubtedly raised the profile German digital scene, and created an investment environment – from incubators and super-angels, to crowdfunding and accelerators – that has facilitated the risk-takers and trail-blazers to shine in the prosperous afterglow.

As Jozefak so aptly states: “Investment is back to the party-boat approach, where everyone will jump on board.”

Image credit: flickr user Su-chan